Video Policy Brief No 9: Including civil society in EU-China relations | Dr Andreas Fulda
Our research project not only monitors and evaluates the state of implementation of China's Overseas NGO Law but also aims to identify new and innovative approaches to critical, creative and constructive European China engagement.
In the past the EU has been criticized for its ‘unconditional engagement’ with China, for being an ‘incomplete civilian power’, and for ‘shifting away from liberal internationalism’. One does not have to agree with all of these criticisms to recognise that an exclusive focus on geopolitical and commercial interests undermines Europe's search for a Common Foreign and Security Policy vis-a-vis China.
One example of a lack of imagination on the European side is the so-called EU-China dialogue architecture. Under the three pillars political, economic and sectoral and people-to-people dialogue there are now more than 70 seperate dialogues. These dialogues are so compartmentalised that it is almost impossible to mainstream cross-cutting issues such as governance, civil society, gender, or sustainability.
Recent research has also shown that despite the Lisbon treaty article 21 EEAS diplomats do not consider norm promotion as part of their remit. Due to the elite-driven nature of EU-China relations, the current dialogue architecture excludes key European and Chinese political and social actors; dialogue formats follow the logic of a ‘banking model of education’, where European and Chinese experts try to convince the other side of their respective wisdom; and the dialogue forums themselves are increasingly narrow, manipulative and mechanistic.
In our view the EU should take the following reform measures: End the compartmentalisation of EU-China dialogues by mainstreaming civil society inclusion across all three streams, provide funding for a well-resourced EU-China P2P Dialogue support facility; and mainstream civil society inclusion across all tenders aimed at strengthening EU-China relations.
Video Policy Brief No 8: Experiences of French and Dutch NGOs with China’s Overseas NGO Law | Dr Patrick Schroeder
The overall findings from our research about how China’s new Law for international NGOs has impacted NGOs from the Netherlands and France is mixed. Basically, some NGOs have managed to register without major issues and experienced no interruption to their work in China, while others are either still waiting for registration or have not been able to register at all.
In the case of France, NGOs which work in non-political areas of trade promotion, health, education or sports have been able to register without difficulties, examples are the French Football Federation or the Consumer Goods Forum. However, Another NGO which has been working on Chinese European intellectual exchanges and political dialogues for many years, does not have any prospect of registering and for now is not able to continue its previous work. Under the current political climate, it seems like game over for this NGO.
In the case of the Netherlands, the NGO Agriterra which provides technical support, training and consulting in the agriculture sector has successfully registered with the Chongqing Agriculture Committee. In this case the registration allowed to formalise and professionalise the relationship with the Chinese partners and improve project implementation and reduce costs.
Being a large international has not necessarily guaranteed success in registration. The French branch of the organisation Handicap International registered successfully with the China Disabled Person’s Federation in June 2017, while an international environmental NGO with headquarters in the Netherlands and offices in Beijing is still waiting to complete their registration.
Video Policy Brief No 7: Experiences of British NGOs with China’s Overseas NGO Law | Ms Nicola Macbean
I have been speaking to a range of UK-based not-for-profit organisations to find out how China’s Overseas NGO Law is affecting their work and the work of their local partners.
First, it is too soon to assess the full impact of the law. Several organisations voiced the view that the Chinese authorities still seem to be feeling their way on implementation. In some respects the grey area for overseas NGOs has continued. Several European organisations are operating on the basis that they are not required to register. They either have a special status as quasi-public bodies or they can present themselves as companies.
Nevertheless, everyone I spoke with acknowledged that the law was having an impact. Organisations admitted to being more cautious in their choice of local partners or topics. Chinese organisations were more wary and many could no longer involve foreign partners in their meetings.
The law is reinforcing forms of cooperation with which the Chinese authorities are most comfortable. This includes safer topics such as trade or the environment, and more conservative relationships. Organisations that enjoy good guanxi with officials are better placed to withstand increased scrutiny.
Unregistered civil society organisations in China are the main losers as funds from overseas groups are harder to access. Perhaps my most depressing conversation was with a British medical charity that, because of the law, has discontinued providing micro grants to patients’ groups.
