Annual Report for 2015
Read the Introduction to the Annual Report
The CEFC activities were numerous in 2015, covering a wide range of fields, so that the centre was able to fully carry out its public-service missions of research and supporting research training. The great scientific effervescence of the three locations of the Centre attracted greater visibility via the number and nature of activities it organised this year. The covered areas ranged from domestic politics to international relations issues, literature and social challenges in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Over the past year, 6 workshops and international conferences and 30 seminars were organised. Co-financing with local academic partners remains strongly predominant for the organisation of the CEFC scientific events.
The ANR project “New Approaches to the Mao Era” (Sebastian Veg and Frank Dikötter, HKU) in its penultimate year continued to foster the scientific life of the centre. In addition, for Hong Kong, we should mention the “China and China Seas Seminar Series,” organised by both the CEFC and the Department of Government and International Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University under the d’Alembert Fund. We should also mention an important international conference held in March entitled “Utopia and utopianism in the contemporary Chinese context: texts, ideas, spaces” as the result of a collaboration between the CEFC and the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (HKU). Then, in June, the round table “‘Occupations,’ ‘Colour movements’ and ‘Springs’: New Dynamics in Social Movements” was held simultaneously both in Hong Kong and Paris, while in September another round table was dedicated to the “Umbrella Movement.” Finally, two others roundtables met a great success, one on the political regime under Xi Jinping (January) and the other on workers’ collective mobilisations (December).
In 2015, the Sino-French Research Centre (CFC, Tsinghua University) attached to the CEFC since May 2014, organised eight conferences and one workshop, which gathered French, Chinese and other foreign academics. Six of the conferences were part of thematic cycles set by the CFC from 2014 onwards: “Mobilisations and Participation” and “Environment and Governance.” Along with these conferences, five seminars for PhD candidates from European institutions and recipients of the CEFC field research grants were organised at Tsinghua University with the participation of both French and Chinese researchers.
Concerning the Taipei Office, three workshops were organised, respectively on participative democracy in France, identity and generation changes in Taiwan, and the anthropology of funeral practices in the Chinese world, which in a number of instances were new topics for the office. Two “young researchers’ day” in collaboration with the Association francophone d’Études taïwanaises were held, one in Paris and the other in Taipei. In addition, the monthly seminar held in French organised by the office continued to allow visiting French researchers and francophone Taiwanese to share the results of their recent works. Last but not least, cooperation with both the cultural and scientific offices of the French Bureau of Taipei was underscored with the joint conduct of conferences held at the Academia Sinica, as part of a d’Alembert Fund.
The overall number of researchers at the CEFC diminished during 2015: the number of researchers with major institutional affiliation to the CEFC was reduced from 8 on January 1st, 2015 to 7 on 31st December of the same year. This cut may be explained by the fact that only one of the two positions for researchers seconded to the CNRS was renewed on September 2014. A new researcher was welcomed on September 1st, 2015 after the departure of a previous researcher enjoying the same status.
Besides, the CEFC researchers made strong efforts to find sources of external financing. Two pre-projects were submitted on the international bilateral call of the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche. The Hong Kong, Beijing and Taiwan teams submitted three projects under the call of the d’Alembert Fund of the French Institute. Finally, a Projet International de Coopération Scientifique (PICS) was submitted to the CNRS by a researcher from the Hong Kong Office.
The CEFC continued to support training through research, granting scholarships to PhD students (one 9-months mobility grant was awarded between 2014 and 2015, and another which began in October 2015 – in addition to five short-term fieldwork grants). Furthermore, the call for communication for the third edition of the conference for young researchers called “New European Research on Contemporary China” was launched. The conference will be held in Beijing from July 4th to 6th, 2016 at the general office of the Delegation of the European Union to China, with the support of EURAXESS, the French Institute, the GIS – Asia Network – CNRS, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the China Centre Tübingen and Think in China. Discussions with other European partners have been engaged simultaneously.
