China’s Growing Influence in Central and Eastern Europe
On Monday, November 27, Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, and Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, opened their sixth China-Central and Eastern Europe summit in Budapest.
Every year, leaders from the respective region, gather for a summit. This year’s topic will be: development of cooperation in the trade and transport sectors.
In 2012, China created the 16+1 framework to increase collaboration and integration with Central and Eastern Europe. This initiative includes 11 Central and Eastern European EU member states and five Balkan countries. China established the program to increase economic partnerships through trade and investment projects.
After China launched its Belt Road Initiative in 2013, the objective of the 16+1 framework would be to develop infrastructure projects to connect Asia to Europe in order to physically improve China’s access to the European market. Exporting its excess commodities to Europe is one strategy the Chinese government uses to build alliances in its quest for global power.
Chinese officials estimate that the country has invested over $8 billion in Central and Eastern Europe since the start of the Belt Road Initiative, which has lucratively met China’s goal, yielding an 11 percent increase in trade between China and the 16+1 countries from 2011 to 2016.
Due to growing investment projects, Brussels is worried about Chinese influence in European markets. More importantly, several Eastern European governments are leveraging their economic ties with China to undermine Brussels’ leadership. Macedonia President, Ivanoy, stated “the EU’s neglect of the Balkans [is] forcing these EU accession candidates states to turn to China for investment.”
As political tensions also rise amongst many Eastern and Western European countries, Brussels perceives this week’s 16+1 summit as a threat to the cohesion within the EU.