The China Law Center is pleased to announce the launch of a new mini seminar series on topical issues of Chinese law. The series gathers esteemed scholars to present and discuss current issues, trends and challenges in different topics of Chinese law and legal culture.
The series aims to deepen knowledge on specific topics of Chinese law and legal culture and provide a chance for discussion with experts from the field. It also seeks to encourage students and young scholars with passion for Chinese law and legal culture to further learn about the latest information related to the their subject of interest and research.
The events are free of charge and open for anyone with an interest in Chinese law and legal culture.
The first three seminars will address different aspects of Chinese smart courts and judicial system (October 2021), labour law (November 2021) and IP law (Spring 2022). The IP law seminar will be organized in cooperation with IPR University Center.
The programmes of the events will soon be published on the Center’s web page and social media.
On 24 May 2021, Professor Matti Nojonen from the University of Lapland gave a guest lecture on ”Xunzi´s practical philosophy of governance, concepts of rites (li), law (fa) and social order and contemporary Chinese Party-State”. During his lecture, Professor Nojonen gave an interesting insight into Xunzi´s (c. 300 – c. 235 BC) thinking and the concepts of li and fa. Apart from the historical discussion, Professor Nojonen also talked about the Chinese contemporary trend to value Confucianism. At the end of the lecture, he gave answers to questions arising from the audience.
Xunzi was an important Confucian thinker after Confucius (551 – 479 BC) and Mencius (372 – 289 BC). Xunzi lived in the ”Warring States era” when there was more social disorder compared to Confucius´ times. He wrote a comprehensive book ”Xunzi”. As Professor Nojonen pointed out, Confucianism is not a static philosophy. Xunzi in his part also modified it. In general, Professor Nojonen reminded that the concepts in China differ from western concepts. Chinese concepts are more practical and not so clearly defined. Traditional Chinese does not even have a word for concepts and they can be verbs at the same time.
Xunzi was influenced by the Jixia Academy of his era. The question of how to bring order to society was important to him. Li (rite, ritual) was already a Confucian concept but Xunzi developed a full theory of li. According to Xunzi´s theory of li, human nature is evil and humans are driven by certain desires and inborn emotions. Therefore, Xunzi´s view on humans born evil differs from Mencius´ more idealistic view on humans being potentially good. In Xunzi´s theory, li is the tool to control the desires and emotions humans are born with. However, because it is a rather vague concept, it is any ruler’s monopoly, but also his responsibility to define li for his people, which makes li a practical and deliberate tool of governance.
An example of li coupled with other concepts is liyi with yi meaning „justice/righteousness“. Yi is what differs humans from animals. However, according to Xunzi, humans are born evil and without yi, but they can attain liyi by studying and thereby handle their evil desires. Professor Nojonen pointed out how Xunzi´s view differed again from Mencius’: Mencius saw studying as a way to become good while Xunzi saw it as an instrument to control evil. Xunzi stressed the importance of wei (conscious activity) and not leaving one´s fate to the hands of tian (heaven or nature). Another related concept is fen (distinction of social classes). According to Xunzi, people should stay in their social classes, as that makes them understand justice and easier to control.
For Xunzi, li was not enough to govern. Fa (law, regulation) was needed too in maintaining social order. Fa can be understood as a method of governance that constrains the behavior of people, especially with the penal code. It is therefore the „backbone“ that lies underneath li and stabilizes the society. One of Xunzi´s students, Hanfeizi, was a founding father of legalism, which led to the rough legalist Qin-dynasty, which only lasted for 17 years. However, Xunzi differed from strict legalism because he thought that fa is subordinate to li. A symbiotic relationship between li and fa can be seen as Xunzi´s legacy.
Professor Nojonen talked about the recent ”turn to own classics” in China. Xi Jinping has been the driving force of it. He has, for example, visited the birthplace of Confucius and has given a speech on Confucius´ 2.565th birthday. Professor Nojonen also discussed contemporary Party-State interplaying li and fa in the Xuncian sense. In his summary remarks, Professor Nojonen stressed the importance of Xunzi for the Chinese culture. Only the Xuncian insertion of fa made the idealistic, li-based Confucianism an efficient and practical ideology of governance.
