Transcript of 8th China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum
And Henry Huiyao Wang's opinion column adapted from his speech at the forum.
The Center for China and Globalization (CCG) concluded its 8th China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum one month ago in Beijing and has shared the entire transcript in six posts over the CCG Update newsletter on Substack.
Before linking every one of them, here are some interesting interventions by the Chinese and foreign participants at the largest gathering of think tank analysts in China since COVID-19 as well as an opinion column in the South China Morning Post by Henry Huiyao Wang, Founder and President of CCG, adapted from his speech there.
In an era punctuated by escalating geopolitical strife and a burgeoning anti-globalisation sentiment, the imperative for international cooperation has vaulted to the forefront of global discourse.
This was the prevailing theme at the recent 8th China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum in Beijing, followed immediately by the European-Union-funded EU-China Think Tank Exchanges. The sense of urgency for collective action was palpable among the attendees, which included a diverse assemblage of over 100 think-tank representatives from more than 20 countries and regions.
As president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, which hosted the events with partners including the European Policy Centre, I had the opportunity to propose a framework of cooperation, designed to mend fissures among nations and initiate a united front to safeguard our shared home. Here are the 10 imperatives:
First, climate. The spectre of climate change looms large over humanity, challenging us to transcend mere conversation and take concerted action.
Despite the complex web of industrial policies, subsidies and commitments, particularly those by developed nations to their developing counterparts, the necessity for a collaborative approach to “de-risk” our planet is undeniable. It is incumbent on all nations to foster an environment conducive to finding solutions to this universal menace.
Second, conflict. In the shadow of the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, the call for peace resonates with an urgency that transcends borders and political divides. The tragedies and suffering in the areas of conflict are stark reminders of the devastating toll of war on the global community.
It is necessary for the international community to champion the cause of peace, to mediate with unwavering resolve and to extend humanitarian aid where it is most needed through any means available, including diplomatic channels, multilateral organisations and grass-roots movements.
The pursuit of peace must remain a paramount objective, for it is the bedrock on which a stable, prosperous and just world order can be built.
Third, infrastructure. Another domain ripe for cooperation lies in global infrastructure. Infrastructure serves as the backbone of development, particularly in the developing world.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has catalysed a global movement that is echoed in the construction proposals put forward by the US-led Build Back Better World, Europe’s Global Gateway and the India-Middle East European Economic Corridor.
Such initiatives, collectively supporting the developing world, highlight the imperative for leveraging existing financial platforms and could – and should – work together. Countries and multilateral lenders such as the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank can help bridge the global infrastructure financing gap.
Fourth, digital. In today’s digital age, data has emerged as a crucial resource, likened to oil in the 21st century. An open attitude towards the flow of data is essential, but so is the establishment of a coherent global governance framework.
Disparate approaches, exemplified in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the California Consumer Privacy Act in the US, and China’s Personal Information Protection Law, hinder the potential for digital globalisation. A unified regulatory body, perhaps akin to a World Data Organisation, is critical to the harmonising of these disparate policies.
Fifth, public health. The Covid-19 pandemic was a harsh reminder of the pitfalls of insufficient cooperation. Unlike the successful collaboration against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Ebola outbreaks, the world failed to unite in the face of Covid-19, resulting in widespread catastrophe. This must serve as a lesson to enhance preparedness for future pandemics.
Sixth, institutions. At the core of global governance stands the United Nations, an institution whose authority must be safeguarded. As the second-largest payer of UN dues, China recognises the importance of upholding international law and order as defined by the UN, urging all member states, including the United States, to fulfil their obligations.
Seventh, North-South cooperation. The dynamic between the Global North and South presents an opportunity for China, which straddles both the developed and developing worlds, to serve as a mediator. By fostering greater cooperation in this area, China can help harmonise the interests of both communities, contributing to sustainable global development and governance.
Eighth, finance and trade. The post-1945 era has largely been a testament to the peacekeeping power of international trade and investment. As nations become increasingly interdependent, the imperative to strengthen – not weaken – the World Trade Organization and its mechanisms has grown ever more apparent.
In the realm of international finance, diversifying payment currencies beyond the US dollar, incorporating a greater share of major currencies, such as the euro and yuan, could yield a more balanced global economic framework.
Ninth, people-to-people exchanges. Promoting cultural tourism and international student and scholarly exchanges is another avenue through which nations can foster mutual understanding and respect. Such people-to-people ties are the bedrock of international cooperation and must become and remain the priority of governments after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
Finally, international agreements. The lifting of sanctions and the revival of trade agreements, such as the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, are crucial for enhancing economic cooperation and trade relations between nations.
While every country confronts its own set of challenges, the interconnected nature of our modern world necessitates a collaborative approach to our shared problems. Only through collective action can we endeavour to forge a stable, sustainable and prosperous world for future generations.
Due to limited space in a single post, the remarks below are just part of what the speakers said respectively.
