Europe and China

In 2016, the Leiden Asia Centre conducted a research project on China and the Netherlands. The focus of the project was the increasing impact of Chinese students, tourists and companies on the economy and society of the Netherlands. Chinese are the second-largest nationality among foreign students in Dutch higher education. Every year, about 250,000 Chinese tourists visit. Chinese investments are rapidly rising, including some very large takeovers, particularly in the past few years. As there was very little existing literature at the time, the project was explorative and mainly descriptive in nature with a view to provide information to Dutch stakeholders. With the information from the reports on our project we are now in a position to propose a new project with a broader scope and sharpened focus.


This follow up project will consist of two different sub-projects that will be carried out simultaneously, namely:

  1. Strategic impact of Chinese investment in Europe
  2. Impact of China on research, innovation and academic freedom in Europe

The Chinese Communist Party is again tightening its grip over China’s political system and society. In addition, there are indications that the engagement of Chinese institutions and individuals with foreign partners is increasingly tied into a strategic approach coordinated by the authorities in Beijing. Understanding the scope, inclusiveness, objectives and further development of this vision is urgently needed in Europe, if we are to develop an adequate response to China’s impact on our continent. It will not suffice to state that we should or should not be worried and conclude that we should either try to close the door on China or, alternatively, not interfere and let things take their own course. Either response is based on preconceptions and a lack of an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of China’s strategic vision of Europe. This project aims to conduct the research needed to provide this understanding.

The general questions that inform this project are:

  1. What are the objectives, scope and strategy behind the attempts of the authorities in Beijing to tie together the multiple engagements of China and Europe?
  2. To what extent is this strategy effectively implemented?
  3. To what extent are the interests of the EU and European stakeholders aligned or not aligned with the objectives of the emerging Chinese plan for engagement with Europe?
  4. What measures can the EU and European stakeholders take to maximize the benefits and minimize the liabilities of their engagement with China’s European strategy?

The sub-projects will each have their own research questions, approach, staff, stakeholder sounding board and budget, all of which will be described in more detail below. The projects will be carried out simultaneously and at the end of the project will lead to joint publications and dissemination events. Research will be conducted between January and June 2018. Reports will be written in July and August 2018 for presentation and dissemination as publications and through a public conference and several closed stakeholder events in September 2018.


January 2018 – September 2018


Prof Dr Frank Pieke



Resolving labour shortages? The digital transformation of working practices in the Japanese service sector

This project will explore the degree to which the so-called ‘digital economy’ including automation and robotisation is able to resolve problems associated with the shortage of labour in the Japanese service sector (food and transportation/logistics). Japan is particularly well-suited for such a study due to its combination of being one of the advanced industrial democracies that has experienced the ageing population and the labour shortage issue most acutely, and also due to it having an advantage in terms of the relatively advanced development of its digital economy. The service sector is particularly relevant in this context, as it tends to be labour-intensive. In 2012 over 75 percent of the Japanese workforce was employed in the service sector generating nearly 70 percent of the country’s GDP.


The main aim of the project is to demonstrate how the advancement of the digital economy in the service sector has changed working practices and the working environment, and seeks to identify whether the advancement of the digital economy will propose a solution to the challenge of labour shortage in the long-term.


This project will focus on two industries within the service sector: food industry and transportation/logistics industry. These two industries are chosen due to their importance not only to the Japanese economy but also to the Dutch economy.

Stage One. Chart the recent growth of the new digital economy, including automation, digitisation and robotisation in the service sector (food and (public) transportation/logistics).

Stage Two. Analyze related changes in employment relations: the digital economy’s positive impact upon workstyle including co-working with robots, increased efficiency in the workplace, and the digital economy’s negative impact upon workers including enhanced control and monitoring on labour, blurring divisions between work and life, and a further increase of precarious labour (part-time workers), with subsequent implications for inequality and the ability for workers to consume.

Stage Three. Identify the socio-economic implications of advancing technology in the case of Japan (solution to labour shortages, change in the work-life balance, varieties of working style, polarizing income and inequality, resultant stagnating consumption, and long-term implication on Japan’s macro economy).

