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The STF Team is happy to see that one of the STF 1 Fellows, Sebastien Chanfreau, appeared in an article about careers in Nature magazine. For those of you who are interested in reading the article please follow this link.

On 13th December 2011, the ThinkIN China invited Professor Zhu Feng to give the community a lecture on the topic of the current security dilemma that China has to face in Asia-Pacific region, especially when US’s return is increasingly manifested, from his perspective as a Chinese scholar and policy advisor. Professor Zhu is the professor at the school of International Studies of Peking University, as well as the deputy director of the Center for International & Strategic Studies (CISS), researching in regional security in East Asia, the nuclear issue in North Korea, American national security strategy, China-US relations and missile defense.

Viewing through the current issues over the world, Professor Zhu picked out a quite hot headline “America’s return to Asia” or “America’s Pacific Century” which was borrowed from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s t paper published in Foreign Policy magazine the other days this year.

What are the sources of dynamics for the outright shift of American foreign policy focus from Middle East to Asia, taking China so seriously? Professor Zhu talked a lot on it, listing 3 sources as follows:

1st source should be the heavy pressure from Obama’s re-election and those hawkish diplomatic officials in the government, urgently insisting on the hard-lined policy towards China, regarding to its growing arrogance and assertiveness.

2nd source should be the lesson learned from the previous shrinking from and overlooking Asia that push America’s real coming.

3rd source should be misperceptions aroused by some sort of Chinese diplomatic practice— Chinese Misconduct, such as the unwillingness to condemn NK, which actually has twisted the focal point of Chinese foreign policy.

All these sources have resulted in a security dilemma for China within Asia-Pacific region. But Chinese are born pragmatic, and the Chinese diplomacy essential rinciples—ultra-pragmatism and flexibility—are prevailing over China. So Professor Zhu thought highly of the low-profile China diplomatic policy.

The last session of the lecture was followed by a fierce debate among the audience and speaker. Someone asked about the Chinese policy adjustment responding to American return to Asia and China’s policy shift towards the international intervention dealing with the global issues. Professor Zhu thoughtfully gave his own idea and policy advice, that is, China foreign policy should be displayed smartly, although there is domestic public pressure, because people think the government’s foreign policy too soft towards a lot of key issues, such as South China Sea issue. China has not the intention to coerce Vietnam, of course, Americans knew it. So don’t provoke the disturbance and misconception between the neighbors and big powers. About the International intervention, according to the policy shifts coping with the support of the government of Moammar Gadhafii, then the joining the West camp, at last the recognition of the new government in Libya. It can be seen from the case that China foreign policy towards non-intervention has been displaying more subtle and flexible, although Beijing has to concern about the inner issues (for example Tibet and Taiwan) and the public motions.

And some people were more concerned with whose responsibility with regard to South China Sea issue. Professor Zhu attached more responsibility to China because of the coercive policy shift to the neighboring countries who have been actively taking advantage of the US to leverage China in this area. At the end, he pointed out the reconciliation was the win-win way for all the parties.

By Jiang Wei, Ruby, Master Candidate, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China, 100872 Email: 


Six Chinese government agencies, including Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Ministry of Education, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering, National Natural Science Foundation, and China Association for Science and Technology, jointly released on 26 December 2011 a medium and long term plan to attract more biotech talents during the period of 2010-2020.  


According to the Plan, China will build a biotech contingent under a strategy of "serving for the development, talented people first, recruitment oriented, mechanism innovation, focusing on high-caliber talents, and striving for an overall development", working on the combination of current and long-term needs, innovation personnel and entrepreneurship, training, importation, and recruitment, talents and projects, domestic and overseas recruitment, and the combined strength of universities, research institutions, and businesses, in a bid to foster a world-class biotech contingent made up of high caliber researchers, academic leaders, business people, and capable management, through favored government support. China will establish by 2020 a biotech personnel pyramid, making China a biotech power enjoying an impressive bio-industry, supported by a large world-class contingent of biotech personnel that is reasonably structured and scientifically distributed.

This news is from the website of Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic in China:




STF Human Resources Development Expert Prof. David Evans was a member of a group of 25 foreign experts working in China who were invited to a meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao in the Great Hall of the People on 12th January 2012. David took the opportunity to suggest to Premier Wen that in the past China had perhaps placed undue emphasis on trying to attract very senior people and that it was also important to attract talented young researchers who could build their early careers in China, as STF does, since this could bring great benefits to both sides.