TU Xinquan, Dean, China Institute for WTO Studies, University of International Business and Economics (UIBE)
In my opinion, the best hope for now is to keep the great power competition peaceful as much as possible, both economically and militarily. In terms of economic competition, we should encourage and urge the two major powers to generally stick to the existing WTO rules as well as other international rules and at the same time to reach interim deals about some controversial issues such as national security. Most importantly, the two powers should give each other more policy space to take certain restrictive measures to defend their essential security interests and agree not to take tit-for-tat retaliation for their domestic political purposes. Both sides should exercise restraint in initiating dispute settlement cases regarding national security, since the two sides' ignorance of the WTO rulings will even hurt the authority of the WTO.
Francoise Nicolas, Director of Center for Asian and Indo-Pacific Studies, French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
And if you look at what digital governance looks like in different parts of the world, they reflect very different philosophies. We have, basically, three digital realms: the EU one, which is more people-centric, I would say, the US one, which is very much big company-centric, and the China one, which is control-dominated. And so, these are three very, very different approaches. And so, it will be quite difficult also to reconcile these various approaches. So, on digital, I don't see much scope for cooperation, at least for easy cooperation
CHEN Yang, Executive Director of the Institute of European Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)
My name is Chen Yang. I come from CICIR, the more realistic think tank. When I received the topic about international norms and this global engagement platform, I was a little surprised because I think those concepts are all about global governance. And global governance is a dying concept in such a new era. For example, the chancellor of Germany talked about the "tight winter," and the EU Commission, which used to be a strong supporter of global governance, now wants to build a geopolitical commission.
I was so delighted to see so many idealists here to participate in this meeting, to talk about global governance. Frankly speaking, I do not think it's the right time to talk about that. Domestic issues occupy priority in so many countries' agendas, especially big powers. And under this extent, with persistent geopolitical confrontation, there isn't much space or dynamic left for cooperation on international issues.
Gladden J. Pappin, President, Hungarian Institute of International Affairs
when we talk about international norms and sustainable development, I think from the Hungarian perspective, one issue that has typically been missing in those conversations, but it's an issue that we encounter directly and tried to come up with a solution for, is demography and family formation.
A society that is forming families, in which people are having children, is a growing society and one which can be more economically dynamic. A society where families are not forming and where children are not being born and raised, is one that becomes more sclerotic and more oriented toward a different type of industrial production, toward medical services and things like that.
Richard Walker, Chief International Editor, Deutsche Welle
Well, I've been listening during the course of the day, and I've been really struck that there has been a lot of criticism of the United States. You would almost get the impression that it's only the United States' fault that the relationship between the US and China is so bad. But that cannot be. There's also been a lot of self-criticism from the United States and other Western delegates here, which I think is appropriate. Self-reflection and self-criticism are good, but I haven't heard that from the Chinese hosts. I haven't heard that from Chinese delegates here. And I'd be very interested, maybe moving into tomorrow, in the discussions tomorrow, to hear from Chinese delegates. Do you feel that there are areas where China has made mistakes, where it could have acted better, where it could have acted more constructively?
ZHANG Wei, Co-Director, Professor of Law at Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law
For a long time, China has been a very big target for international criticism. But on the other hand, we have to see that China has been growing also from international criticism. And also, we learn a great deal from other countries for the past over 40 years. I personally participated in all kinds of international conferences, for over 24 years-time. I have to be frank with you that most of the time, China is a focus for criticism, but we learn from that. And for the past years, China has changed a lot in our legislation, in our legal practice, to catch up with international standards. For that reason, China has been upholding UN standards for the past over 40 years, over 50 years-time to learn from the international society. And we benefit from this learning process, and I hope that will continue in this regard.
And in the past several months, I have been reaching out to try to organize international conferences on human rights. But unfortunately, I see all the blocks. Every time I reach out to different friends around the world, they are telling me that: sorry, my friend. Not a good time. Because now we don't want to be criticized by the media because every time you have any contacts with China, then you will suddenly become a media focus for criticism. So many of my friends said no, no, let's wait until the time is right. So, I hope that through this forum, we are able to create a healthy atmosphere for international exchange dialogue, instead of blocking all the ways for China. Thank you.
Full Transcript of the 8th China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum
Part I of "Global Order at A Crossroads"
Part II of "Global Order at A Crossroads"
Part I of "Reframing US-China Bipolar Dynamics by Pluralizing into China-West Relations"
Part II of "Reframing US-China Bipolar Dynamics by Pluralizing into China-West Relations"
Part I of "International Norms and Global Engagement Platforms"
Part II of "International Norms and Global Engagement Platforms"
Downloadable in PDF here
The 8th China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum was organized by CCG and the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), supported by the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies (ACCWS), China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), in partnership with China-West Dialogue (CWD).
Immediately after that, CCG and the European Policy Centre organized the EU & China Think Tank Exchanges, funded by the European Union.
The transcript is also downloadable