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Research Internship at the Department of the International Relations and Organisation at the University of Groningen for Dr. Frank Gaenssmantel


Academic year: 2023

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1 University of Groningen, Groningen

Faculty of Arts

International Relations and International Organisation (MA Geopolitics & Connectivity)

Research Internship at the Department of the

International Relations and Organisation at the University of Groningen for Dr. Frank Gaenssmantel

Name: Yang Xiao Tong Student number: 4756177 E-mail: x.t.yang@student.rug.nl

Word Count: 4,315 Submission Date: 18/12/2022



Table of Contents

Introduction ... 3

Searching for an internship ... 4

Preparation for the internship ... 5

Week 1 (12/09/2022 – 18/09/2022) ... 6

Week 2 (19/09/2022 – 25/09/2022) ... 7

Week 3 (26/09/2022 – 02/10/2022) ... 8

Week 4 (03/10/2022 – 09/10/2022) ... 9

Week 5 (10/10/2022 – 16/10/2022) ... 10

Week 6 (17/10/2022 – 23/10/2022) ... 11

Week 7 (24/10/2022 – 30/10/2022) ... 12

Week 8 (31/10/2022 – 06/11/2022) ... 13

Week 9 (07/11/2022 – 13/11/2022) ... 14

Week 10 (14/11/2022 – 20/11/2022) ... 15

Week 11 (21/11/2022 – 27/11/2022) ... 16

Week 12 (28/11/2022 – 04/12/2022) ... 17

Week 13 (05/12/2022 – 11/12/2022) ... 18

Week 14 (12/12/2022 – 18/12/2022) ... 20

Conclusion ... 21




During my last semester studying geopolitics and connectivity at the University of Groningen, I had the choice of choosing between attending placement seminars or finding an internship related to the subject which I am studying. Of course, I chose the latter because I firmly believed that an internship would lend me some practical experience and possibly help me develop some connections which would aid me in my professional career later on the path, because I knew from the very moment I have decided to apply for this programme that it would be quite difficult to land a job that is related to the international relations discipline and it would be easier if I got a head start. Therefore, despite the difficulty of having to complete my dissertation alongside with the internship. I nonetheless devoted myself to finding an internship opportunity.



Searching for an internship

Since I am not a citizen of the European Union, it would have been extremely

complicated for me to relocate from the Netherlands to some other European countries due to Visa issues. The same is applicable if I was to move to the United States or some other Western countries where many of the non-government organisations and intergovernmental institutions are located. Aside from these options, I would have also liked to find an

internship opportunity in an Arab country due to me having spent my childhood there, my familiarity with the culture, my proficiency in the language and my interest in pursuing a career which revolves around the Middle East in the future. However, after searching on the internet for a week and even as far as asking my friends and former teachers, aside from the lack of opportunities, the same issue faced me – as a Chinese citizen, I could not just relocate to an Arab country which hosts an institution that is willing to offer me an internship

opportunity due to visa complications unless it was paid of course, which given my lack of experience would have proved to be unlikely. Having eliminated these options, my only remaining options are either to stay in the Netherlands or to move back to China. Let us first discuss why I did not take the latter option, the reason was that due the strict pandemic policies in place in China at the time, it would have been an arduous journey to move back in China, which would have meant spending 14 days either in a hotel or a quarantine facility and another 3 days at home. Furthermore, as a result of the government enforcing a quota on the number of available flights in and from China, the tickets were extremely expensive.

Consequently, the only option I had left was to stay in the Netherlands, but even then, I had the choice of either staying in Groningen or to move to some other Dutch cities.

However, considering the ongoing housing crisis, I quickly scrapped the idea of moving to another Dutch city since finding a temporary accommodation for 1 or 2 months would have been too difficult and I certainly was not about to spent that time in a hostel. After combing through the available internship opportunities in Groningen and discussing with my

internship supervisor M. P. Permana about my options. I finally settled on two options, which were to either work for Dr. Frank Gaenssmantel on a project that required a native Chinese speaker or to find an internship opportunity at the local Confucius Institute. I would like first discuss why I did not select the Confucius Institute; having spent most of my life abroad and only returning to China sparingly, I do not believe that I am qualified to teach Mandarin Chinese to others or act as the authoritative figure when introducing others to Chinese cultures. Therefore, I had no choice but to select the internship opportunity at the university.

