Consortium Leader: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
Consortium Member: The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

Unpacking China’s Digital Silk Road

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 07/27/2020 - 13:41

Aiming to contribute to a better understanding of China’s Digital Silk Road (DSR) and its implications for Europe, this Clingendael Report analyses the concept, objectives and activities of the digital subset of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China Standards 2035 (a blueprint to set global standards for the next generation of technologies), as well as Beijing’s cybersecurity law and push for digital sovereignty, call attention to the DSR’s normative dimensions. China’s moves in the digital domain warrant closer scrutiny.

The European Union and its member states need to act on the DSR’s economic and normative challenges to European industrial competitiveness and European ideas about digital sovereignty, individual privacy, a data-driven society and free flows of data.

Download the report.



Brigitte Dekker (Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute)

Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)


China’s invloed op onderwijs in Nederland

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 10:58

De bevindingen van dit verkennend onderzoek leiden tot de conclusie dat er sprake is van politieke beïnvloeding door China in hoger onderwijs en wetenschap in Nederland. Er zijn geen aanwijzingen gevonden voor beïnvloeding op scholen in het voortgezet onderwijs die samenwerken met de twee Confucius Instituten in Nederland.

De mate waarin en de manier waarop politieke beïnvloeding in het hoger onderwijs plaatsvindt loopt per sector, doelgroep, en deelactiviteit uiteen. Politieke beïnvloeding vindt vooral plaats in de vorm van het (indirect) aanzetten tot zelfcensuur bij onderzoekers, beleidsmedewerkers bij universiteiten, studenten, en bij medewerkers of directeuren van academische uitgeverijen die met of in China werken. Het gaat hierbij niet alleen om zelfopgelegde beperkingen ten aanzien van vrije meningsuiting, maar ook ten aanzien van de keuze van onderwerpen voor onderzoek. Daarnaast hebben onderzoekers en uitgeverijen te maken met censuur van publicaties van wetenschappelijk werk. Ook waar het gaat om het uitvoeren van wetenschappelijk onderzoek over China, of in en met China, vindt beïnvloeding plaats, bijvoorbeeld door beperking van onderzoeksmogelijkheden.

De politieke beïnvloeding door China in het hoger onderwijs en de wetenschap in Nederland heeft twee brede gevolgen: het leidt tot een aantasting van de Nederlandse kennispositie met betrekking tot China, en tot aantasting van de kwaliteit van onderzoek over China en van onderzoek op andere gebieden dat (deels) in of met China wordt uitgevoerd.

De auteurs

Ingrid d'Hooghe (Senior Research Associate bij Instituut Clingendael)

Brigitte Dekker (Junior Researcher bij Instituut Clingendael)


Globalization Paradox and the Coronavirus pandemic

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 06/02/2020 - 13:33

The global scale of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and its response is unprecedented. This Clingendael Report applies Dani Rodrik’s framework of Globalization’s political trilemma to analyze the current response to the pandemic. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis he argued that any recovery measures would have to balance off state power with economic integration and democracy. Based on values of democratic governance and human dignity this report charts principles on how to move forward beyond the emergency phase into recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report makes a plea to Dutch and European policymakers for safeguarding and upholding democratic values in the response to and recovery of the Covid-19 emergency. The political trilemma indicates that a renewed primacy of state sovereignty, combined with hyper-globalization being on the defense, requires political resistance and bold choices to uphold democratic governance principles for the urgent and difficult policy actions required during the recovery.

The momentum is now to act and uphold a united European solidarity response and leadership. If the EU fails to do so, it risks disintegration and marginalization in a volatile multi-polar global order. Covid-19 is not merely a ‘crisis’ that will pass by. This is a new permanence that requires a redefinition of the European social contract while recognizing its interconnectedness with the rest of world.

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The author

Remco van de Pas (Senior Research Associate at the Clingendael Institute)

Graffiti / Unsplash

Presence before power

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 06/02/2020 - 13:27

When, in 2018, the People’s Republic of China published its first Arctic strategy, claiming that the Middle Kingdom is a ‘near-Arctic state’, many a snigger could be heard throughout the world of Arctic diplomacy. Yet, it is quickly becoming clear that China has built a geostrategic presence in the Arctic that is not to be sniggered at. It is already reshaping circumpolar politics in fundamental ways. Therefore, this Clingendael report aims to answer the following questions:

  • What are the long-term drivers behind China’s growing presence in the Arctic?
  • How is China currently shaping Arctic relations?
  • How should Europe and the Netherlands engage with China’s growing presence in the Arctic?

China’s Arctic strategy, in particular as it materialises in Iceland and Greenland, leads us to conclude that China’s growing presence in the Arctic is not a direct threat to European countries but rather a long-term strategic issue of great importance, but not great urgency.

Above all, China shows the power of presence by claiming a seat at the table in the Arctic Council and by investing in strategic sectors and diplomatic relations with Arctic states. Europe's challenge will be to re-engage with Iceland and Greenland, and China's presence there, in a similar multi-layered way, coordinating short-, medium- and long-term strategies.

