Engaging with China: Challenges and the Way Forward


On November 6, RWI convened a very timely and important full-day discussion in Stockholm on Engaging with China: Challenges and the Way Forward in Higher Education, Human Rights and Public Diplomacy.

This year marks 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China and 30 years since the government crackdown on protestors on Tiananmen Square. Four decades of ‘reform and opening up’ has transformed China from an impoverished nation into the world’s second largest economy; however, striking continuities remain in regard to China’s authoritarian political system.

Engaging China
Isabel Hilton, Founder and CEO of China Dialogue, speaking in a session on the EU China strategy.

In recent years, China has also become more active in its involvement at the United Nations and in other countries’ political, economic, and academic affairs. Against the backdrop of China’s growing economic and political power, European Union-China relations have been redefined, while US policy towards China has shifted from engagement to confrontation.

In Sweden, calls for more strategic engagement have resulted in a new Government approach for issues concerning China, which was made public in October. These developments underscore the need for a critical, evidence-based assessment of different strategies and tools.

One key question is how to engage effectively with China on human rights. Another issue is how to safeguard academic freedom in higher education and research collaboration with China.

engaging china
Eva Åkesson, Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University, speaking in a session on collaboration with China in higher education and research

The roundtable brought together China experts in government, think-tanks, academia and human rights organisations for a focused discussion on issues such as the EU China strategy, China’s public diplomacy, China at the UN, and higher education and research collaboration with China.

Participants also included Sida Director-General Carin Jämtin, the Swedish Ambassador for Human Rights Annika Ben David, the Director-General for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Sweden Johannes Oljelund, the Deputy Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Swedish Parliament Hans Wallmark and other representatives of the Swedish Parliament and various government departments.

The roundtable was organised in collaboration with Lund University Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies and The Swedish Institute of International Affairs, with financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The event was held under the Chatham House rule. A summary report of the discussions will be available soon.