This blog post was written by the Center’s interns, Elias Jakala and Johanna Fähnrich.
On Tuesday 20 April 2021, Professor Jason Chuah from the City University of London gave a guest lecture on the topic of ‘An Inquiry into the Continuing Development of Maritime Law in the PRC’ at the Finnish China Law Center. The lecture was chaired and commented on by Ellen J. Eftestøl, Professor of Civil and Commercial Law at the University of Helsinki.
Professor Chuah opened the lecture by giving an overview of the current status of maritime law and jurisprudence in the PRC. Since the jurisdiction of maritime courts was enlarged in 2016, there has been a generally high number of maritime court cases: over 95.000 between 2015 and 2017. More than 6.000 of these cases are foreign-related, meaning that in a lot of them, the parties choose an applicable law that is more advantageous to them than the Chinese. While the PRC courts generally respect the parties’ choice of applicable law, some courts use Chinese law to fill in legal gaps, which is conflicting with international principles. However, the Supreme People’s Court has issued a new guideline in 2020 that strongly advises courts not to fill in gaps with PRC law when dealing with pandemic-related cases. Furthermore, it is sometimes unclear how many countries are involved in one single contract. If the chosen law has no sufficient connection to the case, PRC courts may argue that the clause is unenforceable, unless it is explicitly exclusive. While in EU countries, the exclusivity of such clauses is presumed, that is not the case in the PRC, which sometimes leads to disputes between the parties and the Chinese courts.
Professor Chuah continued with a short comparison of the judicial systems in the PRC and the UK. Whereas in the UK, the guiding precedent doctrine binds judges to follow court decisions made by higher courts, the PRC has no such common law system. However, in 2020, China has issued new guidance that advises courts to apply principles and rules uniformly and follow previous court decisions to prevent conflicting decisions within the PRC. In 2000, the legislation law came into force, which is intended to help drive the modernization of PRC laws forward. It states that laws shall be made in compliance with the basic principles laid down in the constitution, and encourages a policy of „opening to the outside world“, which clearly shows China’s efforts to connect and align its judiciary with other countries.
Professor Chuah closed with a case study on the „bill of lading“, which is a document issued by a carrier of goods and that is the basis for ensuring that exporters receive payment and importers receive the merchandise. Usually, the bill, after it was given to the exporter, gets transferred to the buyer, who is often located in a foreign country. This procedure raises two main problems. The first one is the question of the „original“ document. In line with many other technological advances in the PRC, the bill of lading is nowadays often an electronic document instead of a paper. However, the Chinese maritime law is still very paper-oriented and does not adjust fast enough to these new devices. Professor Chuah emphasized the need to revise the PRC maritime law, starting with redefining the term of originality. The second challenge with the bill of lading is the right to sue. It is common practice internationally that with the transfer of the bill, one gives up their right to sue the carrier. However, some PRC courts have decided the opposite way. Professor Chuah explains this with the fact that the persons transferring the bill of lading are mostly exporters. China as an exporting country wants to protect its exporters and local businesses and therefore interprets the bill transfer differently in order to preserve the exporters’ right to sue. In conclusion, it is noticeable that the PRC has made enormous progress in terms of aligning its jurisprudence with international standards, even though it is not a party of the international conventions on maritime law. However, the PRC courts sometimes interpret international rules differently, which is mostly due to the different political and legal history as well as the fact that Chinese private rules are often hard to combine with international methods. It will be interesting to see if China will sign up to the Rotterdam rules and what impact that would have, since the rules are intended to be much more recognizing of technological advances and current shipping practices.
This blog post was written the Center’s intern, Johanna Fähnrich.
