Report on the International Conference on European Strategic Autonomy in Shanghai
On September 22, 2023, a high-level international conference on the topic “European Strategic Autonomy: Myth or Reality?” took place in Shanghai. This significant scholarly forum was organized by esteemed institutions, including the Germany Research Center (DFZ) at Tongji University, the Center for Sino-German Socio-Cultural Exchange (CDGKA) at Tongji University, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) Shanghai Office, and the Center for Global Studies (CGS) at the University of Bonn. This conference provided an opportunity for profound international academic exchange on the subject of European Strategic Autonomy.
The participants from the University of Bonn contributed to the conference with their diverse presentations in various panels, which are further detailed below:
PANEL 1: EUROPEAN FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICYProf. Dr. Xuewu Gu, Director of the Center for Global Studies (CGS) at the University of Bonn, presented a contribution titled “Structural Barriers to European Strategic Autonomy.” This presentation engaged in an in-depth discussion of the terms strategy, autonomy, and the composition of Europe, highlighting the complexity of the topic.
Prof. Dr. Maximillian Mayer from the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic, and Integration Studies (CASSIS) at the University of Bonn illuminated Europe’s growing digital dependence in his presentation, “Growing Digital Dependence—Europe’s Strategic Position Between the two Tech-Poles.” This presentation introduced CASSIS’s developed Digital Dependency Index, revealing that the USA leads in terms of digital independence, and most countries are digitally dependent on both the USA and China.
PANEL 2: EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND TRADE POLICYClara Dinkelbach, Research Associate at the Center for Global Studies at the University of Bonn, explored “In-Group and Out-Group Dynamics in the EU: Impediments to Strategic Autonomy?” in her presentation. She discussed the diversity of views on Strategic Autonomy within the EU and emphasized that different groups of countries within the EU have varying understandings of the significance and desirability of political concepts like strategic autonomy.
PANEL 3: EUROPEAN CULTURAL, SCIENTIFIC, TECHNOLOGICAL, AND INNOVATION POLICYDr. Hendrik W. Ohnesorge, Managing Director of the Center for Global Studies at the University of Bonn, dedicated his presentation to “Between Paris and Washington? Germany’s Position in the Debate on European Strategic Autonomy,” emphasizing the significance of the USA and the Trump era for German foreign policy. The return of Donald Trump to the US political arena could reignite the debate on European Strategic Autonomy and further focus on Germany’s position.
PANEL 4: EUROPE-CHINA RELATIONSChristiane Heidbrink, Research Associate at the Center for Global Studies at the University of Bonn, addressed the contradictions between the positive public perception and political restraint concerning the concept of Strategic Autonomy in her presentation, “Germany: A Security Appendage to the USA or a Global Actor?”
The conference attracted over 60 participants from various countries and facilitated intensive international expert dialogue. The discussions covered a wide range of topics related to European Strategic Autonomy, revealing a lack of consensus on the definition of this term, and its implications varied in different policy areas,
depending on the interpretation.
It is noteworthy that this forum had been held exclusively in digital format in recent years due to COVID-19 protective measures. However, this year’s conference marked a special turn as it could take place physically in Shanghai for the first time since the conclusion of these protective measures. This underscored the importance of in-person conferences for in-depth academic discussions and the exchange of ideas among experts from various parts of the world.
In conclusion, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Tongji University, the Germany Research Center at Tongji University, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) for their excellent organization and financial support of this specialized conference. We particularly extend our appreciation to the Shanghai Office team of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for their substantive contributions, financial support, and organizational assistance during the conference and in the following days. This conference has made a significant contribution to deepening the academic dialogue between Germany and China and will continue to contribute to the development of understanding the topic of European Strategic Autonomy even after the conference.