Perspectives Chinoises/China Perspectives’ overall results are encouraging. In addition to the very good control of timeliness, the journal’s selectivity has kept increasing year after year. The uninterrupted fall of subscriptions for several consecutive years stopped in 2015. The editorial board is now renewing its efforts to increase the presence and visibility of the journal on different online access platforms, with the aim of developing a proactive, balanced position on the open data issue. Statistics of downloads and consultations maintain their growth for both articles included and non-included in the moving pay-wall, even if it does not imply increased revenues. The self-financing rate of the journal is stable and the overall financial outcome is satisfying for 2015, despite the fall of the Euro.
The year 2015 was marked by the change of management within the CEFC. Here I would like to underline the wonderful work accomplished by Sebastian Veg, both for the journal and for the centre as a whole. Given the fact that the journal forms the nucleus of the centre, and that it contributes strongly to the influence of the CEFC, our fundamental mission will be to further strengthen the quality and selectivity policy of the journal combined with the control of costs, primarily building on the institutionalisation process of the journal and the centre previously initiated. Consolidating the editorial project’s high quality and the influence of Perspectives Chinoises/China Perspectives must be a priority for the centre. Therefore, it will be necessary to constantly think and discuss within the editorial board while paying attention to advices from the executive committee of the journal’s reading committee concerning the journal’s challenges and major strategic orientations. In the particularly instable context of the scientific edition sector, the reflection aiming at increasing possibilities to promote the journal’s visibility must be continued within the communication strategy of Perspectives Chinoises/China Perspectives. From this perspective, our mission will be to develop a discussion with the editorial board with regards to the journal’s position toward the open data movement, in order to make an optimum use of potentialities given by network effects and digital humanities platforms.
Moreover, while developing scientific collaborative networks of the three locations of the Centre, we should consolidate its role of platform for high quality multidisciplinary knowledge production and diffusion (on economics, politics, society, and the cultural spheres of the contemporary Chinese world) and guarantee its scientific independence. This mission will eventually go through enhancing multiple synergies between the three locations. Besides, we are thinking about the nature of the different scientific activities (seminars, conferences, etc.) organised by the CEFC in order to optimise their form and frame with regards to the different types of publics concerned. Moreover, we need to take advantage of the implementation of the CEFC in mainland China through the CFC to enhance the journal’s awareness in there. The strategy to find external funding developed by Sebastian Veg must be continued, with the mid-term goal to keep a stable share of revenue from external public funds, in a more and more competitive context, and where humanities and social sciences receive the least part of financing. At last, we intend to strengthen the development of co-financing partnerships and institutional collaborations with local, French and European academic institutions.
Eric Florence, March 2016.
You can download the French version of the report by clicking here.
Annual Report for 2014
Read the Introduction to the Annual Report
In 2014, the CEFC maintained a high level of activities, just as in previous years. Despite a decrease in the amount of CNRS positions (currently two) the number of researchers remained stable at 8. Research topics were restructured into the following three areas: (1) state building, regime evolution, modes of government; (2) Social groups and social movements, labour and inequalities; (3) Intellectual and cultural debates, identities and religious representations. An entirely new website, more reactive and interactive, integrating more functionalities, has boosted the centre’s public outreach.
Two collaborative projects, funded by the French National Agency for Research (ANR), contributed to the Centre’s activities in 2014. One is dedicated to the everyday history and popular memory of the Mao era (“New Approaches of the Mao Era”, Sebastian Veg and Frank Dikötter, HKU), which also funded a postdoctoral researcher position. The second one is dedicated the financialisation of real estate markets in China and India (Natacha Aveline, project managed through the CNRS budget). As a consequence of these externally funded projects, the Centre’s budget increased in 2014, with external co-financing representing 27% of expenditures. Institutional subsidies remained stable at the level of 230 000 euros in 2014, including the budget of the Sino-French Academic Centre Beijing (CFC).
The Centre’s dynamism was also reflected in academic events, which included the organisation of 5 international conferences (2 in Hong Kong, 1 in Taipei, 1 in Beijing, 1 in Paris, through the ANR project) and 4 workshops (2 in Hong Kong, 1 in Taipei, 1 in Beijing). These conferences covered a large range of topics, from contemporary history to political science and sociology. The balance between the three locations of the Centre also highlights the active contributions of the CEFC Taipei and the CFC Beijing. All of the conferences were co-organised and co-funded with a local partner institution. The CEFC’s network of local partner institutions is one of its strenghts, including 10 universities or research institutions (5 in Hong Kong and Macao, 3 in Taiwan and 2 in China). Collaboration with HKU has been particularly fruitful, and a series of ongoing collaborative projects may provide further opportunities to strengthen institutional ties in the future.
