As China is becoming more influential on a global scale and active in fostering bilateral and multilateral cooperation with European countries, Romania must adopt a cooperation framework that allows for cultural and academic cooperation in a mutually beneficial manner, with minimal risks and challenges. Understanding China as a partner is essential for building a cooperation strategy with well-defined goals and risks. Romania, as well as other European countries, needs a top-down strategic approach that takes into consideration what it is willing to offer and what it needs from its Chinese counterparts.
Universities should increase the level of transparency regarding cooperation agreements and memoranda, particularly with high or very high-risk universities, and set up risk assessment guidelines for academic exchanges and adopt codes of academic integrity. The latter has become particularly important in the context of pandemic outbreaks which may cause confusion and instability for students living abroad. As it would be difficult, considering the small number of Romanians with China-related expertise, for each university to individually develop the capability to assess risks, especially security risks, it would be useful for the Romanian ministries of education and foreign affairs to work together to present universities with information and assessments of such risks and counsel them in designing plans for cooperation and then in implementing their cooperation agreements. Right now, the onus is on the universities themselves, but the vast majority of them lack any personnel with either Chinese language skills or expertise on China.
To that purpose, it is particularly important to build a generation of China experts using domestic and European resources and diversify the educational offering about China. The educational offering should not be limited to Chinese initiatives only; academic cooperation with China should be complementary. Universities should consider the larger national and European context surrounding cooperation with Confucius Institutes and Chinese universities and determine the potential outcomes prior to entering cooperation agreements.
Disclaimer: The conclusions and recommendations included in the report do not necessarily represent the position of RISAP, which was not institutionally involved in this project.