– Dirk Jan van den Berg is President of Delft University of Technology, former chairman of the IDEA League of European Universities, and former Dutch ambassador to China and the UN. –
This year’s World Economic Forum comes at a moment in which a profound shift in global power from West to East is becoming unmistakable. In recent weeks, for instance, during Hu Jintao’s state visit to the U.S., China was unambiguously portrayed by the Obama administration as an equal, indispensable global partner with the United States.
One of the key achievements of the state visit was the historic extension to the US-China Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, first signed by the two countries after relations were normalised in 1979. The agreement, which includes over 30 active protocols covering cooperation in areas ranging from agricultural science, renewable energy, and biomedical research, will thus continue to serve as a key framework driving bilateral economic growth well into the twenty first century.
Many European delegates at Davos will be struck by the contrast between the strong US emphasis given to technological cooperation with China, and the apparent attitude of Europe’s political leaders. Despite endless debate, little of concrete action has been achieved by Europe to seize what should be a very meaningful bilateral science and technology partnership with China, and address the fact that the European continent’s future as a world-leading innovation hub is already gravely challenged by the rise of the East.
For Europe, the time for talking is now over. The continent must act urgently if it is to retain its economic prosperity by ‘locking-in’ much greater science and technology-led business collaboration with China. But will Europe’s leaders finally seize the moment?