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The Asia Center helps Europe shape China policy

The University of Tartu Asia Centre is now part of a pan-European consortium that, through the "ReConnect China" project, connects scientific knowledge and innovative digital technology in order to reach a deeper understanding of contemporary China and the possibilities of cooperation on the topic.

In the midst of growing geopolitical tensions that are pushing world powers apart, the goal is to find a way for the European Union (EU) and China to communicate on sustainable development, climate change and human rights. The project focuses on four areas in which the EU should increase its independence from China: science and technology, economy and trade, China's domestic governance and China's foreign policy.

The head of the Asia Center, Elo Süld, is focusing on China for the first time through the funding of the European Commission's "European Horizon" program. The Asia Center was at the initiation of the new consortium, and Süld sees it as a big thing for the University of Tartu "Working together with Europe's undisputed top scientists and experts creates not only the necessary result for the funder, but also for Estonia from China," she said.

One of the project's most important goals is to create a database where publicly available online content is collected. Laws and regulations, official announcements and news and other texts from government-managed social media accounts and other social media are gathered there. It is maintained continuously, and due to this, it is necessary to have a daily overview of the policy, during which the views and opinions are updated. In this way, it determined the EU's ability to form a coherent and fact-based China policy.

Part of the work is raising awareness and analyzing the situation: together with the Dutch think tank Clingendael, round tables and conferences are organized in Estonia, Belgium and the Netherlands, which bring together experts from the field of higher education and from both the public and private sectors.

The Asia Center of the University of Tartu was established in 2016 on the initiative of Rector Volli Kalm. Ghent University leads the "ReConnect China" project, universities and think tanks from 15 countries are involved. From the University of Tartu, the director of the Asia Center Elo Süld, analyst of the Asia Center Urmas Hõbepappel, visiting professor of Asian politics Robert Weatherley, professor of the theory of international relations Eiki Berg and coordinator of foreign funding of the grant center Laura Tomson are involved in the project.

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