What is COST?

COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is a funding agency for research and innovation networks. Our Actions help connect research initiatives across Europe and enable scientists to grow their ideas by sharing them with their peers. This boosts their research, career and innovation.

The COST website provides basic details about CHERN on the Action’s webpage, as well as CHERN’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU – a document detailing the aims, objectives, milestones, timetable and deliverables of the Action, as well as a comprehensive technical annex, which participating bodies are required to sign).

Who is involved?

CHERN was originally an initiative of a group of researchers at the University of Bristol and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). Administered from the VU, it now consists of around 250 researchers from more than 40 countries. Among these are specialists in political economy, economics, sociology, business studies, political science, international relations, anthropology, history, cultural studies and policy studies. Included in CHERN’s orbit are many of the leading researchers currently working on China-in-Europe and a few who have worked comparatively on China’s involvements in other world regions. This latter group includes two leading scholars from China and two from the USA.

CHERN is managed by a core group consisting of its Chair, Nana de Graaff (VU) and Vice-Chair, Jeffrey Henderson (Bristol) and others who have responsibilities for its Working Groups or other aspects of its operation.

How can I join?

CHERN welcomes the participation of social scientists and policy personnel who have interests in exploring aspects of the China-in-Europe phenomenon in the context of a Europe-wide, collaborative network. While a track record of research on China’s European involvements is desirable, those with interests in Chinese involvements in other parts of the world and who wish to use CHERN to help lever future research and knowledge acquisition on Europe, are also welcome. As part of CHERN’s remit is to encourage younger researchers, we particularly welcome the participation of ‘early career’ scholars and PhD students.

The best way to become involved with CHERN is to join one of the Working Groups. Each group has workshop programmes where research papers are presented and discussed. Normally these take place at various locations across Europe and if you are scheduled to present a paper, your participation will be supported by COST funds. During the Covid-19 crisis, however, most CHERN working group activities have been replaced by webinars, discussion evenings, public lectures and other online events.

To join a Working Group, please follow the instructions on our contact page

To join the Action as a Management Committee member, please follow COST’s instructions

To find out about forthcoming events, please subscribe to our updates below

The main aims of CHERN are to:

  • to pool research and knowledge on China’s deepening economic, social and political engagements with Europe (including non-EU member states);
  • to develop an interdisciplinary, cross-regional and cross-sectoral understanding of the variation in Chinese engagements across Europe and their different social, economic, political and geopolitical implications from a pan-European perspective;
  • to generate a more nuanced and overarching conception of China’s growing European engagements and to address and debate the policy implications of these developments with relevant agencies from the EU, Member states, business, trade unions and other interested parties and generate relevant input for those stakeholders;
  • to increase its impact, stimulate further research and help to establish new research partnerships across Europe and beyond that can endure beyond the lifetime of this Action;
  • to foster the career development of Early Career Investigators and doctoral students through networking, training, coaching and integration into ongoing research collaborations.

Why was CHERN established?

Behind these aims lies the recognition that research on China in Europe tends to be discipline-specific and focuses on particular issues (economic, technical, social etc). It is in the interaction between these various domains, however, that the socio-economic, political and geopolitical impacts of China’s growing European presence poses the most difficult challenges, and it is here – at the heart of the matter – that our knowledge is both patchy and anecdotal. For instance, we still know very little about intra-European, cross-border issues like the production networks that Chinese companies are establishing and have almost no insight into the likely economic implications with regard to issues such as technology acquisition, mutual learning, competitiveness or employment. Some Chinese companies are acquiring controlling stakes in infrastructure, energy and other strategic assets, but we have little sense of what the longer-term consequences of this might be.  Furthermore, we are only at the early stages of understanding the inter-connections between Chinese investment and the wider political and geo-political issues that it raises, both for particular European countries and for the EU as a whole.

Paralleling the economic engagements are various social and cultural developments. For some years parts of Europe have been benefiting from increased numbers of Chinese migrants but research on their demographics, their employment and investments (such as in real estate) and their wider involvements with local communities (such as through education and/or participation in civil society), remains limited. Additionally Chinese government and other agencies have been involved in boosting the country’s ‘soft power’ through, for instance, investments in university-based Confucius Institutes, football clubs and other cultural symbols.

In all of these arenas and more, scientific knowledge on China in Europe remains limited in both scope and depth and – importantly -there is a lack of an interdisciplinary, integrated and over-arching conception of China’s deepening engagements. Without these, we risk being left with media misconceptions and half-truths and with the possibility of inappropriate policy and community responses. CHERN exists to help encourage and drive significant improvements in the current state of knowledge on the China-in-Europe phenomenon: what undoubtedly will be one of the principal challenges that Europe will face in the coming decades.

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