Young Leaders´ Forums

Europe Meets China

December 2010

Europe Meets China : A Forum for Young Leaders (EMC)

(December 17th - December 22nd 2010)

Forum Report

The weeklong conference Europe Meets China took place from December 17th to the 22nd 2010 in Berlin. It brought together a group of speakers consisting of leading representatives of local political and commercial bodies, academia and civil society, as well as 32 young individuals who formed the group of participants. The forum examined the history and development of cultural diplomacy with a focus on the development of European-Chinese relations from a cultural, economic and political perspective. The program focused on topics such as past and present perspectives, the European Union’s role in partnership with China, international cooperation on cultural issues, Chinese foreign policy, economic competition and cooperation, and the role of culture and the media in Chinese-European dialogue.

Forum Speakers

Astrid Vonhoff (Consulting Services for Health, Consulting and Training Provider for the Healthcare)
Dr. Bernd Ebert (Research Advisor to the Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin State Museums)
H.E. Carlos dos Santos (Ambassador of the the Republic of Mozambique to the Federal Republic of Germany)
Claudia Guske (Representative of the European Commission in Berlin)
David W.T. Chang (Director of the Department of International Affairs, Taipei Representative Office)
Dr. Gudrun Wacker (Senior Fellow in the Asia Division at Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs) in Berlin)
Jürgen Langen (CEO of the German African Foundation)
Dr. Katja Levy (Research Fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin)
Dr. Klaus-Michael Beneke (Professor of Administrative and Applied Sciences)
Nathalie Van Looy (Project Manager at the Confucius Institute Affiliated with the Freie Universität Berlin)
Marcel Bergmann (Sports Editor)
Dr. Roland Salchow (Director of HanseMerkur Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine)
Prof.Dr. Stefan Kaden (Director of the Berlin - DHI-WASY GmbH)
Viola von Cramon (Member of the German Bundestag)
Prof. Yu Zhang (Managing Director and Owner of China Communications Consulting (Berlin, Beijing))


  • ICD House of Arts and Culture
  • German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt)
  • German Parliament (Bundestag)
  • European Commission
  • Confucius Institute

Summary of Events

Friday, December 17th 2010: The first day started with a lecture and discussion from Viola von Cramon, a member of the German Parliament (Bundestag) and spokeswoman on the Foreign Relations of the EU for Alliance 90/ The Greens Parliamentary Group. She spoke on "A Strategic Relationship Between the EU and China - The Challenges Ahead". The participants then met at the German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), where they were introduced to the work of the Foreign Office by a representative from the Cultural Affairs division. Afterwards, speaker Dr. Katja Levy, a research fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin, gave a lecture at the ICD House titled ‘’The Relationship between NGOs and Social Stability in China’’. The day concluded with a panel discussion moderated by ICD director and founder Mark Donfried  on African perspectives on Sino-European relations. Speakers included the Mozambique Ambassador to Germany His Excellency Mr. Carlos Dos Santos and the CEO of the German African Foundation, Jürgen Langen.

Saturday, December 18th 2010: Day two began with an introductory speech by Mark Donfried on the history and development of cultural diplomacy and its contemporary overview. This was followed by a welcome brunch at a traditional Chinese restaurant, the China Garden. After this, the group returned to the ICD House where they joined Peter Rees for an interactive workshop on leadership initiatives and case studies on cultural diplomacy. The last event of the day was a film screening and presentation ‘’From Beijing to Shanghai’’ by Marcel Bergmann on the challenges and experience of his trip through China on wheelchair.

Sunday, December 19th 2010: The third day started with a sightseeing tour of historical Berlin, which ended in front of the German Parliament (Bundestag), where participants were given a private guided tour despite current heavy security measures (the Bundestag has been closed to the public for the past few weeks). The group then proceeded back at the ICD House, where David W.T. Chang, Director of the Department of International Affairs at the Taipei Representative Office, gave a lecture on Cross Strait Relations between Taiwan and China.

Monday, December 20th 2010: The day started with a lecture by Dr. Bernd Ebert, the senior officer for international relations at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and Dr. Lilla Russell-Smith, the curator for the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, on ‘’Sharing National Responsibilty for Cultural Heritage: The National Museum in Berlin and its Partners in China". Next, after breaking for lunch, the participants met at the European Commission with representative Claudia Guske to discuss the EU and its role in Sino-European relations. The day concluded at the ICD House with an interactive seminar given by Mark Donfried on cultural diplomacy, propaganda, and advertising.

