Posts Tagged ‘International relations’

A somewhat elementary title for my latest short commentary on EU-China relations for the EU Observer. There are going to be a few more on this theme in the near future as I continue to try to publish more in relation to the work I am doing in China at the moment. Am going to be building towards something large to be published sometime next year.

RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI

Today @ 11:34 CET

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – Baroness Ashton is in China once again to help clarify a little better what exactly it is that a strategic partnership between China and the EU should look like. Since its declaration in 2003, thinkers across the EU and China have puzzled together and apart over exactly how to implement this grand rhetoric, with no discernible conclusion. The reason for this: both sides have very different interpretations of what this means.

“The EU needs to recognise that China has very different views on issues that Europeans hold dear” (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

During a recent research interview in Beijing, a connected and eminent Chinese Euro-watcher told me “China’s meaning of strategic is different to the EU’s: China’s interpretation is we agree on strategic issues…in China this means we are thinking in long-term. Dealing with single issues is not strategic.” This stands somewhat in contrast to Baroness Ashton’s comments on the eve of her latest trip in which she told the China Daily, “The EU and China hold a strategic partnership. That means that we will not only talk about bilateral relations, but also about the main challenges the world is facing today.” China sees a realist “long-term” view while Europe sees “today.”

This is an important distinction to make, as it underlies a lot of the misunderstandings that are often visible between the EU and China. The EU thinks in terms which are linked to the here and now, while China prefers to think in the longer term seeing the short-term as unproductive. As a Chinese policy planner put it to me when talking specifically about Iran, “more speed, no result.” Unfortunately, this rather clashes with the sense of urgency that Europeans often see on issues in comparison to their Chinese counterparts. Iran and climate change are just two examples.

Since she has been in office, Baroness Ashton has made robust statements about the need for Iran to cease its nuclear programme highlighting in remarks in Cairo in March that the EU position “is based on the firm belief that an Iran with nuclear weapons risks triggering a proliferation cascade throughout the Middle East. This is the last thing that this region needs. A nuclear weapons free Middle East remains a European goal.”

On this last point, the Chinese would undoubtedly agree. In discussions experts and officials alike highlight the fact that a nuclear-free world is a goal that we can all agree on. However, Beijing does not see the same sort of urgency around Iran in the short-term. A report in February by the International Crisis Group based on extensive interviews pointed out that, “China does not view Iran’s nuclear programme as an immediate threat,” a view that is supported by more recent interviews in Beijing and Shanghai.

Missing the bigger picture?

This fundamental difference means that while the EU feels that something needs to be done now and the recent sanctions were the clear next step, China instead thinks that there is a “need to be more patient” and that sanctions are going to be counter-productive. In a particularly blunt conversation, one influential scholar told me in July that the Middle East is “your problem” and that anyway there is very little that China can do in this situation. His view was that the focus on nuclear issues is perceived by some to be missing the bigger point which is that a more comprehensive solution is needed.

In many ways, a similar picture can be painted for climate change where broadly speaking both the EU and China recognize that it is a problem, but they see it on very different timelines. Or to put it more accurately, see it at different positions in the ranking of current issues to be dealt with.

According to the European Commission Environment website, “Climate change is already happening and represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet.” At the Nanjing EU-China Summit last year Commission President Barosso highlighted this urgency further while pushing the US and China to do more “We are asking all sides to do everything they can to contribute to a comprehensive and global agreement,” he said. This seemed to echo Premier Wen Jiabao’s earlier comments to the Financial Times that “the Chinese government gives top priority to meeting the challenge of climate change.”

Climate change or poverty – one issue at a time

But at the same time, repeated Chinese statements have highlighted that economic growth is a bigger priority than climate change. In the wake of the Copenhagen conference, He Jingjun, a prolific analyst working for the Chongqing government, was quoted as saying, “the Chinese government must continue to prioritise development, economic growth and social stability” over climate change. This was reinforced to me in conversation with an influential Beijing academic who said the government can address either climate change or poverty – both at the same time is simply unrealistic. His unvarnished conclusion was that “China is not going to do what West wants on climate change.”

There is even a school of thought, described to me by a senior foreign policy thinker at Peking University, that the entire climate change issue might have been concocted by the West to stunt Chinese growth. In his view, if climate change was as urgent and threatening a problem as the EU claims, we would not be haggling over technology transfers.

It is hard to know how widespread this view is, but it is certainly the case that there is a general sense that China is being asked too much in climate change terms. One official repeated the old Chinese line that “China is a developing country,” and that other “important actors” need come to the table on the issue if it is to be solved.

But this sort of debate is one which frustrates European policymakers who repeatedly refer to climate change as an immediate problem needing to be addressed at forums like Copenhagen. As Commission President Barosso put it: “we cannot negotiate with the reality of climate change.” For Europe the here-and-now is the priority, while for China, it is obviously a less immediate crisis.

On her visit to Guiyang today, Baroness Ashton was quoted in the Chinese press as saying that “the EU needs to know more about China.” The context of this may have been a general sense of understanding of the great wealth and population diversity that can be found across this great country, but it is equally clear that the EU needs to recognise that China has very different views on issues that Europeans hold dear.

The writer is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS), where he is working on a project looking at EU-China relations as an EU STFP Fellow.

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My latest in the series I have been doing for the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter blog, this time in their home Australian pavilion. At least another of these coming, and I remain open to commissions if anyone has a particular pavilion they would like to see more of. Use the contact page to get in touch.

