Dr. Haibin Niu is a senior research fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. He was funded by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung to spend three months at the GIGA.
You have an interest in emerging economies. What do you see as the main differences between the established and emerging powers?
They are mainly different in their international status, capacity, and world vision. Emerging powers prefer a more equal world with an emphasis on sovereignty and development. Generally, the BRICS states aim to a have a more independent role and stance regarding international issues and strive for more substantial cooperation. In the past few decades the international system has been dominated by Western power and culture. However, we are now facing a more and more multipolar or non-polar world. Additionally, non-state actors are rising. The question arises: How much can culturally different countries work with each other? The BRICS states might be geographically distant and culturally very different, but they have similar worldviews and may provide some useful experiences for the coexistence of different civilisations.
Your research at the GIGA focuses on the relationships between China and Brazil on the one hand, and Germany and Brazil on the other. What is special about these?
It’s very interesting to study the power relations of these countries in the context of an increasingly reluctant America in global affairs and an emerging multipolar world. This situation is causing emerging powers to take over more responsibility. And I think in a future scenario of the international system a large part will be determined by the emerging powers and their cooperation. The process is still very much at the beginning; therefore, it is difficult to detect a clear strategy. All these countries have different ideas about cooperation and coordination. And all of them can learn from each other and cooperate when it comes to sustainable growth. Because China and Brazil are the most capable emerging global players, a comparative study on the strategic partnerships of Germany and China towards Brazil is illuminating for us in understanding the global role of emerging powers.
Your ongoing research is a comparative study. Can you already say how much Germany’s and China’s strategies vis-à-vis Brazil differ?
I am not yet done with my research but I see some similarities. For example, both strategic partnerships with Brazil are mainly economically oriented and attach some political importance to Brazil as a regional leader in Latin America as well as an emerging global player. For instance, all three countries were involved in the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Differences can be detected in the way that Germany and China focus on different linkages. Germany's policy tends to be based on the similar values of the political systems, while China focuses more on international cooperation and innovation.
Where are the differences between the GIGA's research approach and that of your institute in Shanghai?
Both GIGA and SIIS are research institutes in nature, but with policy-oriented, educational, and public characters. The GIGA is open to everyone. It puts a lot of effort into publicity, and that’s very impressive. The research is made as visible as possible – for instance, by publishing it in German, English, Chinese, and Spanish. Moreover, you have ties not only with ministries but also with enterprises. I think Chinese think tanks can learn from that: to have more connected institutes and to make the research useful not only for decision makers but also for the society. Another thing they could learn from GIGA is to strengthen their internationalisation by receiving more international visiting scholars and developing more joint research agendas. We don’t have any foreign staff, so I think our institute should be more open to international expertise and exchange.
What else will you take away from your time at the GIGA?
During my stay at GIGA I was exposed to many different people, expertise, and institutes at a critical moment for Germany’s global and regional role. I learned a lot about German thinking and governance, about international issues such as refugees, family, the economy, and so on. That was very interesting and important to me.
Thank you for this interview.