However, this does not imply in any shape or form that working with Dr. Frank is my last resort.

I have managed to discover this internship opportunity thanks to the recommendation of my internship supervisor, hearing about it from the previous Chinese student whom had worked on the project and me being personally acquainted with Dr. Frank whom had taught me previously while I was still attending my pre-master’s.



Preparation for the internship

Preparing for the internship was not difficult for me since I had already been living in Groningen for a year prior to the commencement of my internship, I had the benefit of being familiar with my surroundings, have established my own circle of friends, is financially stable and most importantly, already have an accommodation. Furthermore, since I will be technically working for the university which I am currently attending, I am already familiar with the university, whether it be the location of the various campuses, departments or facilities. Moreover, approaching the university to fill out the various application forms and other required bureaucratic procedures before I can begin my internship was extremely streamlined and hassle free since it was not the first time the university had offered this internship opportunity to students such as myself.

However, what was difficult for me was becoming familiar with the programme Atlas.ti which I will be using throughout my internship. The reason why this had been particularly difficult for me because with my bachelor’s degree being history and philosophy and despite my master’s degree being international relations, I was not trained in the field of quantitative analysis and was completely out of my comfort zone when it comes to coding.

After carefully reading through the instruction manual for Atlas.ti that I have found on the internet and watching a couple of educational videos on YouTube, I had the initial impression that the internship itself would be particularly difficult. This was exacerbated by the summary of what my responsibility would be Dr. Frank had sent me which requires me to possess the ability to manage large and complex databases, and to develop summary analysis based on this information which includes tables and charts – all of which requires me to have a certain amount of arithmetic ability. Now this does not mean that I lack this ability in its entirety, it is just that I am extremely rusty.

But once I actually began the internship, I have found that it is not as difficult as I had expected.



Week 1 (12/09/2022 – 18/09/2022)

To begin with, I once again had a meeting with Dr. Frank. Although I have already had a preliminary meeting with Dr. Frank before going through meticulously of what the internship would entail, it was before the summer holidays. During the meeting, Dr. Frank not only reminded what my duty will be but also shared with me the Atlas.ti document that he and my predecessor had been working on as well as a zip file of speeches from senior

Chinese politicians pertaining to the EU collected by my predecessor which have yet to be applied with the relevant code. Aside from the Atlas.ti, Dr. Frank also shared with me a list of all the codes which I will be selecting from to apply to the speeches from senior Chinese politicians pertaining to the EU. The codes constitute of 2 categories; group A and group B.

Group A, which is the discourse about the counterpart in various fields and group B, which is about the positive versus negative characterisation of counterpart. However, these groups are then divided further. Starting with group A, it is divided into 1. Economic other – specific depictions, 2. Alternative theme (A) – environment, climate change and 3. Alternative theme (B) – Belt and Road Initiative. Group B is divided into 4. general discourse on the counterpart as an “economic other” and 5. general discourse on counterpart as an “other” that is beyond the scope of the economic sphere.

Following this, these codes are then divided even further. With 1 being divided into 1a.1 Trade – protectionist, discrimination against imported goods and services, 1a.2 Trade – unfair trader, problematic behaviour and effects in the destination market, 1a.3 Trade – unfair export restrictions, 1b.1 Investment – protectionist, discrimination against incoming

investment, 1b.2 Investment – unfair investor, problematic behaviour and effects in the destination market, 1c.1 Technical – different partner, but complementary, mutually beneficial, 1d.1 Infrastructure (outside of the Belt and Road Initiative) – partner in

infrastructure projects and 1e.1 Economic profile – insufficiently liberal and market-oriented, excessive government intervention.

2 is divided into 2a.1 Core environmental partner – high ambitions, important impact, whether it be domestic or abroad, 2a.2 Core environmental partner – need support, “we can help you”, 2a.3 Core environmental partner – environmental leader, global context and 2b.1 Insufficient – insufficient performance, more efforts needed.

