The Mercator Institute for China Studies celebrates its tenth anniversary on 15 November. In times of geopolitical upheaval, the institute continues to generate authoritative research and lay the analytic groundwork for politics, business and civil society to make well-informed decisions about China.
Berlin, 14 November 2023. The Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) was founded ten years ago, on 15 November 2013, in Klosterstrasse in central Berlin. Today, the institute is recognized far beyond Germany as a leading think tank in China research and counts more than 40 employees from some 15 countries. The institute has had an office in Brussels since 2019 and has also established close relationships with decision makers and researchers in Europe’s national capitals. MERICS analysts make their expertise available to parliamentarians, ministries, industry associations, companies and NGOs – and are sought-after interview partners for and contributors to German and global media.
The wealth of analyses published by the institute's independent experts reflect how profoundly China's politics, economy and society have changed over the past decade. Founded by the German foundation Stiftung Mercator, MERICS has from day one focused on its central mission of helping to forge a nuanced understanding of modern China.
"When we founded MERICS ten years ago, Germany did not have any institution that provided academically sound and at the same time practically relevant information about contemporary China," says Wolfgang Rohe, Chairman of the Executive Board of Stiftung Mercator GmbH. "MERICS has closed this gap for politics, business and society at large – an accomplishment that is today more important than ever given China's enormous significance for the international realignment.”
MERICS experts are constantly adapting to changing circumstances
Ten years ago, China looked very different. The country was at the height of its economic miracle and attracting companies from all over the world. When Xi Jinping was appointed to the highest offices of the state and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing, many foreign observers hoped this internationally little-known cadre would press on with the country’s opening. What followed were dramatic changes that dashed these hopes. Domestically, the CCP under Xi focused on greater social control and the restructuring of the party-state to drive a rigorous centralization of power.
Tensions between China and Europe have increased as a result and come to directly affect MERICS – Beijing imposed sanctions on the institute two and a half years ago. Like other China researchers around the world, MERICS staff are now contending with limited access as China attempts to control the flow of information and channel public debate more thoroughly.
MERICS Executive Director Mikko Huotari says of the many challenges: "Practically orientated China analysis is today conducted under completely new circumstances: The importance of China-related decisions is growing rapidly, while research conditions are becoming increasingly difficult. The ability to combine domestic, foreign policy, economic and technological analyses will become ever more necessary – and have to prove itself in constant exchange with fellow researchers, politicians and companies."
MERICS is drawing strength from trusted partnerships and networks
MERICS experts have responded to this new challenge by refining their methods and drawing on resolute partnerships with other research institutions and robust networks in politics and business. "Getting China right" is the claim that will continue to drive their research into key questions and establishing analytical bases for the best possible decision-making: What do Xi's aspirations for economic self-reliance mean for international players? How will Xi's government deal with the immense economic and social challenges? How will a self-confident global China change international politics? In what areas does competition from China's ambitious innovation policy create risks for Europe? What are opportunities and necessities for co-operation despite ongoing tensions with China?
The Mercator Foundation has invested 33 million euros in MERICS since 2013. Funding has been diversified in the last five years and project sponsors now include German ministries, the administrations of other EU countries, companies and other institutions. More than 50 public and private organizations have opted to become MERICS Members with privileged access to research.
The Mercator Foundation has committed another 12 million euros over the next five years. "High-quality China research requires a solid financial basis," says Bettina Bubnys, MERICS Chief Financial Officer since the institute’s foundation. "That's why we are delighted about the renewed support from Stiftung Mercator. MERICS will in future also focus on a more European approach to funding."
MERICS is Europe’s largest research institute dedicated to studying contemporary China and its relations with Europe and other parts of the world. As an independent think tank, MERICS publishes its research findings, informs decision makers from politics, business and civil society, and provides information to the media. MERICS was founded by the Mercator Foundation and is funded by it.
Stiftung Mercator is a private, independent non-profit foundation, whose work is driven by academic insights and practical project experience. Since its founding in 1996, it has been advocating for a society based on social solidarity and broad participation. To this end, it funds and develops projects that improve opportunities for the participation in and cohesion of societies, many of which are increasingly diverse. Stiftung Mercator is committed to an open-minded, democratic Europe, a digital transformation of state and society founded on fundamental rights, and socially equitable climate policies. Stiftung Mercator is active in Germany and other parts of Europe and the world. It has a special connection to Germany’s Ruhr region, home to its founding family and its headquarters.
Claudia Wessling, Director Communications and Publications MERICS
+49 30 3440 999 13
Christine Krüger, Communications Manager MERICS
+49 30 3440 999 10
Lothar Kuhn, Director Communication Stiftung Mercator
+49 201 24522 36