The Centre would like to inform its readers of the establishment of the new Nordic Network on Chinese Thought (NNCT) based at the University of Lapland. The NNCT is founded by Professor Matti Nojonen (University of Lapland), Dr. Jyrki Kallio (Finnish Institute of International Affairs) and Professor emeritus Torbjörn Lodén (University of Stockholm). The idea is to create an open and transparent platform that connects Nordic researchers on Chinese thought on a more regular basis than just once a year.
The network’s objective is to open discussion and dialogue on philosophical questions relating to China, as well as for sharing research ideas, papers, and manuscripts. It aims at bringing together not only senior scholars but also young researchers and students in the Nordic region who study or work on classical and modern Chinese philosophy and Chinese thought. The NNCT will also advance collaboration with prominent Chinese philosophers.
The activities of the NNCT include seminars, workshops, study events, and lectures in the field of Chinese thought on topics such as the role of concepts in traditional Chinese philosophy and thought. Through the network, scholars and students shall have the opportunity to expand their network and learn different approaches to Chinese thought from other members.
In this and next autumns, two new 5-credit courses on Chinese thoughts will be organized by the University of Lapland. They will deal with classical Chinese language and textual reading on classical Chinese philosophy. The courses, one offered in Finnish and the other in English, will provide students with knowledge and insight into different fields of Chinese philosophy. Students in the courses are welcome to attend events of the NNCT.
The inaugural seminar of NNCT will be organized on the 20thof April, at 10 AM to 12 Noon (UTC + 3).
On 17 November 2020, Professor Kimmo Nuotio, Board Member of the China Law Center joined the 2020 Fall Semester Online PKU Law School Distinguished Global Faculty lecture series. The lecture series aims to further the internationalization of PKU Law School and foster global awareness among law students beyond the confinement of national boundaries.
Professor Nuotio contributed to the series with a presentation on “Criminal Law as Transnational Law”.
If international criminal law is a concept already relatively well-known, the concept of transnational criminal law is still a relatively new one. Neil Boister has proposed an understanding that whereas international criminal law proper is based on values and principles, the transnational criminal law only is about state’s collaborating in addressing issues of cross-border criminality. Accordingly, transnational criminal law deals with international illegal market, where criminal activities often are organised and run for profit. Transnational criminal law deals with a rather scattered set of topics, and the aim is to strengthen the enforcement of the agreed norms by means of international treaties. In his talk, Professor Nuotio presented this scene and discussed the problems in the creation of transnational criminal law, as the most powerful states have had a biggest say in the drafting of such treaties. As a result, transnational criminal law of today has some problematic features, which should be addressed: it should be enlightened. He also talked about how we could relate an enlightened version of transnational criminal law with law and development studies. Finally, he examined if and how transnational criminal law could be transformed and become a genuine global criminal law.
Professor Genlin Liang and Professor Su Jiang from PKU Law School acted as commenters for Professor Nuotio’s lecture. The lecture received positive feedback from PKU Law students who found his topic very interesting, especially regarding transnational criminal law.
The China Law Week 2020 closed with a session on “Reform and Emerging issues in Chinese Private Law and the Court System”. It was chaired by Jukka Mähönen, Professor of Cooperative Law at the University of Helsinki and Professor of Law at the University of Oslo.
In the first presentation, Professor Jin Haijun from Renmin University gave a brief insight into the Chinese newly made civil law codification. The new Chinese Civil Code was adopted in May 2020 and will be effective from the beginning of next year. Even though the Civil Code is new, Professor Haijun emphasized that most parts of its legislation are not new. For instance, already existing corporative law was basically incorporated in the new civil code. According to Professor Haijun, intellectual property rules were a hot topic during the drafting of the code. Professor Juha Karhu from the University of Lapland commented on the presentation by mentioning for example the way that the code was built putting together different pieces.
Professor Karhu then proceeded with his presentation on the Nordic perspective on the new Chinese Civil Code. Some civil codes of the modern time were discussed, and their economic, political, and cultural background were explored to see why and how the codes were born. The presenter talked about the French Civil Code, the German “Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch”, the situation in the US, and the Chinese Civil Code 2020. Notably, the Chinese Civil Code is based on the economic rise with the opening-up policy and the socialist market economy. The Code also shows Chinese characteristics. It is inspired by various legal systems, but the systematic nature is based on the endemic questions in China.
