The fifth transcultural study trip as part of the Transcultural Student Research Group 2021 has come to an end. Behind the research group stands an annually recurring project initiated and carried out by the Leadership Excellence Institute Zeppelin | LEIZ. This year, the participants went on the trail of the New Silk Road Initiative in Poland and Duisburg - true to the topic of the study: "The Impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative on Europe: The Case of Poland and Germany". The study trip was organised in cooperation with the Boym Institute, led by LEIZ researcher Jessica Geraldo Schwengber, and funded by Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK).
The research group, which consists of seven Polish students on the one hand and seven German students from Zeppelin University on the other, is divided into six Polish-German subgroups. Each subgroup examines the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on Europe from different disciplinary perspectives. For example, the student researchers shed light on the economic, geopolitical and legal consequences of the large-scale Chinese project and ask how the New Silk Road Initiative affects civil society and gender equality.
In line with the diversity of the topics covered, the activities of the research group during the study tour were also very different. In Poland, the programme included a tour of the port of Gdansk, a visit to the European Centre of Solidarność, and excursions to Huawei in Warsaw and the Marshal's Office of the Łódź Voivodeship. The young researchers also took part in two workshops: one at the University of Warsaw with various experts and one at the University of Łódź with political scientist Professor Dr Tomasz Kaminski. The workshops focused, among other things, on the fairly recent phenomenon of paradiplomacy, i.e. the increasing efforts of European regions to develop their own diplomacy and establish direct relations with China.
In the second part of the research trip, they went to Duisburg to analyse the effects of the New Silk Road initiative from Germany's perspective. There, the research group visited the Confucius Institute Metropolis Ruhr, where the students exchanged ideas with the senior professor for Chinese politics and society at the University of Duisburg-Essen Professor Dr Thomas Heberer and representatives of the China Business Network Duisburg (CBND). The next day, the participants discussed their research topics at Duisburg City Hall with a representative of the transport company DIT Duisburg Intermodal Terminal GmbH, with representatives of Chinese companies based in Duisburg, as well as with the municipal China representative Markus Teuber, the head of the China department Johannes Grünhage and the mayor Sören Link.
Sufficient attention was also paid to the cultural aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative. On the second day in Duisburg, the research group visited the Museum of Culture and Urban History, and on the third day, Bernard Langerock's exhibition on workers' settlements in Oberhausen along the Silk Roads in Poland, Germany and China at the LVR industrial museum St. Antony-Hütte in Oberhausen.
By working with peers from another country and culture and meeting experts from different disciplines, the research group gained insights in theoretical and practical terms and were given the opportunity to work in an international context and experience a concrete transcultural experience for themselves.