The study will be fine-tuned in meetings with partners from Dutch society during the first half of 2018. The findings will be presented on a conference in October 2018.


January 2018 – October 2018


Dr Saori Shibata



Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia: Case Studies of CSR regulation and execution in the construction and textile sector

According to the Global Slavery Index (GSI), workplaces in Asia are responsible for over 2/3 of global slavery and human trafficking. Not only are these numbers staggeringly high, they also allude to labour issues related to slavery and human trafficking, such as poor work safety.
To try and ensure that tragedies do not occur and that international agreed standards are respected, many corporations have so called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, which vary per company in length, detail and topics.


This project aims to analyse the functioning of CSR in value chain responsibility in Asia, both on paper and in practice. This research aims at analysing case studies about the current state of CSR in South and East Asia, its best-practices and shortcomings, and what is needed for more effective and efficient CSR in the region.
This research, a joint effort of LeidenAsiaCentre and Mondiaal FNV, will focus on the policies of first tier suppliers/manufacturers, and, where possible, also second. Mondiaal FNV is not only expert in CSR regulations, it also has researchers and monitors in Asia, creating a hands-on research project with accessible source material.


To narrow the scope, this research will focus on two case studies within two sectors notorious for labour violations; construction and textile industry.
1. CSR and chain liability in regional projects in South Asia under the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank and the WorldBank
This pillar will focus on construction projects in South Asia set up by any of the above-mentioned banks, with a specific emphasis on project bids won by companies from Japan, China and South Korea. Many of the projects that the ADB, the AIIB and the WB finance, are won in bids by corporations in East Asia. East Asian presence in South Asia is enormous, so projects executed by East Asian companies will be one of the key prerequisites when picking case studies for the construction pillar, as these are often also the largest projects.
2. CSR and chain liability: the case of North Korean-made textiles/garments both within the country and abroad
The second pillar is a clear defined case study, which delves into the product chain of North Korean-made textile products, which are often sold as ‘made in China’. The garments are both made within North Korea, but also in Chinese factories that employee North Koreans. This case will investigate CSR responsibility in particular meeting international human rights obligations as laid out in the OECD guidelines for multinationals/UN Guiding principles.

Both pillars will regularly hold expert meetings, and a joint final conference open to the public, to discuss findings and implications.


This project is executed in collaboration with Mondiaal FNV, read more information about them on their website.


January 2018-March 2019


For this project, we have vacancies. Please check our website.


Remco Breuker

Leiden Network for Japanese Constitutional Research

Constitutional revision is again on the political agenda in Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announcing that he would like to see revision by 2020. There are perhaps good strategic reasons to place revision on the table. The constitution’s Article 9 was written after the Second World War to limit Japan’s military capability. However, strategic developments, including China’s increased naval activity and North Korea’s nuclear program have, according to revisionists, made Japan’s military restrictions obsolete. Despite this focus on strategy in broader public debates, Abe has made it clear in his writings that he also sees revision as connected to a sense of national pride and identity.
Aligned against revision, meanwhile, is an array of intellectuals and activists either keen to preserve the pacifist elements of the constitution or concerned that Abe’s approach to constitutionalism erodes the rule of law. While constitutional revision looks more likely than ever before, it is hardly a foregone conclusion.


This project proposes to highlight the topic of debate on the constitution in Japan by establishing a Leiden Network for Japan Constitutional Research.

It will aim to encourage debate on Japan’s constitution from a number of perspectives, to provide access to resources on constitutional practice and revision that are not yet available in English, to facilitate research into the domestic implications of the constitutional debate, and to bring into focus the significance of this debate for the political authority of human rights in Asia.

  1. Field research in Japan, leading to the publication of peer reviewed articles

As well as strengthening network connections, the researchers will be conducting research focusing on the impact debate on the constitution is having on rights and freedoms in Japan. The aim is to publish findings in at least two peer reviewed articles, submitted by the second half of 2019.

