On 11 October 2019 in Brussels, the Baillet Latour Chair of EU-China Relations and the EU-China Research Centre, College of Europe, hosted the international conference "The EU-China Digital Connectivity: Opportunities and Challenges", organised in partnership with the European Economic and Social Committee.
Digital connectivity, the digital economy and cybersecurity have all been recent and growing policy issues between the European Union and China. In both Europe and China, businesses and governments are determined to invest heavily in advanced technologies such as HPC, 5G, AI and robotics, and to unlock their potential for economic and social benefits. The ICT sector and the broader digital economy thus are strategic priorities for both the EU and China and play an expanding role in their bilateral relations, arguably being an area of both cooperation and competition. Beijing and Brussels are increasingly relying on each other to make their digital economies grow, and joint development strategies can give them an edge in exploiting the full potential of advanced digital technologies. On the other hand, a number of economic, political and even ethical issues do not merely hinder further cooperation, but threaten to make "systemic rivalry" expand to the digital sector.
This international conference brought together a wide range of top-level international academics, practitioners and policymakers, to explore where EU and Chinese strategic priorities stand in this sector and to propose a development path for a digital connectivity that advances mutual interests. In three panels focusing on "Digital connectivity and security", "European and Chinese approaches to digital transformation" and "Regulatory challenges and policy implementation" respectively, 12 outstanding speakers from the academia, industry and civil society presented and discussed their research with more than 90 attendants. Throughout the day, the conference managed to identify the main features of the EU-China digital connectivity and outline their implications at the domestic, bilateral and international levels.
Discussions at this conference concluded that the tripartite classification proposed by the EU in its Strategic outlook of March 2019 — which sees Europe and China simultaneously as strategic partners, economic competitors and systemic rivals — does not only apply to the broader framework of EU-China relations, but also within the ICT sector and the broader digital economy. A clear understanding of this differentiation and of its political and economic implications thus is pivotal for the EU and China to overcome any challenges that could jeopardize their markets and businesses in this domain, and to build a trust-based, fair and comprehensive digital connectivity that advances mutual interests.
Find out more in the conference summary.
This conference was open to the public.
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