CKGSB Knowledge - China Business and Economy

TILTING EAST

China’s growing ties with Central and Eastern Europe have raised concerns among some in the West. But the forces pushing the two sides together are much deeper and more complex than many realize

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban shocked officials across the European Union in late January when he told a business forum in Germany that the key to his country’s future may be in Beijing, not Brussels.

“Central Europe has serious handicaps to overcome in terms of infrastructure; there is still a lot to be done in this area,” Orban said. “If the European Union cannot provide financial support, we will turn to China.”

For many, the Hungarian leader’s ultimatum confirmed a fear that has been growing inside the European establishment over the last few years: that China is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to the EU for the investment-hungry countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Since 2012, discussion of CEE’s “turn to China” has centered on the China-Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) Summit, an annual meeting of officials and businesses from the Middle Kingdom and 16 CEE nations that is often called 16+1.

The stated mission of 16+1 is to make CEE a crucial component in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s ambitious vision for driving $1 trillion of infrastructure investment to better connect countries across Asia, Africa and Europe.

“16+1 came earlier than BRI, but it has already become supplementary to BRI, and both of them are strictly combined,” Bogdan Goralczyk, the Polish representative of the newly-founded China-CEE Institute, tells CKGSB Knowledge.

The CEE bloc is integral to

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