The third presentation was given by Dr. Kangle Zhang from Peking University Law School about emerging issues in Chinese finance & business law. In Dr. Zhang’s opinion, China is moving towards financial liberalization. There is a trend of providing necessary capital and offering the customers better returns than bank deposits. The establishment of Shanghai pilot free trade zone helps ease legal burden for trading and financial purposes.
The fourth presentation was held by Dr. Wei Qian from the China University of Labour Relations, School of Labour Relations and Human Resources. The pandemic raised a number of issues where the group of disabled elderly people were particularly affected. Local governments in China were fast to enact new policy, and set disabled people, as well as children and elderly people as priority groups that will receive special attention in any big crisis. Dr. Qian talked about how disability policies in China promote the social inclusion of disabled people and how the policies changed under the current Covid-19 situation.
The last presentation of the day and the China Law Week was held by Björn Ahl, Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne. He outlined the Chinese court reforms and their impact on decision making. According to Professor Ahl, there has been a contradiction in the reform dynamics between law and the political context within the judicial reform in China. This reform can be seen from a political context where there has been an enhanced dominant party state with violations of human rights. On the other hand, reform of the legal institutions has taken place where judges enjoy more autonomy in decision making to an extent that they never have been.
With 19 chairs and speakers from 7 countries and over 70 participants from 15 countries, the China Law Week 2020 had connected people with interest in Chinese law and legal culture from all over the world. Offering presentations and discussions on a broad spectrum of topics, the event had provided a valuable opportunity to learn more about the latest developments in the world of Chinese law.
The Finnish China Law Center would like to thanks the chairs, speakers, and participants conference for having made the China Law Week 2020 a resounding success. We hope to see you again in the Nordic China Law Week 2021!
The Center would like to thank our interns, Elias Jakala, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Anqi Xiang, Annette Rapo, and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.
The China Law Week 2020 continued with the third session on “New Challenges for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”. It was chaired by Björn Ahl, who is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne and Visiting Professor at the University of Helsinki.
Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Confucius Institute at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Helsinki, gave the first presentation. Professor Chen talked about the localized approach in understanding One Belt One Road (OBOR)’s impacts. Her presentation covered two parts: the problems of China-centric approaches when studying the BRI’s actual impacts and the theoretical framework. Professor Chen uses the strategic action field (SAF) for her BRI research, which she defined as a “socially constructed arena” where actors constantly pull and haul their interests on a particular space and issue due to their contentious or unclear nature.
The session continued with a presentation by Professor Ronald C. Brown. Professor Brown centered his presentation on China’s BRI in Central Eastern European Countries, through the concept of 17+1. The main issue here is whether the 17+1 concept helps China to connect with the EU or whether it divides it or could lead to a pathway to EU-China “pre-trade agreement”. BRI gains connectivity to China and maximizes economic growth opportunities but the questions of who is more important (EU or China) for 17+1 countries and who to give loyalty to if there is a conflict linger.
Professor Jin Haijun from Renmin University held the next presentation with the title “An Overview of Intellectual Property Protection and Cooperation under the BRI”. He emphasized that China has launched several initiatives such as the Digital Economy International Cooperation Initiative and the Joint Statement on Pragmatic Cooperation in the Field of Intellectual Property for the BRI countries. China has further opted to include IP provisions in the Civil Code. It also has specialized IP courts and tribunals. China has also placed special attention on constant reforms for IP action, protection and cooperation among BRI countries, and patent court system reforms.
Associate Professor Yifeng Chen from the Peking University Law School followed with a presentation about transnational labour protection and the BRI. He highlighted the labour dimension of the BRI and introduced different approaches to incorporate labour into the BRI. They are: using the ILO conventions and encouraging ratification, promoting ILO fundamental labour rights protection, incorporating labour into international economic arrangement, and encouraging corporate social responsibility.
