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Current Research

In his paper on “The Cost of Security. Financing Yellow River Hydraulics during the late Imperial Period", Iwo Amelung investigates the effect of paternalistic views at the Qing court, inspired by Confucianism, on financing hydraulic projects on the Yellow River and on the Great Canal. On the basis of a detailed study of the existing documents he shows that expenditures for hydraulic engineering constantly increased well into the 1840s and eventually amounted to more than 20 per cent of the total expenditure of the central government. While research in the past generally assumed that the high costs of hydraulics were due on the one hand to ecological factors and on the other hand to administrative corruption and inefficiency, Amelung shows that the fiscal catastrophe was due mainly to the desire of the Qing emperors – and specifically of the Kangxi and Qianlong emperor – to bring as much relief to the peasant population as possible in accordance with the image of the “provisioning state" (von Glahn). The fact that after the relocation of the river bed in 1855 the responsibility for the control of river and canal was transferred to the regional administration can thus also be  interpreted as an attempt to free the Qing state from financial burdens that were ideologically motivated. This was only partially successful and in fact it was no longer of great urgency because the Qing state in the last years of the empire managed to broaden its fiscal basis by introducing Lijin and the highly efficient maritime customs service. The restraint of the central government also implied a diminishing moral commitment from the state which added to the de-legitimization of the imperial government during the final phase of the empire. 

Iwo Amelung, “The Cost of Security. Financing Yellow River Hydraulics during the late Imperial Period", in: Iwo Amelung, Bertram Schefold (eds.), European and Chinese Histories of Economic Thought Theories and Images of Good Governance, London: Routledge 2022, pp. 33-46, DOI

Involved IZO Researcher(s):

Prof. Dr. Iwo Amelung

Managing Director

Sinology: Chinese History and Culture


The project Cultural Entrepreneurship and Digital Transformation in Africa and Asia (CEDITRAA), jointly organised by Goethe University Frankfurt and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, has received funding by BMBF since April 1st 2021. Despite restrictions due to the pandemic the research team can look back on a first year of great activity.

The opening conference was organised primarily by Prof. Matthias Krings (Ethnology) and Prof. Tom Simmert, both University of Mainz. The subject of Cultural Entrepreneurship was approached from various angles, for instance in a talk given by the renowned institutionalist Michael Lounsbury from the University of Alberta.

A digital workshop, organised by Prof. Cornelia Storz in cooperation with Egbert Amoncio and the IZO Academic Coordinator Bertram Lang on 4 and 5 October, brought together experts from Europe, Asia and the United States who presented and discussed innovative methods of using digital sources. On Day One the focus was on machine learning and computer-assisted image and video analysis. On Day Two the emphasis was on digital and hybrid ethnography.

Alongside these main events the team of academics from the universities of Frankfurt and Mainz and colleagues from the Pan-Atlantic University in Lagos came together regularly at the virtual CEDITRAA Friday Meetings, which facilitate the general exchange of ideas among researchers and the presentation of one sub-project at a time, thus highlighting the many different methodical approaches to the East Asian and African cultural industries. 


The time has come! The IZO is pleased to present the activity report of the academic year 2020/21 as an online version.

The difficult situation at the time of the pandemic has not prevented the IZO from continuing research and activities - albeit virtually - and the Center can look back on an eventful year. The following pages will give you an insight into the activities of the center under the difficult conditions of the pandemic.

The complete report in German and English can be downloaded here:

Current Research

Dec 15 2021

Current Research, December 2021

Cornelia Storz Analyses the Chinese Ecosystem of Technology Transfer.

In November 2021 Cornelia Storz, together with Marcus Conlé, Henning Kroll and Tobias ten Brink, published an article in the Journal of Technology Transfer (JOTT). Technology transfer in Europe and Asia is a subject that receives much attention, especially from an economic and political perspective, because interesting transfer mechanisms have developed in these contexts. One instance is the University Satellite Institutes (USI), which feature large in China. Prof. Storz and her co-authors take a closer look at this contributor, which has been largely overlooked, taking as an example the situation in the Chinese province of Guangdong.

In the context of IZO research on Global East Asia, this project identifies an important mechanism largely neglected in innovation research, namely institutional proximity which helps to successfully implement technology transfer. This mechanism is shown to be of equal relevance to any successful innovation policy in our part of the world. JOTT was chosen advisedly for the publication of this article because of the journal's interest in both failed and successful policies of technology transfer. The article is an open access publication and is available under DOI (see below).

Marcus Conlé,· Henning Kroll,· Cornelia Storz &· Tobias ten Brink (2021): University satellite institutes as exogenous facilitators of technology transfer ecosystem development. In The Journal of Technology Transfer, (Open Access).

