Ex-Philips executive denounces Eindhoven breakup with Nanjing

Former Philips executive not happy about breaking ties with Nanjing
Frans Greidanus Photo credit: Studio040 (Frans Greidanius)

It has been almost four weeks now, but the broken friendship between Eindhoven and Nanjing is still occupying minds. Professor and former Philips executive Frans Greidanus has his reservations about that decision. “This decision also brings old pain to the surface,” he said.

In late November, the Eindhoven City Council decided to break the friendship bond with Nanjing in China. The reason for that decision is the human rights situation in China, where Uighurs are oppressed.

Greidanus himself lived in the country for 7.5 years as a top executive for Philips. He has been a professor at China’s Zhejiang University since 2014, in addition to being an advisor to the board of the University of Tilburg, a position he also held for TU/e until 2015.

“This confirms the idea in China that the West considers itself superior”
Frans Greidanus

The historical ties play an important role for China, the former Philips leader reveals. “Because it was the first bond of friendship with a Dutch city, it also has the symbolism of a bottom stone knocked out from under a structure. There is also the broad historical context that China has long felt very humiliated by the West. The West has long dealt with China from a kind of sense of superiority; that old hurt has never quite gone away. Therefore, this decision also brings out old pain. Moreover: just turn it around, if the message had come from Nanjing: we are severing this bond of friendship. We wouldn’t understand that either.”

Leading role
In addition, the decision – which was also previously emphasized by Mayor Dijsselbloem – may have implications for the economic interests of the Brainport region.
A renowned high-tech company from the region let Studio040 know it was not happy with the decision, and Brainport also advised to leave the twinning intact.

“The Chinese government has much more of a leading role in business than we are used to here. In China, the government can say: listen business park X, you make sure that company Y from Brabant gets a nice lot. So severing the link does not help companies from the Eindhoven region to do business with Chinese partners, it does not help the TU/e to establish partnerships with Chinese universities,” Greidanus said.

“Dutch companies feel embarrassed”
Frans Greidanus

“I recently spoke to the director of the Benelux Chamber of Commerce. He too let it be known that Dutch companies in China are not happy about it. You could say they feel quite put out of their depth. Fortunately, North Brabant province has not broken its friendship ties with Jiangsu (the province in which Nanjing is also located, ed.).”

The broken bond between Eindhoven and Nanjing is a fact. Political groups in the city council spoke of genocide in China when making the political decision. According to Greidanus, one must be careful when using that word, and the term is less common internationally.

“The Dutch parliament also passed a motion accusing China of genocide. But the United Nations issued a report a few months ago on Xinjiang, where many Uighurs live. That was also very critical of the situation there. However, the word genocide did not appear in it. I think when you use that term you have to be very sure of your case. After all, you are accusing someone, even an entire country, of systematically exterminating a population group,” Greidanus said.

Greidanus: “Moreover, that you break a bond of friendship on the basis of such an accusation is very sour when you realize that Nanjing itself was a victim of the most heinous violation of human rights, namely at the Nanjing Massacre, where 300,000 people were murdered by the Japanese occupiers.”

“A lot has been said and written about the situation in Xinjiang, and many studies have been done on it. It is a very complicated situation that is difficult to judge from here. Therefore, I don’t know if you should use such a loaded term, in this way. That way the term could become subject to inflation. That seems to me a dangerous precedent,” Greidanus said.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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