Focus topics

Tania Becker – China expert with diverse interests

Tania Becker, Sinologist at the TU Berlin (Center for Cultural Studies on Science and Technology in China)

In a way, her fascination with China saved Tania Becker’s life. The Croatian came to Germany as a guest student at the end of the 1980s. A short time later, war broke out in her home country and she stayed in the German Federal Republic. At the time, Becker was still studying art history and actually had ambitions to write a doctoral thesis at the Ruhr University in Bochum. “At some point, as life would have it, I had a deep depression for three years,” she reports.

She discovered Tai-Chi, the Chinese movement theory and martial art, and researched the country more intensively. “But the words had so many meanings. I wanted to crack the mystery of the Chinese language,” Becker says. She enrolled in sinology in her mid-30s.

This was followed by a master’s degree, numerous stays in China, a completed doctorate and a subsequent position at the Ruhr University. In 2010, Tania Becker joined TU Berlin as a research assistant and is now a highly respected China expert. Her research interests range from Chinese Daoist philosophy to robotics and artificial intelligence. “At first I was more concerned with classical topics, but now I am particularly interested in the future of China,” she says. At her first seminar on robotics and AI in China, there were 110 seminar participants.

China Expert Tania Beckers launches chinnotopia

Tania Becker pursues a very universal approach and tries to learn as much as possible about China and bring it closer to her students. Together with two colleagues from Ruhr-Universität and Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, she created the online format “chinnotopia“. Once a month, experts and students discuss new technological and cultural developments interactively.

Für ihre Forschungen ist Becker bereits häufig nach China und Taiwan gereist. 2019 war sie fünfmal in der Volksrepublik und einmal in Taiwan. “Ich habe jedes Jahr versucht, ein bis zwei Monate in China zu sein”, erzählt sie. “Jedes Mal, wenn ich ein Visum beantrage, zittere ich am Schalter.” Diese Furcht habe vor allem mit ihrem Einsatz für die Uiguren, aber auch kritischen Interviews für Amnesty International zu tun.

Becker has already traveled frequently to China and Taiwan for her research. In 2019, she was in the People’s Republic five times and Taiwan once. “I’ve tried to spend one to two months in China every year,” she says. “Every time I apply for a visa, I tremble at the counter.” That fear, she says, has mostly to do with her advocacy for the Uighurs, but also critical interviews for Amnesty International.

But despite all the criticism, she is also fascinated by the Chinese striving for progress. “They always try to keep up with the best,” says Tania Becker. Most recently, she says, this became clear when they emulated Google and developed a similar quantum computer (China.Table reported) to the Internet giant. She would like to see this single-minded approach in Germany as well. The Chinese market offers excellent opportunities, especially for German start-ups. From her point of view, pure competition and isolationism would not help. Constantin Eckner


    Thomas Hoellmann – ‘Multiculturalism is at risk’
    Yu Zhang – more communication through art
    Philip Clart – a sinologist with a soft spot for religious movements
    Zhuo Dan Ting – the skin artist