In the fifth presentation, Professor Matti Nojonen from the University of Lapland discussed China’s Arctic Policy and the “Polar Silk Road” Initiative. A few years ago, China introduced the “Polar Silk Road” Initiative. China has been involved in Arctic affairs and the Nordic economy for decades, which makes it easy for most states to adjust to the new project. Of course, there are still a lot of challenges to face. The project must be adjusted to local circumstances such as the existing national law and all involved countries and companies have to reach agreements on specific strategies.
The session closed with a panel discussion under the motto “What are the emerging challenges of the BRI?”
The Center would like to thank our interns, Sukhman Gill, Elias Jakala, Li Yuan, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Anqi Xiang, Annette Rapo, and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.
The second session of the China Law Week 2020 was held under the theme “Chinese Labour Law in International and Comparative Perspectives”. The Chair of the session was Professor Ninon Colneric, former Judge at the Court of Justice of the European Communities and Co-Dean at the China-EU School of Law at the China University of Political Science and Law.
Sean Cooney, Professor of Law at Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne held the first presentation on labour and employment law challenges of digital platform-based employment. These platforms provide flexibility and opportunities for the workers and convenience for the consumers. However, empirical studies show that this new method of organizing labour is not without problem. The main questions addressed during the presentation are: should the workers be treated as employees, what collective bargaining should be allowed, how do the workers access social protection systems, and what methods are used for dispute resolution.
The second presentation by Ulla Liukkunen, Professor of Labour Law and Private International Law at the University of Helsinki and Director of the Finnish China Law Center was entitled “International Employment Contracts in China – the Influence of Labour Law and Private International Law (PIL) Trends”. The presentation discussed Chinese PIL and cross-border labour questions about international employment contracts. She noted that in China, PIL is still a young field of law with a late policy start. The development of Chinese PIL requires broader attention as labour rights need safeguards in a cross-border setting that substantive law alone cannot afford.
The third presentation “Labor Disputes of Chinese Posted Workers in the B&R Countries” was held by Yan Dong, Vice-Dean and Associate Professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University School of Law . He presented his research about Chinese workers posted in B&R countries. The number of Chinese posted workers increased gradually. However, the current literature gap exists. Data about workers’ labor issues in the B&R countries is incomplete. There are insufficient legal rules about applying Chinese labour laws under the doctrine of overriding mandatory rules. The research design is to collect all the cases by investigating the labor dispute in the B&R countries. The aims of Professor Dong’s study are to uncover the labor issues and test the doctrine of overriding mandatory labor rules in action.
The fourth presentation was given by Ronald C. Brown, Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i Law School . In his presentation, he discussed how the Covid-pandemic has affected labour law in China and the US. When looking at reported cases and deaths, China has survived the pandemic more successfully. The presentation looked at reasons in labour law changes that contributed to this feat. On a high level, the approaches were very similar: funding packages, lockdowns, and mask recommendations, but the results were different. The presentation showed comparatively how high level policies were implemented and how the different cultures reacted to the response on a micro level.
The session closed with a presentation by Yan Tian, Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean at Peking University Law School. His speech was about the images of workers on China’s law of bankruptcy. Professor Tian first compared the old and new laws of bankruptcy to observe the changes in the images of workers. Secondly, he compared the laws of bankruptcy and the Chinese constitution. Finally, Professor Tian compared the past and future of the laws of bankruptcy.
The Center would like to thank our interns, Jakub Pincha, Zhe Zhao, Li Yuan, and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.
The China Law Week 2020 kicked off with the first session entitled “Chinese Law and Legal Culture – a Diversity of Approaches”. The session was chaired by Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Helsinki.
The session began with a presentation titled “Taking account of History When Researching Contemporary Law” by Professor Letto-Vanamo. She emphasized the importance of history when researching comparative differences. In Professor Letto-Vanamo´s opinion, knowledge of contemporary politics alone is not sufficient to understand the reasons for comparative differences. She found that the only way to understand Chinese Law is to understand its history, not just legal history but for instance philosophical history and general Chinese mentality as well.
