Past event: China’s New Silk Road – Good or bad for Europe’s green economy?

Organisation: Thomas Sattich

4 June 2015 from 12:00 – 14:00.

The Chinese government has proposed the New Silk Road, or “one belt and one road”, which would link China and Europe by land and sea. The one belt and one road is a high- level initiative to which the Chinese government attaches enormous importance and would in theory improve interlinkages between China and Europe and the intervening regions. Although the details of the initiative remain unclear, the Chinese government intends that it will an important role in the development of the EU-China economic relationship. Its potential impact in the EU will have many dimensions that are not simply about infrastructure and trade, but also concern key issues such as sustainability.

In the course of the last two decades the concept of a green economy with limited carbon dioxide emissions and reduced resource intensity has evolved to a key element of many European policies. Use of renewables and resource efficient economic and industrial processes are key issues of this sustainability agenda. The integration of two or more economic areas is believed to bring the distribution of resources and markets closer to their optimum. Under certain circumstances the integration of different economies hence appears to be beneficial for EU’s sustainability agenda. Various initiatives of the European Union such as enlargement, neighbourhood policy, trade and investment agreements are based on this assumption.

Accessibility is the key issue in this regard: Without access to markets, no exchange of goods, services and ideas can take place, thus leaving existing patterns of production and consumption unchallenged and unchanged. Economic development is therefore closely tied to network conditions. In other words, existence and state of transport, energy and communication networks determine the capability of putting potential synergies between different regions to practical use. Improving the basis for economic exchange between different regions should therefore present various opportunities for sustainable economic development. The need of cost intensive green technologies for big markets represents only the most prominent example in this regard.

The Chinese government has already committed US$40 billion to a Silk Road infrastructure investment fund. The project would involve not just infrastructure, but will require a broad range of other institutional initiatives such as customs, as well as security. By extension it will also involve Chinese investment in infrastructure in the EU. As a result it is highly likely that China will have a direct impact on the sustainability and integration agendas in the EU. This Policy Forum will address what the impact of the New Silk Road in the EU:

  • What is the current state of the New Silk Road project?
  • Does the New Silk Road project merely entail transport systems, or is it a more encompassing concept?
  • What are the economic, political, security and environmental risks?
  • What sustainability issues does the construction of such a large project entail?
  • Would its construction be positive or negative for Europe’s concept of a green economy?
  • What impact does the project have in the EU and on its policy goals?

The expert panel will consist of the following panellists:

Chair: Duncan Freeman, Research Fellow, Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies

Speakers:

Xiang Yu, First Secretary at the Economic & Commercial Counselor’s office of the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union

Michael Grabicki, Vice President ZOA BASF Group

Thomas Puls, Senior Economist, Environment, Energy, Transport and Infrastructure, Cologne Institute for Economic Research

MapChinaNewSilkRoad

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