Confucius Institute Day 2018 -seminar
The Confucius Institute at the University of Helsinki held a seminar on the 27th September 2018 with two keynote speakers, Professor and Director Zhang Baohui from Lingnan University (Hong Kong) and Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jyrki Kallio from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Senior Research Fellow, Dr Elina Sinkkonen from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, and Professor Matti Nojonen from University of Lapland acted as commentators in the event.

Our two guest speakers both have an interesting background. Professor Zhang Baohui received his Ph.D. in Government from the University of Texas in Austin. His research interests include Chinese foreign policy, East Asian international relations, and nuclear deterrence. He is the author of China’s Assertive Nuclear Posture: State Security in an Anarchic International Order (Routledge 2015). He is currently working on a book project that uses structural realism to explain China’s grand strategy since the end of the Cold War. His views are frequently solicited by The New York Times, The Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, CNN, and The South China Morning Post.

Dr Jyrki Kallio received his PhD from the University of Lapland. His.research interest revolve around Chinese political culture, Chinese foreign policy, and regional issues in East Asia. In 2015, he was awarded the J. A. Hollo Prize for an exceptionally high-quality translation of a non-fiction book into Finnish for his monograph on Confucianism (Mestari Kongin keskustelut: Kungfutselaisuuden ydinolemus, Gaudeamus Helsinki University Press, 2014) which comprises a new, critical translation of the Analects. Prior to joining the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in 2011, he worked as diplomat in the Finnish Foreign Ministry for 15 years.

Prof. Zhang started the seminar with his presentation “China and global governance: A rising state’s quest for power and influences in the world order”, which illuminated on the main the driving forces of Chinese foreign policy. The presentation pointed out how China’s global governance has shifted from the non-interference policy to China becoming a more active participant in world politics and elaborated on the reasons behind this shift, e.g. the ‘Middle Kingdom –mindset’, which drives China to take back what it has lost. Prof. Zhang pointed out that China is now taking an active role in changing global institutions. He also pointed out the changed tone in the official statements about global interference and provided interesting examples on how the top echelons of power describe China’s changing position in the global order.

Dr Elina Sinkkonen was a commentator of professor Zhang’s presentation. She provided a ‘more Western point of view’ on China’s new global governance agenda. Dr Sinkkonen welcomed China to take part in solving the big common problems in the era of global political issues, such as global warming, but reminded that the current set of global institutions, rules and international laws are ultimately still based on the values of democracy and human rights.

Dr Jyrki Kallio gave a presentation”The fate of C-ism: The confusion of values, ideals and utopias in contemporary China”. On basis of two Chinese scholars’ work, he characterized the Chinese mindset as “relative pragmatism”, and then discussed how this mindset is reflected in the interplay of three ”C-isms” of contemporary Chinese thought, namely communism, Confucianism and ”Chinese-ism”. In his analysis, the most prominent today is Chinese-ism, characterized by the dogma of unity and anti-universalism, as well as views condemning religion and promoting the assimilation of minority cultures into the Chinese nation.


Prof. Matti Nojonen offered comments on Kallio’s presentation on Confucianism and also made some points related to the earlier presentation and Dr Sinkkonen’s comments. He pointed out that China is actively participating in anti-terrorist actions, which indicates an attempt to ‘win hearts’ in the international arena by more active collaboration with other countries. He was wondering whether China is the new U.S., using the discourse of ‘saving the world’.

The audience participated in the seminar with relevant questions that provoked interesting discussion. There was, e.g., a question of whether the Chinese model could be something that possibly would replace democracy, since there is crisis in liberal democracies in the current political situation. In response, it was pointed out that while authoritarian rule can seemingly fix problems quickly, democracy provides more sustainable solutions to the problems. Therefore, there is some affinity between populism in democracies and and politics in authoritarian systems.