The law, however, may also be having unintended positive consequences. Civil society space in China has not completely closed. Local groups are finding new ways of working that may be more effective as they reach out to new allies at the grassroots and among the elite.
Video Policy Brief No 6: Experiences of German NGOs with China’s Overseas NGO Law | Dr Horst Fabian
Until around 2012 German NGOs valued a rather open and trustful atmosphere of cooperation with Chinese NGO practitioners based on free speech. When interviewing German NGO leaders this year they told us - and I quote - “the atmosphere of cooperation was poisoned by China's Overseas NGO Law”.
Depending on their profiles and strategies, German NGOs have developed different coping strategies. Two NGOs applied to register a Representative Office; one of them succeeded. Three NGOs are working with permits for temporary activities. 2017 has been a grace period for them; the first real test will be in 2018. In two cases registering for temporary activities has been rather difficult.
Successful registration does not necessarily imply the continuity of meaningful cooperation. There is still a lot of uncertainty: Chinese partners were reluctant to cooperate with German NGOs under the new law; politically acceptable public spaces and issues have been shrinking; and some Chinese partner organisations used the opportunity to take over project ownership. EU-China dialogue forums have become increasingly official, narrow, manipulative and mechanistic. Administrative costs have often risen exponentially. Climate politics is the only field where European and Chinese interests are still aligned.
Whereas in the past Chinese NGOs joined international cooperation platforms in the spirit of mutual respect, during the C-20 in Hangzhou a free exchange of ideas was not possible. At the follow-up event in Hamburg Chinese participants used Leninist tactics to promote authoritarian norms at a global conference on civil society.
To conclude: German NGOs are currently re-evaluating if meaningful cooperation is still feasible and are considering their strategic options. All would like to continue to engage China. But what are their options when the Chinese state wants to reduce the sectoral focus and the number, capacities and performance of International NGOs?
Video Policy Brief No 5: How a lack of faith in people is undermining UK-China relations | Dr Andreas Fulda
In this video policy brief Dr Andreas Fulda argues that a lack of faith in people undermines the British government's efforts to build a relationship of mutual trust between the UK and China.
When we talk about British engagement with China, most people would agree that dialogue and cooperation is preferable over confrontation, for example when it comes to addressing conceptual gaps about democratic governance and human rights. And while of course it is true that dialogue is desirable, we hear very little about how it can be made to work.
A number of questions spring to mind. In such an intercultural dialogue, who is supposed to talk to whom? Should a dialogue be confined to selected British and Chinese elites, for example politicians, traders and investors? Or does it aspire to become a more inclusive dialogue across civilizations and thus involve citizens from all walks of life? And how shall such a dialogue be conducted?
Dr Fulda offers a critique of one of the state-sponsored venues aimed at fostering UK-China relations, the UK-China High Level People to People Dialogue. Rather than a celebration of an alleged 'Golden Era' in UK-China relations this forum should be seen as a false advertisement. Dr Fulda argues that this is not so much a people-to-people dialogue but strictly a government-to-government affair.
Video Policy Brief No 4: The utility of knowledge partnerships between parliaments and academia | Mr Ravindra Garimella
In this video policy brief Mr Ravindra Garimella, Joint Secretary in Lok Sabha Secretariat, Parliament of India speaks about the utility of knowledge partnerships between parliaments and academia. Mr Garimella is in charge of the Legislative Division of Lok Sabha (House of People). The post of Joint Secretary (Legislation) which he is holding is somewhat equivalent to Deputy Clark of House of Commons or House of Lords.
In Autumn 2017 Mr Garimella was on a Visiting Fellowship at School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham for two weeks. This Visiting Fellowship was part of a UK Economic and Social Research Council funded project relating to the Parliament of India and co-ordinated by Dr Carole Spary, Assistant Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations and Deputy Director of the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies.
His visit and working in close cohesion in the University has given Mr Garimella greater insight vis-a-vis academic research work which Carole and her colleagues have done. This also provides him an opportunity to relate his practical exposure and experience vis-a-vis working of Indian Parliament – with interesting views, suggestions and proposals which have emerged from Carole’s research. Their respective experiences can lead to really meaningful interactions and this convergence can form a sound basis for informed inputs for better assistance to Parliamentarians and academics as well.