ReConnect: Olomouc scientists studying relations with China join EU research

Graphic: ReConnect China
Thursday 3 November 2022, 8:00 – Text: M. Miechová, with M. Křížková Hronová

What do we really know about contemporary China? How does the EU perceive its growing global influence? In which areas is China a partner – and in which is it a rival? What direction are we supposed to take to further develop our mutual relations? These questions are to be addressed over the next four years by an international team of researchers within the ReConnect China project, in which a partner team of experts from the UP Faculty of Arts will also participate.

China, the most populous country in the world, is the second largest economy globally. However, in 2020, another achievement was made. China became the largest trading partner of the European Union. It is a key player not only in international trade, but also in science and technology. It is, however, perceived by the wider public as something of a terra incognita, a country about which information from reliable sources is more difficult to obtain, which makes the various fragmentary reports and myths all the more imaginative.

“The opportunity to participate in the ReConnect China project is a significant milestone for our faculty. It is the first RIA (Research and Innovation Actions) consortium project from the Horizon Europe programme, which the faculty has managed to obtain,” said Ondřej Kučera from the Department of Asian Studies, also Vice-Dean for Organisation and Development at the UP Faculty of Arts. He further stressed that the lack of objective information and knowledge about the social, cultural, political, and economic reality of contemporary China represents one of the major challenges for the EU in European policy. This is also why the second pillar of Horizon Europe (the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation) has launched a call for projects that will make a significant contribution to understanding the dynamics, values, interests, and possible objectives of European policy towards China.

Out of the total budget of €8 million, only two international projects were selected and funded in the European-wide competition, and “ReConnect China: generating independent knowledge for a resilient future with China for Europe and its citizens” was one of them, bringing together research teams from fifteen prestigious European universities, research institutions, and public and private enterprises. The wide range of partners reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the project where political science, sociology, and history are combined with linguistics and economics. A team of researchers from the Department of Asian Studies at the UP Faculty of Arts, led by Richard Turcsányi, is participating in the project on behalf of Palacký University Olomouc.

The ReConnect project has the ambitious goal of mapping four key areas of EU-China collaboration: science and technology, economics and trade, Chinese domestic politics, and Chinese foreign policy. In these areas, it will seek to create databases of publicly accessible online resources – laws, regulations, official decrees, as well as the content of social networks managed by the Chinese government. According to Turcsányi, experts believe that these resources will provide extraordinary insight into Chinese political and social discourse. At the same time, they will contribute to the formation of an independent European expertise that will become a solid basis for evidence-based policymaking in the European Union.

“The main task of ReConnect is to identify areas where cooperation with China is desirable, possible, or, on the contrary, not feasible for the EU,” emphasised Turcsányi. He added that its results will be addressed to policy makers at EU and national levels, parties from various business sectors, students, educators, and the general public.

“Our aim is to offer an alternative to the current EU-China nexus, contributing to their cooperation on global challenges such as sustainable development, climate change, and human rights,” added Turcsányi on behalf of the research team.

By deepening and disseminating knowledge about China to relevant target groups, ReConnect China aims to establish itself as a European hub for information transfer, networking, and creating synergies with similarly focused initiatives. Participation in the project will bring the Department of Asian Studies, the Faculty of Arts, and Palacký University in general further valuable contacts in the field of international science and research. Undoubtedly, it will contribute significantly to strengthening the status of the university as a research institution.

EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, 20212027
Horizon Europe is the EU’s largest framework programme for research and innovation, with a record budget of almost €100 billion. This exceeds the budget allocated to the previous H2020 framework programme by more than 30 percent. The main objective is to support projects with scientific, technological, economic, and societal impact, thereby strengthening the EU’s scientific and technological knowledge and the competitiveness of all its member states; one of the priorities is to support countries not yet fully involved, such as the Czech Republic.


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