Enhancing small state preparedness: Risks of foreign ownership, supply disruptions and technological dependencies

invitation only · SEMINAR · 14.09.2023 10:00 - 16:00

invitation only


The post-Cold War liberalist view, according to which interdependences supported a virtuous cycle of mutual gains, has given way to a realist-tinged view that regards economic interdependence as a cause of insecurity and an element in conflicts. In this new environment of increasing great power competition and technological decoupling, all states are not created equal. Major states such as the United States and China can be system shapers, whereas small states tend to be system takers. Major states have a greater ability to use their investment leverage, supply chain dominance and core technology control to exert leverage. For smaller states with open economies, such as Finland and Sweden, these capabilities of major powers create vulnerabilities in the form of security risks of foreign ownership, supply disruptions and critical technological dependencies. The seminar ponders how small states can mitigate such risks.

The seminar reports on research findings of the Academy of Finland -funded ForAc research project (https://sites.utu.fi/forac/en/), based in the University of Turku. It is also the launch event for the final report of the project, available as FIIA Report 74. For the report, a series of innovative Delphi backcasting exercises in Finland and Sweden brought together 113 sectoral experts and generalists to ponder ways to prevent dystopian scenarios from unfolding. The exercises produced a variety of effective means and measures that a small state could alternatively adopt.


9:30-10:00     Coffee

Introduction of the ForAc project:
Mikael Mattlin, Research Professor, FIIA

Perceptions of risks: Shifting European views of China:
Shaun Breslin, Professor, Warwick University

Research findings from Delphi backcasting exercise:
Elina Sinkkonen, Senior Research Fellow, FIIA
Liisa Kauppila, Senior Researcher, University of Turku

Sirkka Heinonen, Professor Emerita of Futures Studies, University of Turku

12:00-13:00    Lunch               

Finland’s and Sweden’s different approaches to investment screening:
Oscar Almén, Senior Researcher, Head of the Asia Program, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI)
Liisa Kauppila, Senior Researcher, University of Turku

Lasse Puroma, Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

Challenges in China’s domestic innovation ecosystem:
Outi Luova, Director, Asianet, University of Turku
Junhua Zhu, PhD candidate, University of Turku

14:30-15:00    Coffee break

Panel discussion and Q&A:
How can small states enhance their preparedness for uncertain futures?

Shaun Breslin, Professor, Warwick University

Panel discussion:
Sirkka Heinonen, Professor Emerita of Futures Studies, University of Turku
Sinikukka Saari, Research Director, FIIA
Christian Fjäder, Managing Director, Geostrategic Intelligence Group
Elina Sinkkonen, Senior Research Fellow, FIIA


Mikael Mattlin

Research Professor, FIIA

Mikael Mattlin is a Research Professor at FIIA. He is the head of FIIA’s Center on Global Orders and China (CORD). Earlier he has been Professor of Chinese Studies (University of Helsinki) and Professor of Political Science at the University of Turku, where he leads the Academy of Finland funded ForAc-research project and holds the title of Docent. Mattlin has published extensively in leading academic journals, e.g., in The China Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary China, Information, Communication & Society, Co¬operation and Conflict and The Pacific Review. In 2022, he published the first comprehensive Finnish-language research-based book on the Chinese political system (Vastapaino), together with two other leading Finnish China experts.

Shaun Breslin

Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick

Shaun Breslin is Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick in the UK, and co-editor of The Pacific Review. His research focuses on the political economy and international relations of contemporary China with a side interest in comparative approaches to studying regions. His latest book, China Risen: Studying China’s Global Power, was published by Bristol University Press in 2021.

Elina Sinkkonen

Senior Research Fellow, FIIA

Elina Sinkkonen is Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. She holds the Title of Docent in East Asian Studies, specifically in East Asian Politics at the University of Turku. In addition to the ForAc-project, her recent research has examined authoritarian resilience, autocratization and China-Russia relations. Sinkkonen’s work has been published in Political Psychology, Democratization, The China Quarterly, The Pacific Review, European Review of Inter-national Studies and European Foreign Affairs Review, among others.

Liisa Kauppila

Senior Researcher, University of Turku

Liisa Kauppila is a futurist and a Senior Researcher at the University of Turku. Her research has focused on spatial aspects of China's global economic outreach, Chinese FDI in Finland and Sweden, Arctic politics and the futures research approach of backcasting. She has published peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and policy-oriented reports and facilitated three major Delphi studies at the intersection of social science and art.

Sirkka Heinonen

Professor Emerita of Futures Studies, University of Turku

Sirkka Heinonen has been with Finland Futures Research Centre (FFRC), University of Turku as professor of Futures Studies since 2007, now as Professor Emerita. Previously she was Chief Research Scientist at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland since 1979. She holds a PhD degree from Helsinki University, with 40 years of research and teaching experience in futures studies, especially technology foresight and innovations, urban and rural futures, sustainable information society, media and journalism, and renewable energy and lifestyles. She has led and/or been a main researcher in more than 30 research projects.