3 is divided into 3a.1 Cooperation partner – for pragmatic cooperation on infrastructure and connectivity; pursuing mutual benefit, 3a.2 Cooperation partner – for broader innovation in governance and international affairs, 3b.1 “Politiciser” – disguising political purposes in technical “cloths” and 3b.2 “Politiciser” politicising what is (or could be) purely technical.

Finally, group B, whether it be 4 or 5, is divided into a. Negative (-2) implicit and cautious; indirect, veiled criticism of the counterpart, b. Negative (-1) explicit and clear;

direct criticism of the counterpart, c. Positive (1) implicit and cautious; positive tone

regarding the counterpart and d. Positive (2) explicit and clear; direct positive evaluation and praise of the counterpart.

Despite all of this seeming daunting at first, as I eventually found out for myself, the project is not all that difficult once you get the hang of the programme.



Week 2 (19/09/2022 – 25/09/2022)

After educating myself on the use of the programme Atlas.ti and familiarising with the current state of the project as my predecessor has left it, I began to work. Firstly, I went through all of the codes that are applied to the documents collected and ensured that they are correct and consistent. However, I immediately began to notice some problems. For example, my predecessor had left behind some outdated codes in the project because I could not match some of the codes he had used with any of the codes in the Word document listing all the codes I was provided with. In order to confirm that this is the case, I contacted Dr. Frank to arrange an appointment to discuss this and to nobody’s surprise, after showing him the inconsistencies, this was indeed the case. Aside from this particular issue, I have found the work of my predecessor to be up to par in terms of quality and I could move on to contribute more codes and documents to the project myself.



Week 3 (26/09/2022 – 02/10/2022)

Following the resolution of the issue encountered last week, I began to work on adding more codes and documents to the project myself. Initially, this did not require me to have to search for more speeches from senior Chinese politicians myself because as I have said previously. Dr. Frank had given me a zip file containing speeches from senior Chinese politicians collected by my predecessors. Therefore, all I had to do was to read through the documents and apply the relevant codes whenever I deem it to be fit. It was during this process that I have come to realise that at least in the early stages, using the programme did not entail so much quantitative analysis or mathematics.



Week 4 (03/10/2022 – 09/10/2022)

This week was essentially a repeat of the previous week, with the only difference being that I was informed by Dr. Frank that I should extend the quotation from the initial word of the paragraph – which is something my predecessor has done, to the entire sentence or paragraph so that when out of context, the sentence or paragraph could still be understood and verify if the applied code matches with it.



Week 5 (10/10/2022 – 16/10/2022)

This week, I have completed applying codes to the documents my predecessors has collected and have sent it off to Dr. Frank for verification. There were 4 problems which Dr. Frank has identified and I have proceeded to accept most of Dr. Frank’s suggestions after rereading through the problematic quotes. These problems were the following; firstly, the quote, “我 们要创新金融合作模式。我愿向大家宣布,去年我在苏州领导人会晤时提议的 16+1 金 融控股公司已正式成立。金融公司由中国工商银行牵头组建,通过商业化运作从全球 市场募集资金,遵守欧盟成员国主权债务规定,重点支持 16+1 框架下采购中国装备和 产品的互联互通和产能合作项目”I have decided to highlight in green because I was uncertain as to exactly which code I should apply to this quote. The quote, which was uttered by the Chinese Premiere Li Ke Qiang, roughly translates into; we want an innovative mode of financial cooperation. I am willing to announce to everyone, last year while I was meeting senior EU politicians in Suzhou, I mentioned creating a 16 + 1 financial company and guess what? It is already here. The company will be created with the help of the Chinese

commercial and industrial bank and will use commercial operations to raise funds across the world while obeying EU regulations. This initiative will prioritise the purchase of Chinese equipment and products under the 16 + 1 framework. After reading through Dr. Frank’s comments, whom argues that despite Li mentioning the 16 + 1 framework which is about Central and Eastern Europe, the quote is not about the representation of the EU per say but rather, it is about the creation of a financial company proposed by Li earlier, thus, there is no need to apply any codes here, I decided that I concur with his suggestion here.