Tuesday, December 21st 2010: Day five began with the seminar ‘’China’s Solar Industry and its Global Perspectives” by Professor Yu Zhang, the managing director and owner of China Communications Consulting. Following was a lecture given by Dr: Gudrun Wacker of the Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik: “The Possibilities and Limitations of a Close Relationship Between Europe and China”. After lunch, the participants attended the seminar ‘’Cooperation between China and Germany in the Field of Patient Care’’ by Astrid Vonhoff from the Consulting Services for Health. Peter Rees ended the day with an interactive workshop on arts, sports and music as cultural exchange between Europe and China.

Wednesday, December 22nd 2010: The last day of the conference was begun with a lecture titled ‘’The Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine & How Physics Can Help to Link Chinese Medicine with Modern Western Science” by the director of HanseMerkur Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine Dr. Roland Salchow. Next, participants joined Professor Dr. Stefan Kaden for a lecture on water management in China. The final event was a trip to the Confucius Institute of Berlin, where Nathalie van Looy provided an informative introduction to the work of the institute and its role in mediating between cultures.

Friday, December 17th 2010

Central themes:
  • Member states of the EU tend to act bilaterally in their relations with China, though the EU should realize its value as a union and speak with one voice on policies and issues.
  • The media provides a distorted image of China, as it chooses its content based on ‘’good’’ or ‘’bad’’ views - and it is always easier to portray the bad. Economic powerhouse, human rights violator, currency free-rider? Due to these sweeping generalizations and portrayals of China, we tend to ignore the great diversity of opinion in Chinese institutions, media, and society.
  •  The EU is China’s largest trading partner, and they are mutually dependent in this relationship; however, their involvement in trade can lead to disparate interests.
  • As for human rights, the West needs to see improvement for increased cooperation, though this infers a type of moral superiority the Chinese are uncomfortable with complying to.
  • China stresses non-interference with its domestic policy, and Western powers have a hard time coming to grips with this attitude. We think that China should be more transparent so that the West can be more objective, and that it is our job to interfere if we disagree with their policy. With an issue such as climate change, something that affects the entire world, the question tends to be: cooperation or compliance? Would a domestic effort to increase energy efficiency be more effective, or would binding international agreements be more effective?
  • The EU needs to act responsibly and actively if it is to have a strategic relationship with China; this means, however, that nations will need to give up some sovereignty to act as one power.
  • The Foreign Office is there to promote peace policy, help with crisis management, provide cultural education internationally, promote public diplomacy and be ‘’a voice in the world.’’
  • The relationship between NGOs and the nervous Chinese government is a tenuous one. The politically active are constantly in danger of being detained, mass numbers of protests occur throughout China on a constant basis, and economic growth is more tangible every day. Can there be a harmonious society without political trust?
  • What is stability?  Is it public order, absence of emergency, maintenance of government? There are differing theories with no exact definition; the absence of violence, the existence of legitimate constitutional order, and the longevity of a government (a sign, not evidence of stability).
  • There are an estimated two million functioning NGOs in China, with only 400,000 registered with the government. Those not independent from the government take over the responsibilities of the state (like education), not articulate or aggregate or take part in consensus building. Others that are registered have strict restrictions placed on them, such as not being able to raise funds.
  • Economic growth is a staple of the Party, though more land will be seized and jobs lost, and the Party is too large to do the right job. China needs the third sector, NGOs, to help so that chaos may be avoided.
  • China’s relations with Africa: is it protectionism? Neomercantilism? Neocolonialism? China’s development and need for raw materials and resources have led the West to question China’s intentions.
  • The African perspective sees China as very attractive in contrast to the ‘’EU dictatorship’’ with their strict requirements and condescending attitudes. China requires little to nothing in return for their agreements, while acting in both their long term interests with respect.
  • Arms production, sale, and export are often quoted as a problem with Sino-African relations. However, this is a global problem, not a Chinese problem - it is more about controlling weapons, as there are enough on the continent already.
  • Aid and trade can go together; African countries want to be traded with and appreciate the help they get from foreign nations, however, respect is necessary. Trade and jobs mean dignity, where aid alone can be seen as condescension.

Saturday, December 18th 2010

Central themes:
  • What is cultural diplomacy? To understand its practice, we must identify the agent, what their agenda is, the vehicle through which it is delivered, and identify who their target audience is.
  • There are many different forms of Cultural diplomacy; they can be both governmental and non-governmental and can be both negative and positive.
  • The topic of cultural diplomacy was explored further, with particular focus on the case studies of the USA, Japan, China, the UK and Russia.
  • The theme of individuality vs. dependency was explored in the documentary depicting the travels of the director through China; his personality was undermined as his disability was highlighted and dependency on help from others even more necessary than before.