Around the Shanghai Expo: Australia Pavilion

By Raffaello Pantucci – 4 August 2010 11:42AM

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. His previous posts, by pavilion: Britain, Iran, Afghanistan, DPRK, Pakistan.

And so onto the Australian Pavilion, which I was told the Chinese were not impressed by, as its dull brown color made it look old. (Photo below courtesy of the Australian Expo site; others by the author.)

I only heard this after I had visited, but on the day I went, it had a substantial queue, and the Chinese I met inside seemed excited.

One couple of girls I talked to had come from Chongqing to see the Expo and, once they got over the fact I spoke some bad mandarin, said they wanted to see Australia specifically because they had heard lots about it and friends lived there. At the same time, they confided, they preferred the Taiwan pavilion because they gave them stuff (a Taiwan bag comes with a fan, instant noodles and a tea cup).

Nevertheless, the Australian pavilion was attracting the same sorts of numbers as the British one – on the day I went, the Australians had had about 36,000 visitors and overall more than 2 million; a day or so before, I received an email from the British pavilion telling me they had crossed the 2 million threshold.

Inside, there is a series of rooms introducing Aboriginal history, wall paintings highlighting the comparative differences between Australia and China (China’s population density is a lot greater, while more Australians proportionally live near the sea. Not sure I see the value in the comparison). There is then a large diorama showing the nation’s history, which concludes in a picture of former PM Rudd (I went before he had been ousted) with some plastic journalist figures brandishing microphones and cameras in front of him.

The centerpiece, however, is a 10-minute movie about three children, a dark (I assume Aboriginal) child, a Caucasian child and an Asiatic child. They talk about how great Australia is, etc. Shown in a theatre on a large circular screen which rotates and occasionally lowers to reveal some sort of physical object relevant to whatever the children is talking about, the film was not a huge success. People were leaving moments after it had started, much to the dismay of the eager young mandarin-speaking hosts.

As one of the chaps at the entrance told me (confirming an experience I have mentioned elsewhere) the overriding Chinese visitor priority is to get the Expo passport visa stamp.

A wannabe Australian.

My latest in a series from the Expo for the Interpreter, this time looking at the Iranian pavilion. There was actually a lot more to tell about the pavilion which I didn’t have space to include – it is a very crowded (with stuff) and colorful place and is amongst the better ones I have seen from the perspective of introducing people to the nation and showing off the country. More in this series is forthcoming, and I will likely be making trips back to the Expo, so let me know through the new contact page if there are any you are particularly interested in.

Around the Shanghai Expo: Iran pavilion

by Raffaello Pantucci – 6 July 2010 9:37AM

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, where he is working on an EU-funded project on EU-China relations.

Unlike its baffling neighboring pavilion (North Korea), the Iranian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo is actually quite effective in providing a potted introduction to the nation.

Often, when talking to Chinese waiting to go to pavilions, they have no clear idea of which nation they are going to see or where it is, geographically. But outside the Iranian pavilion, the first thing to welcome the visitor is a map of Eurasia showing both where Iran lies in respect to China, and highlighting the various Silk Roads that linked the two in ages gone past.

Once inside, the visitor is greeted by a smiling picture of President Ahmadinejad with this rather cryptic (but no doubt well-meaning) message:

Empathy, justice and compassion are the main features of “Better city,” where a “Better life” is meant not just through “being with each other” but through “being for each other.” Such a view results into pure life, real prosperity, and human excellence in an “ideal city” filled with love, devotion and understanding and builds the human security and dignity based on faith, knowledge and wisdom. The human outlook in such a city is “being divine.”

A smiling and waving picture of Ayatollah Khamenei and a rather more grim Ayatollah Khomeini surround the entrance to the exclusive ‘guangxi’ room sponsored by the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

Oddly, there were not that many Persians wandering around.

The day I was there, the stalls were manned by Chinese – both the ones selling objects and the ones promoting the nation. The girl running the stand promoting inward investment in Iran was a Physics student at a local university who, while battling with a costume which looked out straight out of Aladdin, told me that most of the people who had expressed an interest in investing were Southeast Asians.

The heart of the space is a giant fountain, in the middle of which is a raised platform with a couple of seats and a standing microphone on it. I did not stick around long enough to see a show, but I understood that musicians occasionally perform.

Within the body of the room are a series of models which show off a variety of Iranian hydrocarbon fields and related extraction machinery. Most popular was the selection of Iranian home-grown machinery. None of it seemed nuclear (though mine is an untrained eye); instead there was medical equipment, an inkless finger print machine and, most popular of all, an electronic harp which had lasers instead of strings.

The Chinese visitors were particularly entranced by this and more generally seemed quite entertained by the colorful atmosphere of the place. Unlike its neighbor to the West (DPRK), this pavilion likely provided a pretty good introduction to the nation.

Another oldie that i have finally gotten around to listing from the Baltimore Sun. This was done with my boss at the time around some work we had been doing together, and ran on january 1st as the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon took over – it was intended to give him some ideas – whether any were taken on board is impossible to ever know. We hope. It also ran in the Windsor Star (Ontario) and The Age in Australia. So i’m very international.

Tall Order for UN’s New Leader

LONDON // New United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who assumes office today, faces a tough job. Not only is the South Korean coming into a job as the other half of his motherland is testing the international community with nuclear saber-rattling, but he is also taking the helm at an institution that increasingly appears to have lost its way.

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