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EG at Lau Institute China Week, King's College London

Professor Shitij Kapur, President and Principal of King's College London © King's College London / CC-BY 2.0 /

The Conference Proceedings - Calvin Oliver

In the final week of October, the Lau China Institute launched an event called ‘China Week’ at King’s College London. Aside from being an opportunity to meet a diverse cast of people with similar interests, the week put into focus a myriad of environmental matters with respect to China and international actors. Preceding COP26 by a week, topics featured ranged from more economic affairs such as the Build Back Better World (B3W) vs the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and China’s 2060 carbon pledge and the economic transition to a low carbon future, to more nuanced discussions concerning the health impacts of climate change.

The launch reception in the evening of the first day featured a warm welcome from Professor Shitij Kapur, President & Principal of King's College London, as well as a greeting from Professor Kerry Brown and talk on pluralistic rationality by Professor Astrid Nordin. Woven between all of this was networking and drinks with fellow colleagues and familiar and new faces.

Throughout the week, a range of panels and events were hosted, with some online and some in person. To kick it all off, Monday morning’s panel focused on China’s 2060 Carbon pledge, with panelists present being Isabel Hilton OBE, Founder of China Dialogue; Dr Chen Ji, Principal of the Rocky Mountain Institute; James Pennington from China Partnerships & Circular Economy of the World Economic Forum; and Dr Chunping Xie from Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

A special mention goes out to one of our members at European Guanxi, Giulia D’Aquila, who was a speaker alongside Dr Hiu Man Chan of the UK-China Film Collab during the film screening of Stephen Chow’s ‘The Mermaid’, a movie which focuses on providing a commercial take on the environmental issues that face contemporary China. Giulia’s experience and insight into the proceedings of ‘China Week’ can be found further below.

Of particular interest, the final day, day 5, featured a panel discussion on how young people can get involved and drive change, emphasising the importance of individual determination in a world where so much has changed politically and continues to change, especially in the wake of COVID19. The panelists for this event were Gordon Abeiku Mensah, Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum; Matthew MacGeoch, a member of the Climate Bonds Initiative & Oxford University Silk Road Society; as well as Dr Giulia Sciorati from the University of Trento, Italian Institute for International Political Studies, with whom European Guanxi had previously hosted a webinar with focusing on what lies ahead for relations between China and Europe. The webinar can be found here.

Young Voices Driving Change Panel Discussion © King's College London / CC-BY 2.0 /

The closing reception on Friday evening featured a keynote speech by Dr Florian Schneider, as well as further networking and some drinks, with pictures from the photography exhibition inside the conference room. In total, the week possessed an audience of over 1,800 guests both online and in person, from various NGOs, think tanks, and universities. To provide insight and knowledge and engage in discourse with this large audience, China Week featured 46 speakers across academia, government, and industry, all alongside 16 supporting partners. A full catalogue of events and those that took part can be found here. A significant amount of appreciation goes to all those who attended alongside the panelists. And of course, thank you to King’s College London and the Lau China Institute for hosting the event and providing us all with a stimulating week and a platform to meet others who share our passion for Chinese affairs. Myself, and European Guanxi, look forward to whatever you come up with next.

Closing Reception and 10th Anniversary Celebration © King's College London / CC-BY 2.0 /

The Experience - Giulia D’Aquila

As a PhD student and a member of European Guanxi since the beginning of the organisation’s existence, I can say that China Week was probably the most socially and professionally rewarding social event I have ever attended, especially as a young professional and China researcher.

Something that unites my generation of China-passionates is the experience of graduating during a pandemic, in a field that is still largely disregarded by the job market, despite its current relevance. The need to find a job related to our studies, or simply to find people with similar interests moved me and other young professionals to join stimulating online communities such as European Guanxi. EG proved a life-saving breath of air in a time of lockdown, when most of us were stuck at parent’s homes, prevented from going to China, studying in the city of their university, or celebrating their graduations. The chance to connect with like-minded people across Europe, full of enthusiasm and ambitious plans and projects gave me a sense of hope for my future. Moreover, this community actually made us bond and created a strong sense of mutual support. Thus, out of the difficulty and struggle of graduating during a pandemic, we found the unique advantage of a strong network of fellow students and professionals who support each other’s work and growth.

Networking Session © King's College London / CC-BY 2.0 /

The Lau China Institute’s first ever China Week was an absolute success in bringing together academics, students, professionals and industry leaders and creating a multi-layered dialogue on China, the environment and global cooperation before Glasgow’s COP26. In this context, it was incredibly rewarding to finally be able to meet in person with fellow EG members, a young, vibrant community of truly inspiring people. It was also an honour to represent European Guanxi as an organisation to a broader public, together with @Calvin, @Madison, @Belinda, @Barbara, and @Nadya. We met with members of different organisations, including Polis180, and discussed forthcoming projects, and we had a chance to reach out to leading academics presenting the work we do at European Guanxi. In the aftermath of Cop-26, the need for organisations like ours and events like the China week are stronger than ever – different values and governments must not prevent global cooperation against a threat which is common to all humanity. It is fundamental to spread as much awareness as possible, and to have as much impact and resonance as we can, towards the need for reciprocal understanding and collaboration between global actors which cannot preclude China nor the EU.

China Week has also demonstrated that action can take place outside of policymaking: art and media play an important role in spreading awareness, creating communities and leaving a visual impact. International cooperation for global climate health is a topic in which different perspectives are welcome and should be involved.

I think that what we have at European Guanxi is precious and unique. We all have different areas of interests, different expertise and different approaches. We are united by a passion for intercultural dialogue and all together we have the knowledge needed to build that dialogue. Moreover, we are a big enough community to have a resonance strong enough to make a difference. This is why it is important for us to keep making our voices heard.

Calvin Oliver is a recent graduate in philosophy, politics, and economics at the University of Sussex as well as a member of the Royal Economic Society in the United Kingdom. Aside from his time at university and further studies, he enjoys video games and travelling across Europe. You can find him on LinkedIn.

Giulia D’Aquila has a Master’s Degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Edinburgh. In 2019, she spent six months studying at Fudan University in Shanghai. She is especially interested in Chinese language, Chinese language film, media and visual culture. You can find her on Instagram @julidaquila and on LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not represent the views of European Guanxi.

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