After listening to comments and suggestions from the foreign experts, Wen Jiabao said that China welcomed foreigners with expertise to work in the country and that China will provide them with good working and living conditions. Extending greetings to the experts and their families, Premier Wen said China had scored hard-won development in 2011, which couldn't have been achieved without the support of foreign experts and friends. Wen said China is in a critical period of fast growth and transformation. The driving force of its economic growth relies increasingly on the development of science and technology and innovation in management, which require high-quality personnel including foreign experts, he said. China will pursue more favorable policies that will help attract more foreigners with expertise to work, he said, adding that governments should work to create better conditions for them to work and live.

Vice-premier Zhang Dejiang, Ling Jihua (secretary of the Central Secretariat of the CPC and the director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee), State Councilor Dai Bingguo and other state and party leaders also attended the meeting.  


 Call for papers

New European research on contemporary China

European Junior China Scholars Conference

July 6-7, 2012 Beijing

This conference aims to bring together doctoral candidates, post-doctoral researchers and recent PhDs based in China, either European nationals or affiliated with European research institutions, in order to produce an overview of the emerging problematics in Chinese studies. The focus of the conference is on contemporary China, in a multi-disciplinary perspective.


French Center for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC), Hong Kong and German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Beijing.

Conference website: or

Contact: Ms. Heipo Leung,



The reforms launched in the late 1970s have deeply transformed Chinese society, but also research on China: the theoretical and methodological challenges raised by reform-era China have opened up a vast laboratory for researchers in humanities and social sciences. Along with the growing exchanges between China and Europe, the number of European doctoral candidates and recent PhDs in humanities and social sciences doing research in and studying China has increased: they represent the future of European research on contemporary China.

The main purpose of the Conference held in Beijing is to provide, for the first time, a forum for these young researchers at the European level and in China. The Conference will be an occasion to facilitate exchanges on common research subjects, compare perspectives and methodologies, and promote interdisciplinary dialogue. By providing a space for debate and reflection, the Conference intends to contribute to the emergence of more diverse theoretical approaches on the subject. It will enable the participants not only to expand their network and broaden their horizon, but also to take part in the construction of European research networks and promote China-Europe dialogue.

The participants will present their research during thematic panels. Each speaker will deliver a paper in English, followed by a discussion with invited scholars and specialists. Among the different thematic panels:

  • State construction and reform in China: dynamics of the political and legal systems, the role of the Party, ideologies, foreign policy and international relations.
  • Economic reforms and industrial development: enterprises, innovation policies, environmental issues.
  • Territorial and social reconfigurations : centre-local relations, urban and rural development, migrations, inequalities.
  • Civil society and social movements: civil rights activism, social history, citizen action.
  • Traditional and new identities: religions, cultural communities, intellectual debates.

Who can apply?

The Conference is designed for doctoral candidates and recent PhDs in humanities and social sciences or Chinese studies, focusing on contemporary China; and encompassing, but not limited to, the following disciplinary fields: anthropology, economics, geography, history, international relations, law, literature, political science and sociology.

They can be either European nationals or scholars affiliated with a European university or research institution, regardless of nationality (including Chinese scholars).

They should be either based in China, or be in China at the time of the conference (for example on a research trip). Limited funding will be available for travel within China and accommodation for researchers not based in Beijing.


Registration details and schedule

  1. A title and proposal (up to 20 lines) in English is to be sent by 01 March 2012 to Ms. Heipo Leung:
  2. The selected participants will be notified by 31 March 2012.
  3. The final papers (up to 8000 words) should be sent by 01 June 2012
  4. Selected papers may be published in the peer-reviewed international journal China Perspectives/ Perspectives chinoises.

Scientific Committee

Michel Bonnin (EHESS, Paris ; Tsinghua University, Beijing)

Jean-Pierre Cabestan (Baptist University, Hong Kong)

Pierre-Henry De Bruyn (CEFC, Hong Kong)

Bettina Gransow (Freie Universität Berlin; Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou)

Aurore Merle (CEFC, Hong Kong)

Matthias Niedenführ (European Centre for China Studies, Peking University)

Isabelle Thireau (CEFC; Peking University)

Sebastian Veg (CEFC, Hong Kong)


Schedule and location: Beijing, 6-7 July 2012

Deadline for submission: 01 March 2012

Contact: Ms. Heipo Leung,


On October 28, 2010, the National People’s Congress adopted the Social Insurance Law, which came into effect on July 1, 2011. Article 97 requires foreigners working in China to participate in the Chinese social insurance system.