  1. A symposium, currently scheduled for early 2018, and a second symposium with many of the same speakers in Asia in 2019.
  2. The development of a website and online database for English resources on the constitutional debate.

In order to improve the availability of historical and contemporary sources in English on the constitution of Japan, we will establish a database including such features as an interactive timeline and access to translations of primary sources and articles on the constitution.


January 2018- end 2019


Dr Erik Herber

Dr Bryce Wakefield


Cooperation with civil society under changing conditions

Human rights have since long been a cornerstone of Dutch foreign policy. The Dutch government has over the past years aimed to cooperate with civil society actors to improve human rights conditions worldwide. It has not gone unnoticed, however, that civil society is facing growing pressure in many countries. Civil society space and critical voices are being restricted. In this research project, LeidenAsiaCentre aims at investigating what the implications are of this development for the Dutch efforts to include civil society actors in its human rights policy.


The research project consists of three individual but connected case studies: China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. In each case, recent developments within the respective civil societies will first be discussed and their impact investigated. Subsequently, the policy of cooperation with civil society actors in each country by the Dutch government will be mapped, followed by an analysis of the implications of recent developments regarding civil society for this cooperation. Finally, the three individual cases will be brought together in a comparative discussion. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to facilitate a public discussion and to provide concrete policy recommendations.


The research project consists of three individual but connected case studies: China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. In each case, recent developments within the respective civil societies will first be discussed and their impact investigated. Subsequently, the policy of cooperation with civil society actors in each country by the Dutch government will be mapped, followed by an analysis of the implications of recent developments regarding civil society for this cooperation. Finally, the three individual cases will be brought together in a comparative discussion. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to facilitate a public discussion and to provide concrete policy recommendations.

A general debate on the basis of presentation of the three studies will be held on March 13th 2018.


September 2017-March 2018

Frank Pieke

Jonas Lammertink
Emilie de Haes
Marit de Roij


Frank Pieke

Amsterdam University Press and LeidenAsiaCentre Open Access agreement

An agreement between Amsterdam University Press and the LeidenAsiaCentre will bring two new publications to AUP’s Asian Studies programme each year. With support from the LeidenAsiaCentre, the Netherlands’ expertise centre for socially relevant and applicable research on modern East Asia, these titles will immediately be made available under AUP’s Gold Open Access scheme.

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Paralympic Games, Tokyo 2020

Starting off as an archery demonstration in Aylesbury, England in 1948, the Paralympic Games have grown into an event with global proportions. With the inclusion of more athletes and more participating countries, the Paralympic Games have become the second biggest sporting event in the world, being second only to the Olympic Games. In 2020 the Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo, Japan.

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Report ACAF: China’s 19th Party Congress

On the 18th of October 2017 the five-yearly Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) started. Two days before, on the 16th of October, the LeidenAsiaCentre held its second Asia Current Affairs Forum (ACAF) to shed light on the context of the Party Congress. The ACAF is an initiative designed to periodically assembly experts on the Asian region to debate upcoming or current issues of relevance to a broad audience in line with the goals of the Leiden Asia Centre.

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Summer School Asian Food

Leiden University enjoys a world-wide reputation for its expertise on Asia and for its Asian collections. To coincide with the official opening of The Asian Library in September 2017, the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), LeidenAsiaCentre (LAC) and the Shared Taste Project at Leiden University hosted a Summer School devoted to the academic study of Asian Food for MA/PhD students and early career scholars.

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Report Roundtable: China in Global Governance

China has changed the dynamic in the world order, whether or not it intended to do so. Its fast economic growth has given it the potential to have a much greater influence on the world. As a result, the world is increasingly asking what kind of influence China will have. Will it upset the liberal world order that has dominated since WW2? Will it integrate peacefully into this order? Or will the outcome be somewhere between these two poles, with China contributing to reforms of the existing order?
On the 23rd and 24th of August, the LeidenAsiaCentre held a roundtable discussion to try to answer some of these questions and get to examine what China’s intentions might be with regards to global governance. This roundtable session brought together experts on Chinese political economy to discuss China’s changing international role and the implications of this for Europe.

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