In the second presentation of the session, Professor Björn Ahl from the University of Cologne discussed the different approaches to Chinese legal culture. He first explained the Chinese legal culture, observing that Chinese legal culture as a residual concept lacks explanatory value, invites essentialized approaches to Chinese culture, and more prone to legal orientalism. Professor Ahl then introduced the Chinese legal culture in law-related Chinese studies at the University of Cologne, pointing out that learning Chinese law needs to start from an external and comparative perspective.
The third presentation on “Dispute Resolution in China: A Language Perspective” was given by Associate Professor Joanna Grzybek from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, who is also Deputy Head of the Polish Centre for Law and Economy of China. Professor Grzybek started by giving the overall legal status regarding dispute resolution in China. She stated that due consideration should be given to how language affects international communication and our frames of mind. She stressed that not only legal, but also historical and sociological angles are needed in legal linguistics research.
Professor Johanna Niemi from the University of Turku gave the next presentation on “Law and Gender: Finnish and Chinese Perspectives”. She focused on the positioning of the researcher while doing research in another culture and especially when working with the experts from a society different from the one the researcher is custom to. She highlighted the importance of remembering that post-colonial is not just history in many countries but something that still has an impact on the work culture and relationships to other countries even today.
The session closed with the last presentation about “Criminal Law in the Context of Rule of Law: Finnish and Chinese Perspectives” by Professor Kimmo Nuotio from the University of Helsinki. Professor Nuotio talked about how differently Finland and China approach criminal law and the concept of rule of law. In Finland, criminal law has to be compliant with the constitution, meaning that the state must ensure the protection of every individuals’ rights as well as the division of powers and an independent judiciary. In China, however, criminal law has a long tradition of enforcing justice with harsh methods and not guaranteeing fundamental rights or independence of the judiciary.
The Center would like to thank our interns, Elias Jakala, Li Yuan, Anwar Al-Hamidi, Sukhman Gill and Johanna Fähnrich for contributing text for this article.
On Wednesday 4 March 2020, a partner of the Finnish China Law Center, the Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki held a seminar on the topic of ‘Belt and Road Initiative in Russia and Kazakhstan’.
Considering that 7 years have passed since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was introduced by President Xi Jinping at Nazarbayev University in 2013 and there has been increasing awareness of this project and suspicion of its exact impact and influence, the Seminar aimed to provide up-to-date views and perspectives of two experts from Russia and Kazakhstan regarding the BRI.
The Seminar began with a presentation on ‘The Belt and Road Initiative: Views from Russia’ from Professor Nikolay Samoylov (St. Petersburg State University). Professor Samoylov remarked that the Russian Government regards the BRI as having economic and political significance since boosting Russia and China’s relation and promoting alignment of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt are elements of the BRI. For Russian politicians and leaders, the future of the Eurasian Economic Union is very important, and they wish to connect it with the Chinese BRI.
He added that the BRI is becoming an increasingly crucial aspect of China and Russia’s cooperation as shown through the active negotiation and consultation process of promoting Eurasian economic integration within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt. In 2017, the Eurasian Economic Commission drew up a list of prioritized projects to be implemented by Eurasian countries in support of the Silk Road Economic Belt project. A majority of these projects involve the construction of new roads and modernization of existing roads, establishment of transport and logistic centers, and development of key transport hubs. Russia has proposed 3 main logistic projects, including the construction of a high-speed railway between Beijing and Europe, motorway connecting China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Europe, and development of the Northern sea route. Professor Samoylov noted that Russia has set out the goal that over the next 6 years, it shall increase the full capacity of the Baikal – Amur Main Line and the trans-Siberian railway to 880 million tonnes per year, cut fright delivery time from far East to the Western border of Russia to 7 days, increase the volume of transit of shipments on Russian railways almost four-folds, thus turning the country into a global leader in cross Asia transit shipping. Therefore, these projects are especially significant to Russia.
