On December 14th, 2018, the European Union Ambassador to China, Nicolas Chapuis delivered a talk at the Yenching Academy of Peking University, with the title “Why the European Project Matters”. This topic sparked much interest amongst Yenching scholars and PKU students, and representatives not only from Europe but from all regions of the World came to listen to the Ambassador's perspective on Sino-European relations.
Prior to the talk, the Ambassador spoke at an interview where he addressed issues ranging from diplomacy to education. Chapuis stressed how, while academic specialization is important, it is a holistic understanding of the world that constitutes excellence today, as most contemporary issues must be understood through multifaceted lens. The Yenching Academy, he says, is symbolic of the quality of education in China, with its interdisciplinary approach and its international and multilingual student body.
During his talk, the ambassador first introduced his listeners to his personal experiences in China. A sinologist, translator, as well as a diplomat, he graduated in Paris with a degree in Chinese and Mongolian studies. He started his career in the French diplomatic services, and has been based in multiple countries including China. Furthermore, having been a witness of China's development in the last few decades, Chapuis emphasized what a privilege it is for foreign students to be allowed to study at Peking University, and to be able to take advantage of the opportunities such an academic setting offers in the context of China Studies.
In recent years, the European Union has become a nexus in issues ranging from climate change and human rights to worldwide trade. This is because, according to Chapuis, the EU in itself is an example of an integration project. Using the notion of the Westphalian State, the ambassador explained how the EU is different to the rest of the world: the EU is non-Westphalian in that it is based on the idea that principles are more important than interests, and a place where goods, services and ideas can move freely. According to Chapuis, the EU constitutes a political statement for a globalized future that will help re-write the rules of trade worldwide, and will stand by China as it champions the idea of an open-world economy.
The European project acts as a model of stability and progress. Chapuis argues that the EU will aim to bring China into its way of thinking, and that China will in turn model itself after the EU. China, in its communist ideals, is internationalist in essence. Like many other countries, it is currently facing tension between nationalism and internationalism, but is however ultimately aiming towards the openness and interdependence brought about by the digital economy. Unilateral projects do not make sense in a globalized world, and China has for some time now been the driver of globalization. The ambassador explains that the Yenching Academy itself is proof of this global aim, and that this vision is the reason why the European Project matters to China.
According to the Ambassador, in the context of global politics, compromise is pivotal, especially in strategic planning, decision making, and problem solving: “Every day is a lesson on compromise”, he stated, and explained how, when leading a team of 28 European ambassadors in China, the common interest must always be a priority. The EU's championing of openness and multilateralism is in continual growth, and will promote links with China with the greater good in sight.
This visit of the ambassador to the Yenching Academy is part of a series of talks by diplomats and global representatives. The Yenching Academy is proud to welcome distinguished guests who provide Scholars with first-hand insights on global issues, as well as new angles for nuanced research.