Yenching Global Symposium 2017: successful application – part 2

So here are the application questions and my answers to them. How would you reply? Please, do share your ideas below.

Why would you like to participate in the Yenching Global Symposium, and how do you see yourself contributing to the Symposium? This can include your research, a project you are currently working on, or any relevant experience. (Maximum 200 words)

The leading position of Peking University as one of the best universities in China, the topic: “Xinnovation: Identity of Innovation in China” that links scholarship to practice, and an opportunity to not only meet global scholars and innovation leaders, but also visit the beautiful city of Beijing have attracted me to this event. I am a Russian citizen, coming from a Siberian ethnic minority group – the Buryats, with an expat status in Germany for the past six years. Having a Master’s Degree in East Asian Studies with three years of working experience in the international development sector, I joined a PhD program at the Graduate School of East Asian Studies at Freie University, Berlin with a supplementary full fellowship this October. My research topic is the Chinese foreign aid, its principles, institutional framework, and de facto implementation of the Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative for Central Asia. Here, I attempt to determine whether China can offer an effective alternative model of international development. Thus, I believe that my participation in the symposium will enable me to get an insight into matters from the Chinese perspective, actively engage in discussions on various topics, and share my work and research experience.

The second Yenching Global Symposium’s theme is “Xinnovation: Identity of Innovation in China.” How do you define innovation and what role will it play in China’s future? (Maximum 250 words)

Generally speaking, innovation is a destruction of the old and ineffective and a creation of the new, more effective and original. It is a production or adoption, and an application of better value-added novel solutions that meet new requirements, existing or not yet articulated market needs. Innovation can be technological and non-technological, ranging from a new app to new institutional structures; it can also vary on the degree of novelty (incremental or radical) and type of innovation (process or product/service).

Nowadays, innovation is a key area of concern for policy makers, academics and business managers, as it is one of the main drivers of long-term growth. For instance, China’s rapid economic growth before the 2000s is the result of “industrial imitation”, its continuing success, however, relies heavily on the ability to develop its indigenous innovation capability (Xiaolan Fu, 2015). The Chinese government is aware of this fact and since 2006 China’s indigenous innovation strategy has been put in place.

The Chinese authorities differentiate between three types of innovations: original, integrated and re-innovation. Original innovation is a scientific discovery that produces novel output with global impact; it is the strategy’s long-term goal. Integrated innovation or “systems of systems” is a tight integration of R&D with design, manufacturing, and marketing with the goal to produce better products in the middle run. Re-Innovation introduces, digests, assimilates and re-innovates imported technologies and is currently one of the most important and relevant to China’s needs. Thus, innovation plays a central role in China’s future development.

In your opinion, what is the most pressing challenge that China currently faces? (Maximum 300 words)

Reading the news, one learns that the world today is a highly unstable place: terrorist threats, economic crisis, repression of human rights, climate change, growing income inequality, just to name a few. In my opinion, China’s most pressing challenge is, however, its transformation from a manufacturing-driven and export-led economy to one sustained by services and domestic consumption under the “New Normal”. This transformation has been arguably brought about by three forces. The first is the global adjustment following the 2008 financial crisis, when the Chinese manufacturing sector had to deal with the slowdown of world demand. The second is China’s demographic transition, which is comprised of two parts: the change of age structure of the whole population, and the movement of the labor force from the countryside to cities. The third force is the slowdown in investment, with the Chinese economy relying heavily on it for future growth. This transformation is a natural stage in the country’s economic development.

Yet the serious concern for China is not its slowing economy, but the costs to the government of managing its consequences (real estate bubble, growth of the shadow banking system, local-central government fiscal imbalances) and rising debt (John Lee, 2015). Increase in unemployment and further political consequences make the matters even more urgent. In order to address these issues China’s 13th five-year plan (2016-2020) have placed an emphasis on finding new drivers of growth by promoting openness, green and inclusive development, coordination, and most importantly innovation. Thus, the extent and speed of China’s advances in innovation will have significant implications for the country’s growth and competitiveness and for the types of jobs, products, and services available to the Chinese people. They will also have powerful consequences for multinationals, regional and global markets, international financial institutions, the world at large.

What common perception of China do you disagree with and why? (Maximum 300 words)

I disagree with the perception of China being a threat to the United States and the peaceful world order at large. There are three major assumptions that constitute this argument: ideological (communism versus democracy), cultural (China’s resistance to the Western liberal model due to its Confucian values), geopolitical and economic (China as a great power in terms of territory, population, and economy has to pursue its own nationalist interests and international hegemony).

However, first of all, China does not claim universal applicability of its values and institutions, stressing limits of the one-size-fits-all approach. Second, Confucius once said, “The gentleman aims at harmony, and not at uniformity”, making the concept of harmony one of the core values of the Chinese traditional culture. In terms of the Chinese foreign policy, once can exemplify China’s adherence to the principle of seeking harmony and common prosperity despite diversity with the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Finally, China’s economic interdependency with the United States, its economic slowdown and transformation, and other domestic challenges would not allow China to throw itself into a strategic confrontation or a quest for world domination.

Current prevalence of a “China threat” narrative among Western policymakers limits their willingness to engage in genuine mutual learning with China and from Chinese-led development at home and abroad. Moreover, worsening China-US relations could hinder international progress in the discussion on issues such as climate change, energy security, nuclear proliferation, etc. In order to calm down foreign apprehensions over its growing power, the Chinese leadership has put forward the thesis of China’s “peaceful rise” and subsequently China’s “peaceful development”. Hence, emphasizing its strategy of transcending the traditional ways for great powers to emerge, and stressing that the new international political and economic order can be achieved through incremental reforms and the democratization of international relations.

That’s it. Hope it could be helpful.

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