Over the past 5 years, Russian international relation experts have produced a large quantity of academic and expert publications and debates designed to explain the BRI to the society and political elites. There is a firm opinion that the implementation of the BRI would inevitably strengthen China’s influence in the Central Asia region. However, some expert groups opine that the Silk Road Economic Belt is essential for changing the entire global geopolitics. They are convinced that Russia should retain the role of a regional leader in Central Asia and that integration with the Silk Road Economic Belt is not an obstacle, but a facilitating factor. Others view Beijing’s actions not as an opportunity but a threat to Russian national defense. In between these two extreme trends, another group tries to explain Beijing’s actions through their own interpretation of social-economic goals in China. They contend that China’s priority is to solve China’s social-economic task which is not possible without an active foreign policy. This task focuses on 3 areas: creating new transport and logistic infrastructure to link Europe and Asia via Russia, directing Chinese investment in the high-tech industry and engaging China through investment, loan, and technology, implementation of projects that use new instruments for the development of Russian Far East and northern sea route.
The Seminar continued with a second presentation titled ‘How is BRI Playing in Kazakhstan? Findings from a Survey’ by Professor Chris Primiano (KIMEP University) which focused on Kazakhstan and particularly how students at KIMEP University view the BRI. Professor Primiano explained that university students in Kazakhstan represent the future elites and so it is important to get engaged with students at KIMEP, one of the leading universities in Kazakhstan to understand how they view the Chinese BRI.
Professor Primiano observed that there is tremendous discontent in Kazakhstan directed at China for two main reasons being Chinese FDI and the situation in Xinjiang with the vocational camps. The Chinese FDI comes with Chinese workers in contrast to western FDI. In order to accept one of these infrastructure projects the host government also accepts Chinese workers. The perception of jobs being taken away from locals in Kazakhstan and that the Chinese workers are benefiting more than Kazakhstani nationals create a good amount of push-back. The actions of China in Xinjiang also add to the disapproval from certain segments of Kazakhstan since there have been many ethnic Kazakhs or Kazakhstani nationals who have been in these vocational camps.
The survey by Professor Primiano and his colleagues aims at finding out whether participants view the BRI as a win-win/mutually beneficial situation, or as China benefiting itself at the expense of Kazakhstan. The survey questions were related to demographic variables (age, gender, income, rural or urban, etc) and attitudinal variables impacting one’s views on the BRI i.e. What are their views on democracy? and Do they equate democracy with economic development than with political rights?
Some general trends can be inferred from the survey. Those whose parents earn higher incomes viewed China more favorably. Those whose parents have higher education view China in a more positive way. The students who equate democracy with economic development would view China more positively and those who equate democracy with social or political rights concept will have a negative take on China. The people spending more time reading and watching TV news tended to have a more unfavorable view of China.
Professor Primiano explained that the survey employed both open-ended and closed-ended questions, for example: What do you associate with China? Why is China involved in Central Asia with infrastructure and development projects? And does the BRI create a win-win for Kazakhstan? etc. Regarding the first question, 206 of the respondents had positive views about China’s BRI, associating it with advancing globalization, trade and mutual benefits. 27% wrote that BRI was about neo-colonialism with China benefiting at the expense of other countries. Some respondents said they ‘never heard of this’ or ‘do not know anything about the BRI.’ On the second question, less than 3% of the participants replied that the BRI was not mainstream in Central Asia. The majority said that China’s purpose was its own interests only. 30% opined that it was to advance the interests of China and other countries in Central Asia. The remaining 11% answered with ‘don’t know’ or ‘not sure.’ Relating to the third question, 60% felt that they lack proper information to comment on the matter.
To sum up about the survey, Professor Primiano remarked that a strong majority were not well aware of this initiative while surprisingly, China selected Kazakhstan as a place to announce BRI and there have been significant investments and tremendous funding from China. In the future, survey experiments will be done with treatment and control groups provided with additional information on the BRI.