Currently, she leads FFRC research in two three-year multidisciplinary research projects, funded by the Academy of Finland: RESCUE (Real Estate in Sustainable Urban Environment), and T-Winning Spaces (Winning Spatial Solution for Future of Work, enabling the double twin transitions of green/digital, and physical/virtual transforming our societies by 2035). She is a Member of the Club of Rome (2005–), Co-Chair of the Helsinki Node of the Millennium Project (2001–), Guest Professor at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC 2013–), Member of the Academy of Technical Sciences (2014–), and President (2012–2015), Vice-President (2016–) and Honorary Member (2020–) of the Finnish Society for Futures Studies. She is also a member of the board of editors for six scientific journals. She is member of the Chilean Council of Foresight and Strategy, and in the Philippine Futures Thinking Society.

Oscar Almén

Senior Researcher, Head of the Asia program, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI)

Oscar Almén is Senior Researcher and Head of the Asia program at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI). He has a background as associate professor of political science at Uppsala University. Almén has researched Chinese politics for over 20 years and has authored a number of peer-review articles on Chinese politics. Since moving to FOI in 2019, his research focuses on Chinese politics and security policy in China and East Asia. He is the author of several research reports covering different aspects of foreign investments in Sweden including surveys of Chinese and Russian investments, Chinese economic influence in the Nordic region, and security risks related to Chinese and Russian investments.

Lasse Puroma

Senior Specialist, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment

Lasse Puroma is a Senior Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland. He leads the national foreign investment screening application process and is the vice chair of the national FDI screening network. Puroma has also worked with EU single market policy questions as a senior specialist at the Ministry. Previously Puroma worked as a commercial secretary at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with questions related to trade policy, trade in services, FDI and establishment of foreign companies. Puroma holds a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Global Economic Governance from the University of Helsinki.

Outi Luova

University Lecturer, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Turku

Outi Luova works as a University Lecturer at the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Turku and acts as the Vice-director of the Center. Luova is also the Director of the Finnish University Network for Asian Studies. She is a specialist in Chinese society and politics, and her current research project analyses China’s innovation strategies and challenges in their implementation at local level. In the large EU-funded project “ReConnect China” Luova is the PI of the University of Turku team. She is also a Country Representative in the EU COST action “China in Europe Research Network”.

Junhua Zhu

Doctoral Researcher, Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Turku

Junhua Zhu is a Doctoral Researcher focusing on the ethics and governance of AI in China. Funded by Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, he works full-time at Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Turku. He has received training from and presented his research as a Young Summer Scientist at The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) (sponsored by Academy of Finland) and is a Recognised Student at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Zhu has also worked as a Member Researcher in the Academy of Finland funded project ForAc and the Horizon Europe funded project ReConnect China. Some of his research results have been published or under review by peer-reviewed academic journals such as AI & Society and Information, Communication and Society. Previously, he graduated from Lund University with a Master of Science degree in Asian Studies.

Sinikukka Saari

Research Director, FIIA

Sinikukka Saari is Research Director at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. She works at FIIA’s Finnish Foreign Policy, Northern European Security and NATO programme and leads the cross-cutting theme Great Power Politics and Foresight at FIIA. Dr. Saari’s fields of expertise include Russia’s foreign and security policy, Finland’s foreign and security policy as well as foresight in IR and Foreign Policy studies. She’s particularly interested in Russia’s relations with its neighbouring states and EU–Russia relations.

Prior to her current position, Dr. Saari worked as a Senior Researcher at FIIA, as an Analyst for the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Tbilisi, as a Senior Associate at EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) in Paris and as a Special Advisor for the Policy Planning and Research Unit at the Foreign Ministry of Finland. She has also served as a visiting scholar at the Moscow Carnegie Center and at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) in Stockholm. Sinikukka Saari received her PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Social Sciences in 2007.

Christian Fjäder

CEO, Geostrategic Intelligence Group (Geostrat) Ltd.

Christian Fjäder is the CEO of Geostrategic Intelligence Group (Geostrat) Ltd, a boutique geostrategic risk and resilience research and advisory firm. Prior to Geostrat Fjäder was a Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, and before that the Director for Policy Planning and Analysis at the National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA) in Finland. His previous roles include regional (Asia Pacific) and global risk and resilience leadership roles in a multinational company. Fjäder has a PhD in International Relations from the University of Sydney, MBA from Bond University, Master of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of International Studies from Flinders University, Australia. Fjäder is currently an Expert Associate at the National Security College (NSC), The Australian National University (ANU).