China’s expanding presence in North Macedonia is often seen as a challenge for the country to consolidate its fragile democracy and progress towards EU accession criteria, especially rule of law and good governance. The country not only fails to maximize its economic interests in the cooperation with China, but has been increasingly targetted by activities aimed to promote the Chinese model and values, strengthen China's dominance in a number of areas (technology, health, trade, infrastructure) and erode the trust in the country's traditional Western partners, namely the EU and the USA.
This is partly due to the fact that there is no strategic framework to help policy-makers shape their approach to dealing with China. Moreover, due to a “triple lack” - of awareness and public debate on China-related issues, knowledge and capacity, and funding - there is little pressure for change coming from democracy watchdogs – civil society and media.
The goal of this project is to contribute to the development of a comprehensive and values-based policy approach to China in North Macedonia which will help the country to counter China’s potentially negative influence and avoid sidelining of the democratic values in pursuit of economic interests. To this effect, both the “demand” and “supply” side of democratic policy-making will be addressed:
Objective 1: To invigorate a broad public debate among policy makers, civil society, academia and media regarding the potential costs and benefits from cooperating with China and raise awareness about the need to protect the fundamental values when dealing with China.
Objective 2: To support North Macedonia's state institutions to implement a consistent, whole-of-government and evidence-based policy framework to deal with China which will become a part of the envisaged strategic foreign policy outlook, using the methods of policy analysis and advocacy.
Objective 3: To empower civil society organizations and media to engage in watchdog activities on China-related issues by helping them develop a nuanced understanding of China's activities in North Macedonia and the broader region, stregthening their capacities and providing them with the necessary financial support.
The project puts forward a novel, collaborative approach which unites various stakeholders and fosters strategic thinking in tackling a relatively new issue - China's influence. The activities envisage:
• Kick-off meeting to inform all relevant stakeholders about the project and invite them to join the activities of interest to their target group (online, upon invitation, open for policy-makers, civil society, media and academia representatives).
• Four China-lectures with distinguished China-scholars (online, public, open for policy-makers, civil society, media and academia).
• Subgranting scheme to develop policy briefs and journalist stories on China-related issues with targetted mentoring support (open for civil society and media representatives).
• Online public campaign to promote the findings of the analyses.
• Developing a “China toolkit” for policy-makers. Epistemic (expert) community meeting to finalize the initial draft (physical event upon invitation for policy-makers, civil society, media and academia representatives).