The China Research Group was set up by UK MPs in 2020 to promote fresh thinking about the future of our relations with China. We run regular seminars, connecting with experts from the UK and all over the world.
Banking on the Belt and Road: Insights from a New Global Dataset of 13,427 Chinese Development Projects
44:25Two data experts from AidData, Bradley Parks (Executive Director) and Dr Ammar Malik (Senior Research Scientist), joined us to discuss their findings from their recent paper: Banking on the Belt and Road. The paper draws on a new dataset covering 13,427 Chinese development projects in 165 countries, worth over $843 billion. Since the BRI, was introduced, China has spent roughly $85 billion a year on overseas development projects. That means that China has eclipsed the US on overseas spending by a 2:1 and the UK on a 7:1 basis. But while Western countries provide financing through ODA and grants, China's financing is almost all through debt, not grants. This lending has also shifted from sovereign debt to special purpose vehicles, state-owned enterprises, and joint ventures, creating a new trend of "hidden debt" which is not tracked by the World Bank. The authors also look at how the BRI emerged as an innovative response to China's domestic economic challenges, including capitalising on the commodity price crash after the global financial crisis. Read the full transcript here. More reading: Details of each project can be found on AidData’s website. China Research Group paper on the Belt and Road.
Tilt to the Indo-Pacific: Assessing the UK's strategy
1:03:09As part of the Integrated Review published earlier this year, the UK formalised its tilt to the Indo-Pacific. Our panel discussion with Claire Coutinho, Michael Auslin and Sophia Gaston provided insight and analysis of one of the generational changes in British foreign policy. How should the UK maintain its interests and deepen its engagement with the region? What can it realistically seek to achieve and which relationships should it be prioritising? And what has it achieved so far?
NATO for Trade: Rethinking trade and industrial policy with the rise of China
1:00:08With the WTO in desperate need of reform and Australia hit by trade sanctions by the PRC, do we need a new allied trade treaty? How should the UK, EU and US come together to rethink the economic challenge posed by China? This event took place in tandem with the launch of a new policy paper written for the China Research Group by Robert D. Atkinson, which you can read here. The paper looks at whether democratic nations should form an allied trade treaty to combat Chinese trade aggression. This event was chaired by Tom Tugendhat MP, with the following speakers. Speakers: Rob Atkinson. Founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), recognised as the world’s top think tank for science and technology policy, and author of upcoming paper for the China Research Group: NATO for Trade. Reinhard Butikofer. Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA) and the Co-Chair of the European Green Party (EGP). He is the Chair for the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the People’s Republic of China. Agatha Kratz. coordinates Rhodium Group’s European activities and leads research on European Union-China relations and China’s commercial diplomacy. She co-authored the paper “Home Advantage: How China’s Protected Market Threatens Europe’s Economic Power”.
James Kynge on China's Tech Rivalry
55:33The FT’s Global China Editor, James Kynge, joined us to discuss his perspective on how the next generation of technology is shaping geopolitics. Over half of global trade is digital, and trust issues have suddenly become front and centre to global trade and investment. That lack of trust is increasingly leading to technological bifurcation. The discussion also touched on China's pursuit for self-reliance, Beijing's policies towards big tech and how the digital currency could affect the internationalisation of the renminbi.
China's Economic Rise under Xi Jinping
55:17The China Research Group was joined by experts George Magnus and Elizabeth Economy for a discussion chaired by Jeremy Hunt MP. Given some predict China will overtake the US as the world's largest economy by 2028, how should we understand China's ambitions for the next decade of its economic rise? And what does China's economic rise mean for the rest of the world? Read the transcript here.
Where next for the Belt and Road?
55:58Our new China Research Group paper, written by Eyck Freymann, is now published: 'The UK's Strategic Options: Belt and Road'. -- Back in 2013, President Xi Jinping unveiled his expansive vision of a modern Silk Road, promising to revolutionise China's global influence. Eight years later, and 130 countries have signed up to Xi’s signature foreign policy. But the ‘project of a century’ remains loosely defined and poorly understood. Despite accusations of predatory debt diplomacy, Chinese infrastructure lending has been in decline since 2019. Instead, a new phase of the Belt and Road has been accelerated by the pandemic. China has pivoted away from physical infrastructure and accelerated its expansion of the Digital, Green and Health Silk Roads. But what does the future of this version of the Belt and Road Initiative look like? And should like-minded democracies respond? We were joined by a panel of three experts for a discussion moderated by Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the China Research Group. Jonathan Hillman - Senior Fellow at CSIS and Director of the Reconnecting Asia Project Meia Nouwens - Senior Fellow at IISS and Digital Silk Road lead Eyck Freymann - Author of One Belt One Road: Chinese Power Meets the World and doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford
China's Foreign Policy with Rana Mitter
54:03In this conversation, Rana Mitter joins Tom Tugendhat MP, chair of the China Research Group, for a discussion on the UK's relationship with China and China's wider foreign policy. Rana discusses the value of the Chinese public's trust in the UK, and the need for the UK to be more aware of its strategic strengths in the relationship. He also answered questions on the broader picture of the Belt and Road, China's relationship with Pakistan and India, and the influence of the CCP on modern Chinese society. Rana Mitter is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford. He has written widely about modern China, having authored several books looking at China's historical perspective. He has also written a paper with Sophia Gaston for the British Foreign Policy Group assessing UK-China relations.
The Next Four Years: US-China Relations Under Biden
56:08Our panel of experts joined us to give some insight into how US-China relations will evolve under newly-inaugurated President Biden. Gideon Rachman (Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator at the Financial Times), Dr Evan Medeiros (Penner Family Chair of Asia Studies at Georgetown University, Former Director for China at the NSC and lead advisor on Asia-Pacific under President Obama) and Jude Blanchette (Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS). The wide-ranging conversation looked at policy priorities for President Biden’s new team and why the next 18 months of Chinese politics may represent a window of opportunity for Western democracies to coalesce and change the cost-benefit equation of CCP aggression. Our speakers also answered questions on US and China's use of sanctions, and the necessity and difficulty of forging democratic coalitions. The panellists also discussed areas where the UK could offer strategic and symbolic value to the US, before concluding on the topical question of whether the US should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics. The full transcript is available on our website.