In Taipei, an international conference was organized for the 20th anniversary of the CEFC Taipei in late October, and the hosting agreement with the RCHSS (Research Centre in Humanities and Social Sciences) was renewed at the end of 2014. The CEFC Taipei has developed cooperations with two Institutes of Academia Sinica (Taiwan History and Political Science) and three research teams within RCHSS (Political thought, Maritime History, Geographical Information Systems), through mutual participation in conferences and a joint application for a d’Alembert project, which was funded for 2015. A joint project in the area of history and geopolitics was submitted in October 2014 under the ANR-Ministry of Science joint research funding scheme. It proposes an epistemological reflection on bringing together these two disciplines to develop a comparative historical geopolitics. The CEFC Taipei has also launched a new research topic on the anthropology of sports and martial arts in Taiwan, in collaboration with the Institution of Ethnology.
The year 2014 also marks the attachment to the CEFC of the Sino-French Academic Centre (CFC), Tsinghua University, in the form of a joint centre between the University and the Foreign Ministry, as required by Chinese legislation. The CFC relaunched its activities in the fall of 2014 after the arrival of a new director in September. A new program of events was initiated on the topic of social mobilisations and political participation. One conference cycle, one workshop commemorating the centenary of World War One, and three doctoral seminars took place within a few months. Some residual administrative difficulties should be settled in the coming months. In the long term, with closer cooperation between the CEFC and the CFC, the latter will be in a position to develop more fully research-based activities. A new agreement for the exchange of researchers, doctoral students and invited speakers is also under discussion with East China Normal University in Shanghai.
The CEFC is strongly committed to funding doctoral research and continues to devote considerable resources to doctoral students working on contemporary China. Since 2012, doctoral mobility grants have been re-established, which are awarded to doctoral students in their first year who do not have other sources of funding; they can receive funding for their second year, and may apply for an extension for their third year of enrolment. This system provides funding for doctoral researchers who spend a significant amount of time conducting first-hand field-work. PhD students also play an important role in the European strategy of the CEFC, which aims to constitute a bottom-up network of European researchers working on contemporary China. Since 2013, short-term field work grants have been opened up to all PhD students enrolled in European universities: 3 out of 5 recipients were enrolled in other countries than France in 2014. The CEFC also organized the second edition of the conference New European Research on Contemporary China in the EU Delegation in Beijing in 2014, in partnership with Euraxess, the European research network, and with support from several German foundations. This conference, which met with great success, could continue to be held every second year in Beijing.
The journal China Perspectives continues to adapt to the volatile environment of research journals. The CEFC has chosen to pursue the priority it gives to academic quality, which implies an increasing adoption of Open Access standards, and inclusion in large international databases available in university libraries. This is necessary to improve the citation rate and promote the journal’s inclusion in SSCI. in 2014, China Perspectives was included in SCOPUS, a rival of SSCI, with a particular mention of the excellence of its content. After EBSCO and ProQuest, the journal was also selected for inclusion in JSTOR from 2015. It has long been available on Revues.org and was accepted on the French portal CAIRN, which has been slow in defining the practical conditions of inclusion. However, these choices have a cost in terms of direct subscribers, as more and more libraries access the journal via databases, which pay meagre royalties – to say the least – to participant journals. For this reason, the CEFC’s new website was endowed with advanced functionalities allowing the direct purchase and sale of issues and articles, as well as electronic subscriptions. Keeping control over our own content and maintaining a direct link with institutional and individual subscribers represents a considerable challenge in preserving the independence and viability of the journal.
Last but not least, the Sunflower movement in Taiwan and Umbrella movement in Hong Kong left their mark on the year 2014. The second one in particular mobilized the French and international press, which regularly sought out analysis and commentary from the CEFC, as our dedicated media page demonstrates. On this occasion, the CEFC fully illustrated its mission as a public service committed to informing the French and international public, as well as the Foreign Ministry, through the analysis of current events.
