Event Reports

Coping with Disruption: Dimensions of Digitalisation in Europe and Asia

by Peter Hefele

8th Annual Workshop on EU-China Relations in Global Politics

The 8th annual workshop on EU-China Relations in Global Politics was held this year in Singapore, dealing with dimensions of digitalisation, disruption and disruptive innovation in Europe and Asia. International professionals and academics presented insightful papers, highlighting different aspects and opportunities of digitalisation in different economic sectors in Europe and Asia. As every year, the workshop took place in the framework of UACES Collaborative Research Network on EU-China Relations, and is supported by the KAS Regional Project Energy Security and Climate Change in Asia-Pacific (KAS RECAP).

The focus in the first session was on the digitalisation of the energy and resource systems. The era of digitalisation gives plenty of chances for improvement in the sustainable management of natural resources and energy. Furthermore, climate governance may also improve from this digital transition, for example, if the monitoring, reporting and verification of the Green Climate Fund is digitalised and could therefore be done more easily and efficiently.

The second session elaborated on the previous session, taking digitalisation one step further, towards the opportunities for urban areas with digital governance and smart city management. The session dealt with initiatives taken by European and Asian urban hubs to organize life in cities better, for instance with better infrastructure management. Furthermore, the use of technical innovation supports the development of climate resilience in urban areas. But for such transformation in the digital sector and the transition on the institutional level, the concern about how to govern such smart cities has to be dealt with in the future.

The role of digitalisation in the financial markets as well as in the investment sector is revolutionizing the traditional ways of operating in these fields. The evolution of cryptocurrency and Fintech, blockchain technology, data localization in different local contexts and the changed equity risk premium was discussed in the third session. In the digital era, governments prevail in emphasising national sovereignty over individual privacy. The concept of sovereignty in the face of digital revolution is ambiguous, as well as privacy issues and data control.

The fourth session contrasted the implications of digitalization in Western countries and China. Both, culture and innovation are handled differently in different local contexts. In particular, the emergence of the 5G network managed by Huawei in Europe and China.

The last two sessions were again under the topic of digital governance and smart city management. The participants raised issues about groundbreaking opportunities of digitalization in the urban sector. The idea of big data helping to alleviate poverty, the support of the public health sector by app-based medical care, the development of digital education towns, the rise of Fintech and the transformation of public-private partnerships, is not in the far-fetched future, but is a clear and present opportunity today.

After getting all of that innovative input, the participants visited the Infocom Media Development Authority in Singapore. They were introduced to the technical trend of Services 4.0, a providence of primarily customary services with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), aiming at seamless and accessible technology. For instance, in the future call centres may be staffed with AI robots. The visit furthermore underpinned the impression of the workshop: digitalisation is touching almost every sphere of human existence, bearing opportunities as well as challenges for political, economic and social spheres.

This year’s UACES Best Paper Award was won by Dr. Una Aleksandra BĒRZIŅA-ČERENKOVA, from the Riga Stradins University – China Studies Centre for her insightful paper on “The rise of the APP-based Medicine in China in the Context of the Yi/Li Debate”.