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The author

Ties Dams (Research fellow at the Clingendael Institute)

Louise van Schaik (Head of Unit EU & Global Affairs/ Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)

Adája Stoetman (Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute)


The case for digital official development assistance (ODA)

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/14/2020 - 13:55

Digital connectivity will feature prominently in the upcoming EU–Japan summit scheduled for May 2020, and in the EU–Africa summit of November 2020. On both occasions, digital Official Development Assistance (ODA) deserves a more prominent place on the agenda than seen so far. For Japan, this means implementing coordinated digital development initiatives and aiming for greater contributions to the e-economy and e-government, and for African governments, the European Union (EU) should identify real needs that inform targeted, request-based action on digital ODA.

While acting on long-term challenges, digital ODA addresses several key priorities identified by the European Commission. An updated EU digital ODA agenda also responds to global trends such as the impact of the fourth industrial revolution in Europe and its backyard, life in a post-COVID-19 world, international migration and climate change, as well as geostrategic challenges like the US–China technology conflict and China’s Digital Silk Road.

With an eye to practical implementation, this Clingendael Policy Brief adds conceptual clarity to what digital ODA is (or can be) and discusses where the EU stands today. It offers opportunities for best-practice learning from Asian players that have more experience in this field. Clearly, digital ODA is no longer just a technical but also a (geo)political issue.

Download policy brief.

The author

Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)


The case for EU-Japan connectivity and digital ODA 

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 04/28/2020 - 13:01

This publication was originally published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 25 March 2020.

The 2019 EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership paves the way for EU-Japan cooperation on all three practical elements of digital connectivity: telecommunications infrastructure, business and regulation. Cooperation should be implemented at both the practical and strategic levels, and beyond the bilateral agenda.

In implementing the EU-Japan Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure, the digital field offers practical opportunities for the two partners to further shared objectives. Set against the context of a hardening US-China trade-tech conflict, the EU and Japan should focus on the promotion of data security and trust in data flows at the global level, and on nurturing competitive digital businesses with a strong global presence. In addition, cooperation on the digital development agenda is crucial to ensure that third countries also benefit from the data revolution in their development and can contribute to a convergence of norms on data governance. A broader engagement between stakeholders with each other’s strategic thought on digital connectivity’s defensive strand is required for success in these fields. Taken together, this means pushing cooperation beyond the bilateral agenda, while also creating more lines of communication to compare notes on the notion of digital strategic autonomy.

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The author

Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)


The multilateral system under stress: Europe’s path forward

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 09/04/2019 - 10:38

The multilateral system under stress: Charting Europe’s path forward

Case studies of the WTO, arms control and human rights 

The retreat of the United States (US) from the international order that it helped to build marks a significant turning point in international affairs. The Netherlands, as a European Union (EU) member state, now has to reposition itself in a world defined by great power rivalry and without a guaranteed strong transatlantic partnership.

Facing an increasingly powerful, confident and capable China, and a Russia that – especially in the military realm – is trying to regain and strengthen its great power status, the US has withdrawn from institutions and agreements that have epitomised world trade, arms control and human rights standards for decades. Shifts in the direction, scale and composition of trade flows, the increasing complexity and changing capabilities of 21st century weapon arsenals, and an apparent backsliding of the international human rights agenda call for new approaches to repair or build institutional arrangements that are capable of governing these issues on a multilateral level.

Going forward, the Netherlands and the EU need to deliver on new thinking and action on four parallel tracks: continued engagement with the United States; deepened and renewed engagement with other partners and stakeholders; a broadening of multilateralism to new areas; and, in certain cases, new approaches.

About the authors

Brigitte Dekker is a Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ in The Hague. Her research focuses on various dimensions of EU–Asia relations, with a specific interest in South-East Asia and China.

Sico van der Meer Sico van der Meer is a Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute. His research focusses on non-conventional weapons such as Weapons of Mass Destruction and cyber weapons from a strategic policy perspective. 

Maaike Okano-Heijmans is a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ in The Hague. She is a Scientific Coordinator of the Asia–Pacific Research and Advice Network (#APRAN) for the European Commission and the European External Action Service. 


Prime Minister Rutte of the Netherlands and President Trump of the United States in the White House on 18 July 2019

The US–China trade–tech stand-off

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 08/13/2019 - 15:04

And the need for EU action on export control

As the great power rivalry and (technological) trade conflict between the United States (US) and China intensifies, calls for an export control regime tailored to so-called emerging technologies are growing. In August 2018 the US government announced the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), seeking to limit the release of emerging technologies to end uses, end users and destinations of concern.

The contest is on for the leader in the development and use of emerging technologies, but also for shaping norms and writing the rules for their use. This requires the Netherlands and other EU member states – in coordination with key stakeholders from business and academia – also to redouble their efforts to recraft their own approach to export controls of so-called ‘omni-use’ emerging technologies.

This Clingendael Report outlines four levels of action in the field of export control for the Dutch government to pursue in parallel: bilaterally with the US; European Union cooperation; ‘Wassenaar’ and beyond; and trusted communities.

About the authors

Brigitte Dekker is a Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ in The Hague. Her research focuses on various dimensions of EU–Asia relations, with a specific interest in South-East Asia and China.

Maaike Okano-Heijmans is a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ in The Hague. She is a Scientific Coordinator of the Asia–Pacific Research and Advice Network (#APRAN) for the European Commission and the European External Action Service. 

 SRNL Developing Photonic Crystals