Over the past four years, the sustained institutionalization and professionalization of the centre (definition of research areas, introduction of a research council and annual meeting, adoption of internal rules and regulations, including criteria and procedures for associate members), the attachment of the CFC to the CEFC and the reestablishment of doctoral grants all mark positive developments. The pursuit of the journal’s professionalization, with rigorous publication criteria, will hopefully boost citation rates and ensure inclusion in SSCI in coming years. The signature of a new agreement with two faculties of the University of Hong Kong in 2013 lays the groundwork for stronger collaboration between the CEFC and Hong Kong institutions. The collaborative projects funded by the ANR underscore the importance of external funding in sustaining the activities of the centre, and it may be difficult to keep up the current level without a new project after the current one ends. The European conferences for PhD students held in Beijing and the links established with the Max Weber foundation should also provide opportunities for new collaborations, the importance of which cannot be underestimated for European research on contemporary China. Finally, the present annual report has been streamlined to reduce the number of sections and present important information in a more logical way, in the hope that it may facilitate reading and help those who will be in charge of compiling later versions of it.
Sebastian Veg, 1 March 2015.
You can download the French version of the report by clicking here.
Annual Report for 2013
Read the Introduction to the Annual Report
The CEFC has continued in 2013 to carry out its main missions: fundamental research on contemporary China, publication of research results in the journalsPerspectives chinoises and China Perspectives, organizing events targeted at specialists or the general public, and providing independent information to journalists, diplomats, and citizens interested in the current evolutions of the Chinese speaking world. Three new researchers – with a net increase of two positions over 2013, one of which is supported by external funding – have strengthened the CEFC’s team. The scope of the research currently carried out at the Centre includes all the important questions of today’s China: the evolution of its political system, economic inequalities, new forms of citizen participation, cultural diversification, and geopolitical positioning. The network of associate researchers and the co-organization of international conferences, notably in 2013 with the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on civil society in China and the Hong Kong University of Sciences and Technology (HKUST) on economic inequalities, allow for regular, flexible collaborations with local institutions, particularly for joint applications for funding. Finally, giving budgetary priority to fundamental research has allowed the Centre to once again distribute two mobility grants (9 months each) and five short-term fieldwork grants, all offered to PhD candidates, open to students enrolled in any EU country.
In a lasting context of budgetary constraints, the CEFC increasingly relies on project funding, which has become the international norm. Beyond international conferences and specific events, for which it is not difficult to mobilize partners – especially in Hong Kong –, several multi-year collaborative research programs have received external funding. Indeed, the availability of research funding, and the transparency and objectivity of the application process in Hong Kong are important justifications for the Centre’s commitment to its current location. Two projects funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) began in 2013, one on urbanization in Asia, the other, in collaboration with HKU, on the history and the memory of the Mao era, which was funded by the bilateral France-Hong Kong ANR-RGC program. The CEFC has now defined budgetary indicators, according to which the external funding of research activities represented more than 30% of the Centre’s budget in 2013, without any threat its academic independence or strategy.
In the past year, the CEFC completed its evaluation exercise by the French Agency for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (AERES). Following the initial report submitted in October 2012, a “visit” by the Agency took place through videoconference in May 2013, and the evaluation report was transmitted to the CEFC in November 2013. The positive assessment given by the AERES, more particularly on the relevance of the CEFC’s research activities, its role in supporting PhD candidates, and its networking strategy on an international and European level, can only be seen as an endorsement of the Centre’s work. While some minor inconsistencies in the assessment were pointed out in an official response in December, the CEFC regrets that the “visit” seemed fairly improvised: no consultation took place prior to the evaluation, which was the first of its kind, the format of the report was very poorly adapted to the social sciences – and even less to atypical centers like those in the network of French overseas institutes –, communication took place through online forms only, and the Agency insisted on setting a (very close) date for a visit even before a committee could be constituted or the feasibility of organizing a videoconference ascertained (in the event, the connection collapsed before the end of the conference). While a forward-looking evaluation of the CEFC’s projects and missions is surely useful, its content and organization should be more adequate and be discussed beforehand within the Board of the Institutes in Asia.
