As China reaches out to Central and Eastern Europe, trust is the decisive factor
As China reaches out to Central and Eastern Europe, trust is the decisive factor The Chinese government issued its third policy paper on the EU in mid December that highlights the country's ambitions. The paper proposes cooperation in trade, investment, finance, research and innovation, emerging industries, and sustainable development. Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries was mentioned for the first time in the policy paper. "Based on common interests and needs, China and the Central and East European countries have conducted win-win, open and transparent cross-regional cooperation. The support and constructive participation by the EU and other parties are welcomed," the paper reads. It is clear that China is pursuing relations with Europe more actively, especially with Central and Eastern European countries. But China's moves have also attracted measures from other countries. The Czech network regulator recently warned operators not to use software and hardware produced by Chinese telecom equipment suppliers Huawei and ZTE, saying they would pose a security threat. However, a few days later, the country's National Security Council denied the warning against Huawei. It is not the first time that the Czech Republic has made such an inconsistent decision. In 2004, the Czech government had approved the export of the VERA passive sensor to China. But due to Sino-US tensions, Washington forced Prague to scrap the sale. The same possibility exists today. Amid simmering trade tensions between China and the US, Central and Eastern European countries may have to decide on which side they are. China's Policy Paper on the EU is a case in point as it echoes the strategic description of the Central and Eastern European countries mentioned earlier. Both China and Europe are important players in shaping multi-polarization and globalization. The common position and interests of both sides in the global order reflect China's rising empathy in its relations with Europe. More importantly, China is also asking Europe to open its market to Chinese companies. Unsurprisingly this year, China and Central and Eastern European countries will continue to hold the annual leaders' summit in Croatia, which will be the eighth since the first summit took place in Warsaw in 2012. The highly anticipated Peljesac Bridge in Croatia, which China is helping to build, is a strategic infrastructure project. Once completed, it will connect the country's northern and southern regions. The project is seen as a gift honoring the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Croatia. In addition, China's largest investment endeavor by NORINCO, the Senj Wind Power Project, was also witnessed by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and regarded as a sign of future cooperation between China and Croatia. However, when security interests are paramount, China and Central and Eastern European countries need more trust in order to make future cooperation sustainable. In the future, the bilateral style of pragmatic cooperation founded under the complicated "16+1" mechanism, and the signing of more Memorandums of Understanding can become a reality. This is the direction that China needs to focus on in its cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries. The author is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of European Studies in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
By Hongfei Gu
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