Sunday, December 19th 2010

Central themes:
  • Peace and development is good for all; the government has realized that hostility is bad for the economy and region. Ma Ying Jeou’s new approach is to face reality by shelving controversies and adhering to the ‘’one China’’ policy by no unification, no independence and no war.
  • There have been improved relations with mainland China over the last two years; cooperation has been established on air transport, postal service, food safety, crime fighting, financial cooperation, regular flights, promoting investment, and property rights.
  • The importance of cross-cultural communication remains high. Intercultural training shows the need to overcome prejudices and preconceived expectations in order to facilitate effective communication between parties.

Monday, December 20th 2010

Central themes:
  • The State Museums of Berlin are doing their part to share national responsibility for cultural heritage by partnering with Beijing’s National Museum. The Berlin Museums are loaning many pieces from their collections to form an ‘’Art of the Enlightenment’’ exhibition which will be displayed in the newly renovated National Museum.
  • The European Commission works towards promoting peace, stability and prosperity within Europe. It has also put into place many frameworks aimed toward deepening the relationship between European countries and China.
  • A cultural exchange program has been established that sends Chinese curators to cities in Germany to learn how they run their museums (storage, security, etc), and next year curators from Germany will go to China to complete the educational bridge.
  • By taking part in long-term loans, exhibition projects, restoration projects, staff exchange, support for institutional development, cooperation with institutions like academies, universities and institutes, collaboration between museums will create knowledge worldwide by preserving and making available cultural heritage from all over the globe.
  • When talking about cultural diplomacy, it is important to differentiate between advertising, propaganda, cultural diplomacy itself and the agents, vehicles, and audience attributed to it. As an example, commercials were shown and the participants were able to analyze them and identify their theoretical frameworks as propaganda, advertising or cultural diplomacy given the content and context.

Tuesday, December 21st 2010

Central themes:
  • Solar energy contains two main industries; the solar photovoltaics industry (the conversion of sunlight to energy) and the solar thermal industry (solar water heating). China is a world leader and is one of the fastest growing countries with more than 10,000 solar companies.
  • With the renewable energy law and long term development plan, within the next ten years, China plans to get 15% of its energy from renewable sources.
  • Challenges are, however, that raw materials are expensive and that technology is still in the development phase, there is no market consolidation, and its development is highly dependent on political regulations.
  • EU-China relations peaked in 2003-5, but the Europeans became more and more disenchanted after this ‘’honeymoon stage’’. China (unfairly) received a lot of bad press from their involvement with Africa, taking up resources, property rights not being safeguarded, etc. Relations are now getting back to normal.
  • Bilateral relations are a problem for a strategic relation between the EU and China; China is used to playing EU members against each other, not listening to the EU as one voice. The EU should sit down and set priorities, but don’t try; there is no unity or political will, so it must come from member states. The EU is too weak; it lectures China instead of conversing with it.
  • The field of patient care in China is still transitioning to meet modern standards; there are vast differences between care in rural areas and that in the large cities. Many hospitals function without proper equipment or staff, and many Chinese battle with the issue of choosing Western medicine or traditional Chinese medicine, or opting for both.
  • Sports play a significant role as a form of cultural diplomacy, including past successes such as ping-pong diplomacy, where Sino-US relations were rekindled after years of no diplomatic relations.
  • Music as culture: is or has a culture? Is Canton pop really Chinese culture, or is it British or American? Can Chinese people appreciate Richard Wagner without studying Europe? Are cultural relations harmless?

Wednesday, December 22nd 2010

Central themes:
  • Acupuncture is usually rated to be about 50%-100% to effective - just like most Western medicines. However, Chinese medicine does not measure levels of cholesterol, iron, etc, but takes in the whole picture of the person and treats every patient as a different body with a different problem (even if they claim to have the same ailments).
  • Physicists want to find out the true affectivity of Chinese medicine on women going through menopause; giving out questionnaires to see how people feel after taking a drug is too subjective. However, by using modern science to prove or analyze which genes are active in the patient’s DNA would objectively prove traditional Chinese medicine’s worth as compared to Western medicine.
  • There is increasing scarcity of water, increasing pollution, and increasing frequency of floods with increasing extent of damage and socioeconomic consequences in China. Western companies can provide expertise in consulting and solutions for China’s water resources (such as planning and water systems).
  • Beijing has two available reservoirs, though only one is fit to use for drinking water; to solve this, it was proposed to send water from Shanghai, though it is expensive and polluted. The European water resource company’s task is to develop and maintain sustainable water resource systems with integrated water resource management - by taking everything into account (environment, social aspects, economic aspects, etc) and not use more than what is available.
  • The Confucius Institute is a government initiative handled by the Ministry of Education to carry out foreign policy on a small scale (‘the ’charm offensive’’); it offers language classes for students and teachers, cultural events, lectures and exhibitions of modern Chinese art.
  • Each Confucius Institute is paired with a university in China, allowing for cultural exchange. Their goal is to explain Chinese history and culture to understand modern China.