Several implementation measures for the Social Insurance Law were passed in 2011. In May 2011 the “Measures on the Administration of Social Insurance Record of Individuals’ Rights and Interests (Draft for Comments)” was published. On June 10, 2011, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS) released the “Interim Measures for the Participation in Social Insurance of Foreigners Employed in China (Draft for Comments)” for public comment. On September 6, 2011, MOHRSS promulgated the “Interim Measures for Social Insurance System Coverage of Foreigners Working within the Territory of China” (Decree No.16) (hereafter the “Interim Measures”), which will be effective as of October 15, 2011.


The Interim Measures clarify that Chinese social insurance covers all non-Chinese nationals with an employment permit – such as the Employment Permit for Foreigners, the Foreign Expert Certificate, the Resident Foreign Correspondent’s Press Card or the Permanent Residence Permit for Foreigners – who are lawfully working in China. Foreigners dispatched to work in China for a company registered outside of China are also required to participate.


Article 3 of the Interim Measures states that foreigners will need to contribute to all five mandatory social schemes namely: basic pension, basic medical insurance, work-related injury insurance, maternity insurance and unemployment insurance. Pension and medical insurance will be paid by both employer and employee and contributions will be separated into a collective account and an individual account. Work-related injury and maternity will be paid by the employer. Unemployment insurance will be paid by both employer and employee. The exact contribution rates are still yet to be issued by the local Human Resources and Social Security bureaus. Foreigners will be able to enjoy full pensions from both the individual and collective account if contributions have been made for 15 years or more on a cumulative basis and he/she has reached retirement age. Upon written application of closing his/her pension account, the proceeds in the individual account can be paid in lump-sum to the foreigner. Medical insurance will only be covered by certain approved hospitals, including those with English speaking staff, although currently no international hospitals are included in the medical insurance scheme.


The effective date of the Interim Measures is October 15, 2011 and registration of foreigners could start from this date. The Interim Measures state that companies employing foreigners who have not received employment permits should process the social insurance registration within 30 days following the processing of such permits. The local Human Resources and Social Security bureaus will each soon issue detailed information on the process, timelines and registration requirements for applying the social insurance system to staff that have already processed their employment permits. Upon registration, foreigners will be given a social insurance number and a social insurance card.


Foreigners from countries with a bilateral agreement on social insurance cooperation can make contributions according to those agreements. To date, only Germany and South Korea have signed bilateral social insurance agreements with China. Recent discussions have been initiated regarding potential bilateral social insurance agreements with several countries including France, Belgium and Japan.


We will keep you posted in case of new developments. If you are already in China you can always call the hotline of FESCO (employment agency) at 400-8000-800 for further information.

 Initial challenges: One question that sprained wrinkles in my heart and increased my white hair  first months in China, was the unrelenting nature of Beijing life (apart from pollution and unmanaged visa problems). Perceived sometimes as beheaded chicken-run, gradually I found my admiration growing for the unpretentious Chinese way of living /working (same?); and so did my will to adapt (circumvent) challenging situations,  amidst the vibrant spatio-temporal energy street field (itself as interesting as landscape research). With time to come, probably becoming a fully-equipped beijingren.

The Unexpected: After all, going back after each trip to Beijing felt like coming home; especially with the Eurozone in melt-down process and a world-rocking China. So we fellows resist temptation, joyance of last days of wine and roses, of a melancholic STF2 terminal enjoyment; but to be late indignados, or just happily unaware of future implications? On the other hand, is this enjoyment indeed most honest evolutive adaptation, the first requirement (acceptance) for the way of Tao?


What next: Maybe at the end, just an old Delphic & Yijing question: If Truth and Goodness is something else than evolutionary success - what comes next, and for what reason?


C.S. Lewis - Evolutionary Hymn

Lead us, Evolution, lead us

Up the future's endless stair;

Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us.

For stagnation is despair:

Groping, guessing, yet progressing,

Lead us nobody knows where.


Wrong or justice, joy or sorrow,

In the present what are they

while there's always jam-tomorrow,

While we tread the onward way?

Never knowing where we're going,

We can never go astray.


To whatever variation

Our posterity may turn

Hairy, squashy, or crustacean,

Bulbous-eyed or square of stern,

Tusked or toothless, mild or ruthless,

Towards that unknown god we yearn.


Ask not if it's god or devil,

Brethren, lest your words imply

Static norms of good and evil

(As in Plato) throned on high;

Such scholastic, inelastic,

Abstract yardsticks we deny.


Far too long have sages vainly

Glossed great Nature's simple text;

He who runs can read it plainly,

'Goodness = what comes next.'

By evolving, Life is solving

All the questions we perplexed.


On then! Value means survival-

Value. If our progeny

Spreads and spawns and licks each rival,

That will prove its deity

(Far from pleasant, by our present,

Standards, though it may well be).



