Context - please read!

Shuting Ling • 5 March 2019

China is on the rise. This observation is hardly contested. The Swiss magazine Beobachter even ran a cover story  provocatively asking whether China’s rise should worry Switzerland. All the while pundits have been calling for a Swiss China strategy and members of Parliament are requesting the Federal Council to assess how China’s industrial policy will affect the Swiss economy and what the best course of action is in the face of it. With your help and ideas, this foraus Policy Kitchen challenge aims to formulate proposals for key Swiss economic stakeholders’ economic policy in regards to China’s rise, beyond fear-mongering or unequivocal endorsement.


Context: China’s rise

In global trade, the Middle Kingdom is increasingly dominating the scene. China is shaking up the West both through large infrastructure projects such as the Belt-and-Road-Initiative (BRI), and through massive investment in or takeovers of  companies traditionally in Western hands. In fields like Artificial Intelligence, China appears to be setting the standards for the future.

How to react to this newly ambitious, outward-looking and bold China is the subject of debate for Foreign Offices from Washington to Brussels and from Brasilia to Bern. The «Chinese question» is especially tricky and interesting for Switzerland, a small, yet prosperous country in the heart of but not a member of the European Union. Settling on an appropriate set of policies is challenging, as evidenced by a lack of an official China Strategy by the Swiss Federal Government, as well as requests in Swiss Parliament to formulate one. On the one hand, Chinese investments have the potential to vitalize economic sectors and provide access to the Chinese consumer market, which is highly prized and desired. Furthermore, regarding climate change and renewable energy, China has proven to be closer to Swiss positions than the current American presidency, for instance. On the other hand, China’s human rights record is relatively bleak and its approach to international diplomacy is characterized by hard power, calling into question the liberal world order Switzerland subscribes to.