Secondly, Dr. Frank suggested that I ought to once again examine the following

quote, “中方坚定支持欧洲一体化进程,也尊重欧洲国家自主选择发展道路”which

roughly translates into; China resolutely supports the centralisation of the EU and also respects EU country’s decision to find their developmental path. According to Dr. Frank, the first part of the sentence is to a large extent neutral, furthermore, it is more about China’s own opinion than its representation of the EU. Even if the quote is positive, it should be indirect and subjected to just positive the word support and respect are. However, with this quote, I thought that it should not be neutral, although my previous code of explicitly positive is indeed a bit too much, therefore, I have decided to settle with the code implicitly positive.

The other 2 problems were exactly the same as the first, albeit with different quotes.

Other than these suggestions, I also discussed with Dr. Frank whether to add a new code pertaining to finance based on the fact the fact that it has occurred 2 times and I believe it to be quite important. In the end, we have reached an agreement that if it were to show up at least 3 more times, then it will qualify for the inclusion of a new code. Lastly, during our meeting, I was also told by Dr. Frank to translate the title of the documents in the projects from Chinese into English and following the format where the title includes the name of the politician who has said the speech comes first, followed by the date and the actual title of the document.



Week 6 (17/10/2022 – 23/10/2022)

Having completed applying codes to the zip file containing speech from senior Chinese politicians my predecessor has collected. My task beginning this week is to search for more speech from senior Chinese politicians ranging from the year 2013 to 2022.

However, I have ran into a road block and I cannot seem to find any documents in substantial quantity. During my weekly meeting with my supervisor Dr. Frank, we discussed that if I continue to have this problem, I could go to the library at the University of Leiden which has a well-stocked Chinese study department and try to find some sources there, with the cost of travel, accommodation and etc. covered by the University of Groningen.



Week 7 (24/10/2022 – 30/10/2022)

After scouring through the internet for a couple of more days, I have devised an innovative method and I have managed to find an ample amount of sources from the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pertaining to the EU on the various official websites of the

Chinese embassies. I then proceeded to inform Dr. Frank of my discovery and began translating the titles of the documents after compiling them and also applying codes to the sources.



Week 8 (31/10/2022 – 06/11/2022)

This week I continued to apply codes to the documents I have collected and have experienced no significant problems. It was not particularly difficult, just tedious. Although it should be noted that translating the title from Chinese into English was somewhat annoying due to the weird transliteration of the names of foreign politicians which meant that I was sometimes unable to find the Latin equivalent, this was exacerbated by the complex grammar associated with the diplomatic language. Other than that, there is nothing worth mentioning.



Week 9 (07/11/2022 – 13/11/2022)

This week was largely the same as the previous week, since the sources I have found was about 100 in total, which means that there is plenty of documents for me to apply codes to and I will not have to go to the Hague for more sources.



Week 10 (14/11/2022 – 20/11/2022)

I have finally finished translating the titles of the documents this week and have organised them accordingly. The application of codes is going ahead smoothly as planned.



Week 11 (21/11/2022 – 27/11/2022)

Having finished applying codes to the documents I have found myself, I submitted it to Dr. Frank and informed him that due to me needing to submit my dissertation soon and me already having asked for an extension from my dissertation supervisor, I will have no choice but to spend less time on the internship, but I will be able to compensate this after I have completed my dissertation.



Week 12 (28/11/2022 – 04/12/2022)

Since I devoted most of my time this week to completing my dissertation, I only progressed very little regarding my internship project. I once again went through my own documents and the codes I have applied in order to make sure that I have been consistent and that they are correct.



Week 13 (05/12/2022 – 11/12/2022)

Having finally finished my dissertation, I am thus able to devote more time to the internship this week. Furthermore, Dr. Frank also gave me feedback this week so I will have ample work ahead of me. I will proceed to explain in detail what they are beginning with the 2 problems Dr. Frank have identified, which are that I have yet to completely eliminate two old codes, namely economic other – specific depiction: bilateral technical cooperation and alternative theme (A) – environment, climate change: bilateral environmental cooperation (green cooperation). I have raised the issue that my predecessor has left some old codes in the project, however I did not manage to remove all of them because I did not know at the time that I could simply go to the code section and find the documents with these codes, instead what I did was scour through the documents one by one which obviously meant that I had missed some out by accident.

Another issue I had to resolve or in this case justify why the code negative (-1) implicit and cautious; indirect, veiled criticism of the counterpart can coexist with 1c.1 – technical – different partner, but complementary, mutually beneficial. In most cases, I believe that my selection of codes was correct and I will give 2 examples in order to demonstrate this.