The journals Perspectives chinoises and China Perspectives have performed well, with rising revenues that cover 50% of the total production costs, the most expensive item being translations. The academic quality of the journal is widely recognized, as well as its regularity. The publication of thematic features, which is relatively unique amongst comparable, important journals, attracts a growing number of proposals from high-profile contributors. The journal is also pursuing its online strategy, and has joined ProQuest in 2013 and should be accessible on CAIRN in 2014. New applications to SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) and to its competitor, SCOPUS, have also been filed. The website of the Centre, which dates back to 2009, will be entirely redesigned with WordPress in 2014, which should also help to improve the journal’s visibility.
One of the major changes in 2013 is the incorporation of the Sino-French Academic Exchange Centre (Centre franco-chinois or CFC), based in Beijing, into the CEFC, which will be effective starting 1 March 2014. The CFC, located in the Faculty of social sciences of Tsinghua University, will keep the name it has used since June 2011, when Michel Bonnin became the director. It had been founded in 2002 by Jean-Luc Domenach under the name “Experimental antenna on human and social sciences in Beijing,” and later headed in 2006 by Jean-Louis Rocca under the name “Beijing doctoral workshop.” Its remit is to develop, within a well-known Chinese university and more generally in Beijing academic circles, the visibility of French social science research and to increase Sino-French exchanges in this area. Given the important collaborations developed by the CEFC and the CFC since 2011, merging the two centers was deemed to be the best way to develop French research on contemporary China in Beijing. More concretely, the researcher (ETI) and research and administrative assistant (VIA) positions allocated to the CFC will be transferred to the CEFC, as well as budgetary and accounting matters. The CFC will be attached to the CEFC similarly to the Taipei office. The headquarters of the CEFC as well as the publication of the journal will remain in Hong Kong, which offers the best environment for academic independence, freedom of research and of the press, and collaboration with well-recognized institutions in a position to co-fund and co-organize research projects.
For several years, the CEFC has given priority to collaborating with HKU. After the Centre for Asian Studies – the historic partner of the CEFC – disappeared, the Centre turned to the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social sciences. A new agreement was signed in October 2013, for two renewable years, encompassing the co-funding of research conferences, joint applications to research programs, the association of CEFC researchers and joint supervision of PhD students. The possibility of locating the CEFC within the University, though not included in the agreement, was discussed separately: on this occasion the University highlighted the internal shortage of space. Cooperation should therefore now focus mainly on academic and research matters. The downtown location of the CEFC offices, while it has some drawbacks (small space, high and sometimes fluctuating rent), also allows for more independence and a freer choice of collaboration opportunities.
In Taipei, whereas the past years had been marked by a regular collaboration with a specific centre of the Academia Sinica, it has proven useful to rebalance partnerships in two directions: by diversifying collaborations within the Academia and by identifying teams within the Research Center on Humanities and Social Sciences (which hosts the CEFC) interested in the expertise of the Centre. The Taipei Office aims for a closer cooperation with three institutes (Political science, Taiwanese history, and Sociology) as well as with three research teams within the RCHSS (Political thought, Maritime history, and Systems of geographical information).
Finally, the CEFC continues to think strategically about European partnerships. Following the organization of a widely acclaimed conference for young European researchers at the European Union Delegation in Beijing in 2012, the CEFC plans to organize a second edition in 2014, in cooperation with the EURAXESS program. The CEFC hopes the conference can become a regular event that will lead to the funding of mobility grants for European scholars to visit the Centre. As applications to the Marie Curie program have not proven convincing so far, other funding programs should be explored. The German network of research institutes, the Max Weber Foundation, which will support this year’s conference in Beijing, is exploring the possibility of opening an office in Hong Kong (it is not present in China thus far). During a visit to the CEFC in December 2013, its president showed an interest in collaborating. The Czech academy of sciences is also seeking a hosting entity for visiting researchers working on the Chinese world and Southeast Asia at the Academia Sinica, and recently visited the Taipei branch. It might be possible, a proposal seconded by the vice-president of the Academia, to host researchers at the CEFC office within the Academia. A multiplication of this kind of bottom-up European collaborations should in the long run allow the CEFC to play a greater role in European research on contemporary China.
You can download the French version of the Annual Report for 2013 here.