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Talk and Salon Discussion with Prof. Mikael Mattlin

On Friday, February 23, the Institute for European Global Studies welcomed Prof. Mikael Mattlin, Acting Deputy Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), to the Sandgrube. In two separate but interconnected events, Prof. Mattlin gave a presentation on “The Many Faces of China’s Economic Influence: Towards a More Accurate Understanding of Chinese Economic Statecraft” and shared his personal experiences and scholarly perspectives in a more informal salon discussion. Both events were well attended by the Institute for European Global Studies staff members, MA and PhD students.

Mikael Mattlin began his presentation by introducing the two institutions of which he is the director, the renowned Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), a state-funded but independent research institute based in Helsinki, and the Center on Global Orders and China (CORD), a research center based at FIIA that focuses on China’s foreign policy and its role in global politics. He then presented some of the research projects he has recently been involved in, including ForAc, a project funded by the Academy of Finland (AKA) that examines the economic and political dynamics of strategic foreign acquisitions. With regard to Chinese foreign investments, he and his research group were able to identify what he describes as an interesting paradox: Although there has been much discussion about Chinese foreign investment in Europe and the United States, only very little such investment has actually taken place in recent years. Mattlin relates this to what he describes as a major shift in Western countries’ perspectives toward Chinese investment, and China in general, which have moved from a more favorable to a rather unfavorable view over the last 15 years – especially following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, he argued, China itself no longer seems to be trying to win favor with Europe or the US. Taken as a whole, Mattlin’s presentation and the subsequent discussion raised very topical questions about how recent major events have changed (geo)political perceptions of both elites and ordinary citizens and how these shifts are impacting the complex trajectories of today’s global politics.

Mikael Mattlin’s presentation was followed by an informal discussion that took place in the salon of the Sandgrube, allowing for a more personal and interactive conversation, during which he shared memories of his early interest in Chinese language, culture and society, inspired by his father’s extensive collection of books on Chinese history and art. During the one-hour exchange, Mattlin reflected not only on his career and positionality as a scholar in Finland, but also on the present state of higher education and research in Finland and Finnish (global) politics more generally.

Mikael Mattlin is the Acting Deputy Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) and the head of FIIA’s Center on Global Orders and China (CORD). Previously, he held positions as Professor of Political Science at the University of Turku and as Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki. His areas of expertise include global economic governance, China’s foreign policy and politics, and China’s economic statecraft. In 2022, Prof. Mattlin published the first comprehensive Finnish-language research-based book on the Chinese political system.