The first quote by Wang Yi is; “管中欧历史文化、社会制度、发展阶段不同,但共同利 益远大于分歧。我们发展中欧关系的诚意始终不渝,维护自身主权、安全、发展利益 的立场坚定不移。希望欧方也能继续坚持战略自主,排除干扰因素,与中方一道,共 同推动中欧合作行稳致远”, which roughly translates into; even though China and Europe have different history, culture, social structures, developmental stages, but common interests are larger than differences. Our sincere wish to develop China-EU relations has not changed and our stance on maintaining our sovereignty, safety and common interests has not changed either. At the same time, we wish that the EU will continue to have its own independent strategy, and eliminate outside interference, and work with us to promote a stable China-EU cooperation”. My justification for why I believe that those 2 codes should coexist is that given the context of the speech, Wang, by mentioning that China hopes that the EU continues to remain strategically independent is a form of veiled criticism because at the time, some EU member states were aligning themselves with the US on some issues, for example, the source of Covid-19, criticising China’s early pandemic containment measures and China’s policies in Xinjiang.

The other issue is with the quote; “双方还就中欧关系交换了意见。王毅说,中欧 之间没有根本利害冲突,没有地缘政治矛盾,双方都支持世界多极化和国际关系民主 化,支持弘扬多边主义,支持联合国发挥核心作用,支持政治解决地区争端。中欧是 伙伴,而不是对手,双方合作远大于分歧。双方应本着相互尊重精神,通过平等对话

重振中欧关系,希望希腊为中欧关系的稳定发展继续发挥建设性作用”, which roughly

translates into; both sides exchanged their opinions regarding China-EU relations. Wang Yi says that there is no innate conflict of interests between China and the EU, no geopolitical rivalries, both sides support the development of multipolarity in the world and the

propagation of democracy in international affairs and supports the UN, supports the use of politics to resolve regional conflicts. China and the EU are friends not competitors, for both sides, there is more to gain in cooperation than division. Both sides should respect each other, using dialogue to once again rehabilitate China-EU relations, we hope that Greece will be a constructive asset in the pursuit of this objective”. My justification for why I believe those 2 codes should coexist in this case is that because I know for certain that in Chinese diplomatic


19 language, both sides exchanged opinions (双方交换了意间) has a negative connotation meaning that both sides did not reach an agreement on anything. However, being consistent with China’s usual foreign policy rhetoric, Wang is not explicitly critical of the EU and instead emphasised that the China-EU relations is mutually beneficial and that there exist much more similarities than differences. Therefore, implicit criticism would be more fitting in this case.



Week 14 (12/12/2022 – 18/12/2022)

This week, which is also the final week of my internship, is largely a repeat of the previous week, with me addressing problems mentioned by Dr. Frank in his feedback. In response to his feedback, I proposed that we ought to clarify 3a.1 – cooperation partner – for pragmatic cooperation on infrastructure and connectivity; pursuing mutual benefit and 3a.2 – cooperation partner – for broader innovation in governance and international affairs, because right now they are too similar and I occasionally got confused about when to apply which code. Furthermore, I agreed with Dr. Frank after going through the project once again that a new code pertaining to the politicisation of economic relations ought to be introduced. Lastly, we compiled the data into graphs and table via Microsoft Excel in order to decipher whether there is a paradigm within the EU-China relations.




In conclusion, although I did not elect to study the East Asian track, nonetheless, there is no denying that this internship opportunity is intrinsically linked with the title of my

degree, which is geopolitics and connectivity, due to its emphasis on China-EU relations.

Furthermore, this internship complemented my study because it offered me a valuable opportunity to learn the ropes of quantitative analysis – something I was not taught in depth during my study, but something that is an essential component of the discipline. However, that aside, I also realised that pursuing further in academia is something I would not like to do in the future as research can get a bit too tedious and repetitive. Lastly, I would like to advise future students who are potentially considering working with Dr. Frank to communicate with him whenever they encounter a problem, be it something with the project or difficulties not pertaining to the project. Nevertheless, I believe that this internship was a good experience for me.



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