   On  November 29, 2011 Mr. Pan Wei, Professor at the School of International Studies and Director of the Center for Chinese & Global Affairs (CCGA) of the Peking University, held a conference on the contemporary social, political and economic system in China. Due both to the extremely interesting topic and to the prestige of the speaker, the ThinkIN China audience that night was really big and attentive.

     At the beginning of his speech, Professor Pan Wei defined the Chinese civilization as a learning civilization, in contrast with the Western invading and missionary culture, and as one of the least spiritual among all civilizations, a society whose spirituality exists mainly for material aspirations. This materialism has given rise to one of the most sophisticated institutional organizations in the world, characterized by an high flexibility and able to sustain an extremely large and diverse population. According to his perspective, the contemporary Chinese institutional system is also one of the oldest ones, deriving directly from the traditional system, that of the first dynasty. Although he believes that humans, as well as their ways of organizing societies, are essentially the same worldwide, he also sees in the Chinese institutional setting and extraordinary continuity the keys for its particular story of success.

     After this general introduction, he got to the heart of the topic, the description of the contemporary Chinese system, which he sees as constituted by three unique ways of organizing, respectively, society, politics and economy. The 4 basic elements of the Chinese social organization, or ‘社稷’ (Sheji), are: family as the basic social and economic unit, both in rural and urban China; communities and work units as the main forms of social organization; a cubic interaction between society and state, that is mutually supportive social and administrative networks; traditional family ethics as the principles of social ethics, based on mutual responsibility instead of accountability. This way of organizing society gives rise to the way of organizing politics.

     A political organization is usually made of 4 basic elements: ideas on the people-state relationship, methods of selecting officials, key governing organs and mechanisms of preventing and correcting mistakes. In China, the political idea is “Minben-ism”, from ‘民本’ (Minben), that is the existence of the government for the welfare of ALL the people, not only for some social classes. The Chinese method of selecting officials is meritocracy (examination and evaluation), which led to a bureaucracy-dominated regime. The politically unified governing group is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which emphasizes responsibility instead of the competitive accountability of partisan politics. The CCP has to be seen not like a western party, but as a whole, coherent political organ which supports the rule of law and the bureaucracy dominance. Finally, checks and balances are achieved through the division of labor, as in traditional China.

     As Sheji gives rise to Minben, Minben gives rise to the way of organizing the economy, namely ‘国民’ (Guomin). This word refers to the criterion for dividing the 4 sectors of the economic organization: the state or ‘guo sectors (land and production materials, large corporations for infrastructures and raw materials, major financial institutions, NGOs) and non-state or ‘min sectors (free market for labor and capital, based on family-owned and collectively-owned firms). This economic organization, in which the two sectors are mutually supportive, cannot be defined either as capitalistic or socialist, neither it can be defined as new, as it derives from the Chinese tradition, from the Han dynasty system.

     According to the scholar, this complex system would collapse only if its basic ideas, Sheji society, Minben politics and Guomin economy, collapsed. Furthermore, he sees democracy and the mistakes made by the leadership as the two main threats to the contemporary Chinese system. The solution he suggested is the rebuilding of the community: restart to think about the community.

     The conclusion of the speech gave rise to many questions from the enthusiastic audience, to which Professor Pan Wei answered mostly reasserting his fundamental ideas. Perhaps due to both the shortage of time and the extent of the topic, some interesting points could not have been deepened, such as the faults of the described system, and the discussion could not have been shifted to more practical, less theoretical, aspects. Nevertheless, the conference eloquently clarified the Chinese model supporters’ point of view and certainly gave those present a lot of food for thought.



This article is written by Roberta Marranca, Intern at the Embassy of Italy in Beijing, from September to December 2011; Post-graduate student in Political Science, Master in Asian Studies, University of Pavia (Italy); Bachelor degree in International Language and Communication (Mandarin, English and Spanish), University of Rome (Roma Tre).

If you are interested in having further discussion with the author, please contact:


ThinkIN China next event is going to be:

“The new security dynamic in Asia-Pacific: a Chinese perspective” by Professor Zhu Feng

Tuesday, 13th December, 7:30PM at the Bridge Café, Wudaokou

by Prof. Zhu Feng, Peking University, Professor at School of International Studies; Center for International & Strategic Studies (CISS)





ThinkIN China next event is going to be:

“The contemporary social, political & economic system in China”

Tuesday, 29h November, 7.30PM at the Bridge Café, Wudaokou

by Prof. Pan Wei, Beijing University, Professor at School of International Studies, Director of Center for Chinese & Global Affairs.