Current Research

In a recent open access publication in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Heike Holbig and Bertram Lang investigate the impact of the Chinese NGO legislation of 2016 on interaction in international civil societies. Drawing on interviews as well as theories of institutional change, the authors look beyond the mere implementation of the NGO law, drawing up four scenarios of long-term developments of Chinese policy with regard to international NGOs and foundations. In particular, their analysis shows that this policy goes well beyond the regulation of inner-Chinese activities and that new forms of politically controlled cooperation with civil societies are developing within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. While the NGO law affects mainly organisations in the US, Hong Kong and some Western European countries, it is primarily actors in countries of the global south such as Nepal or Cambodia, countries which China is closely allied with, for whom these new formats are of particular importance.

Involved IZO Researcher(s):

Prof. Dr. Heike Holbig

Political Science with a Focus on Chinese and East Asian Area Studies

Bertram Lang, M.A.

Academic Coordinator

IZO Events

Nov 25 2021

Public Lecture on the Occasion of the IZO Advisory Board Meeting

Guest Lecture by Prof. Björn Alpermann on China’s Xinjiang Policy

In recent years the situation in China’s north-western region of Xinjian has received increasing international attention. Reports about mass internments of Uigurs and other ethnic groups in re-education camps, about forced labour, forced sterilisation and other violations of human rights have dominated the headlines and have put a strain on the relations between China and its critics. The Chinese government, on the other hand, justifies its actions as a fight against terrorism, Islamist extremism and ethnic separatism. The lecture discusses the different views on the basis of a detailed study of source material.
Due to the pandemic situation, Björn Alpermann’s lecture will be delivered via Zoom.

Board meetings

This year's meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board 2021 took place via video conference due to the pandemic. On November 25th, members of the Board of Directors presented the current work at the IZO to the Advisory Board and discussed in particular questions of the future strategic orientation of the IZO in a rapidly changing research environment for regional studies related to East Asia.


Policy consultation and direct public interaction with political decision makers play an important role in foregrounding the social relevance of Chinese and Asian Studies. It is for this reason that the IZO's Academic Coordinator, Bertram Lang, makes regular contributions to policy journals and to studies conducted by NGOs and public institutions.

When a controversial passage about non-profit organisations in the draft EU-China investment agreement became public in March 2021, the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament commissioned Bertram Lang to submit a study on the role of civil society in Europe's policy on China. In this study Mr Lang takes a critical look at the position of the European Commission and the European member states and makes specific suggestions on how expert knowledge in civil societies might be better integrated into European foreign and trade policy, so as to emphasize the European interest in an international order endorsed by a multiplicity of actors and to stress European values.

In a webinar chaired by Christina Sadeler on 8 December 2021, Bertram Lang and Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of the European Parliament and China expert of the Green Party, discussed the study's central arguments as well as options for future action with regard to the investment agreement which is currently on halt.

Addendum: The webinar is now freely accessible here.

Download link to the study:

IZO Events

On 29 November 2021 Professor Barry Naughton, chair of Chinese International Affairs at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, took part in two events organised by IZO at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg. Under the title "China Summer 2021: From Industrial Policy to Comprehensive Steerage?" Naughton discussed the spate of far-reaching regulatory measures and radical reforms launched in recent months by the leadership of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China.

In the afternoon, following a discussion with IZO research staff and guests, Prof. Naughton was available for the many questions of junior researchers from the recently established IZO Early Career Researcher Network. This opportunity for an informal exchange of ideas was eagerly seized upon and the discussion about Naughton's research work as well as the future perspectives of research about and in China could easily have exceeded the three hours that had been allocated for this.

We would like to extend our thanks to Barry Naughton for this inspirational debate and we look forward to further meetings of the IZO ECR network in the months ahead. 

IZO Events

Dear friends of the IZO,

We are pleased to announce Prof. Barry Naughton's talk on “China Summer 2021: From Industrial Policy to Comprehensive Steerage?“ which is to be delivered on Friday, 29 October. Barry Naughton holds the So Kwan Lok Chair of Chinese International Affairs at UC San Diego and for many years he has been one of the most eminent political economists studying the People's Republic of China. It is his work on Chinese industrial policy which is of particular interest and relevance at the present moment since he was one of the few American economists who from an early date recognized a new management approach in Xi's economic policy and put it in a theoretical context.

This event will be in two parts. It takes place at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg.

In the morning between 9.00 and 12.00 am there will be a lecture by Prof. Naughton, followed by an extensive discussion in workshop format. Because of limited space and current hygiene regulations it is advisable to book in advance (

In the afternoon between 2.15 and 5 pm the first exclusive IZO Early Career Researcher Network event will take place. Network members will have an opportunity to exchange ideas with Barry Naughton about his latest book, The Rise of China's Industrial Policy, and also more generally about career prospects and research conditions in the Chinese context. Doctoral students and post-docs who are interested in participating are invited to contact Bertram Lang ( and to apply for membership in the network. 

Please note that in the Grosser Salon (large hall) we cannot space out the seats sufficiently. Participants have therefore to comply with the “2G rule". Access will be granted only on production of a valid vaccination pass or proof of full recovery from a Covid infection, and it requires prior registration in writing (first name, name, address or phone number).

We look forward to your participation and hope for a lively debate!