Welcome to a new issue of the Aspen Review Central Europe dedicated to China-Europe “silk” connection. China has become a pivotal global economic partner to the US. In parallel, it has become an increasingly important trade and investment partner for the European Union and primarily for Germany, the UK, and France. A critical review of François Godement’s book about the ambivalence of the current China provides a fresh perspective on our understanding of China. One aspect of its manifold ambiguity stems from the coexistence of one-party political system and market economy with all the consequences to regulatory environment. Should it be granted the status of market economy compatible with the European market?
After the enlargement of the EU a decade ago, China began to pay more attention to the new members of the EU. In 2012, the first summit of China with the prime ministers of 16 countries of Central Eastern Europe—11 EU members and 5 non-members—was held in Warsaw. Since then, meetings in “16+1” format were organized annually. China’s intention was to establish a launch pad to the EU market and to further expand its influence on the EU via new members. Following Suzhou summit in November 2015 the expectations have been tempered to cooperation in infrastructure, finance, agriculture and people-to-people exchange. Only few projects have been put into pipeline. Loans from China Development Bank will be provided to develop, construct, and operate two units at Cernavoda nuclear power plant in Romania, to modernize the Belgrade-Budapest railway, and to build the thermal power plant in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One cannot pretend these would greatly facilitate the creation of the New Silk Road from China to Europe.
A year ago, we suggested the topic not knowing how topical it would be today. Chinese influence is much more visible in politics than in economy in the Czech Republic, which has become apparent during the recent visit of President Xi Jinping. An unprecedented statement issued by four highest representatives of the Czech Republic during the subsequent visit of Dalai Lama stirred a huge debate. This rather undiplomatic gesture of subordinance towards communist China made us think about an impact of Chinese policies on the European unity. Spanish thinker Ortega y Gasset in the prologue to French edition of his famous Revolt of Masses in 1938 did not hesitate to denote those who do not understand “acrobatic idea of Europe which is not a ‘thing’, but a balance, equilibrium – as heavy heads born to exist under the perpetual tyrannies of the East.” It was again Ortega who—with a degree of providence—envisaged a momentum for creation of the European state that could be brought by the “the gathering of a Chinese peering through the Urals or a shaking of the great Islamic magma.” Ortega y Gasset also reminds us that a current attempt by the part of the establishment in Europe to raise the flag of anti-establishment movement—contributing to the crisis of established institutions—is not a new phenomenon at all.
Facing current shake of political establishment, we make no illusions that without taking a good care of our values and heritage we may find our current freedom, prosperity, and security fading like a dream. Degrading various legitimate grievances of European constituency by denoting them as populist is not the way to do it.
In this Aspen Review, you may find a lot of inspiring reading on related topics: Jakub Majmurek writes about cultural dimension of politics in Poland. Is there a cultural revolution or a culture war? On most topical issues of the day, we present Kenneth Weinstein’s article about the new US president. An interview with Dan Schiller exposes a question of how much we value our own privacy, how much we value our freedom? Do social networks encourage only “coping, hoping, doping, and shopping”? Is digital capitalism the next chapter after neoliberal capitalism? Schumpeter’s creative disruption has become a positive notion, because there is no innovation without disruption. But what about a negative social impact of a digital disruption? We also cover enfolding debate about tax policies. Zdeněk Kudrna a Sergiusz Najar write about prospects of relative economic conjuncture and regulatory convergence in banking.
In his editorial, Aleksander Kaczorowski questions the future of the Visegrad group after Brexit. Monetary fault-lines could increase the economic divergence between euro an non-euro countries. Krystyna Iglicka asks the question how to stop emigration of young people from Central Europe. In this context let me turn your attention to the conference we organized with Forbes CZ in November 2016. Its aim was to identify hurdles inhibiting the potential of our society and to motivate for improvements of performance in the areas of economic potential, quality of life, security, education, and governance. I hope you find the agenda and recommendations available at our website inspiring. To keep Central Europe competitive and to support the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation remains one of the key goals of Aspen Institute in Prague.
Stay tuned to Aspen Institute in Central Europe and look forward to the next issue of the Aspen Review in a new layout!
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