A Chinese expert also argues that some internal EU problems (like Brexit) make the Union vulnerable to China, and that the EU uses criticism of the CEE-China cooperation as a bargaining chip, for example, to pressure the PRC to open the Chinese market. Apart from the EU and its institutions, Wang refers to concerns presented by some Western (or developed) member states such as Germany. The development of the port of Hamburg has been impacted (我国的投资影响了汉堡港的发展) by the well-functioning port of Piraeus controlled by a Chinese company in Greece. Transport of goods from China to Piraeus is 9 days quicker than to Hamburg. Moreover, CEE used to be an area of German influence, and the Chinese presence undermines the German impact on the region.
What China Needs to Do?
Experts are trying to provide Chinese decision makers with recommendations. Those arguments are not innovative and might be divided into two groups. The first one is merely rhetorical. As Wang suggests, China should confirm that it supports European integration and has no intention to split and weaken the EU. Cooperation with the CEE countries is an important part of EU-China relations. When it comes to the trade deficit, Liu argues that China should highlight that it is a structural problem which the PRC government has only little impact on. The deficit is not harmful for CEE, and the emphasis should be put not only on trade in goods but also in services.
The second group of arguments embraces slightly more specific recommendations. Liu argues that the 17+1 format should be better positioned (明晰的定位) and play a stabilization role for EU-China ties. To do so, there is a need to focus on specialized areas (专业性领域) such as the financial sector, cooperation with third parties (第三方) such as Germany, France, Italy and Turkey; to strengthen cooperation between SMEs from the both sides. Liu also highlights the need to create favorable views on China within CEE public opinion, and better management of the various platforms and mechanisms under 17+1. Cooperation between China and Germany in terms of investment in CEE is also encouraged, so that Chinese companies may learn from German enterprises which are more experienced in investing in Central Europe.
1The format (16+1) was established in 2012. Till 2019 it included China and 16 European states. Since 2019, after Greece accession, the name has been changed into 17+1. It consists of China and the following seventeen European states: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
2Zang Shumei, "China-Central and Eastern Europe Regional Cooperation under ‘the Belt and Road Initiative’ – Analyses of Multilevel Cooperation Mechanisms (‘一带一路’背景下中国与 中东欧地方合作一种多层级合作机制探析)", Social Sciences 社会科学, No.1, 2020
3Ji Wengang, "17+1 Cooperation: a Full Demonstration of Pragmatism (17+ 1合作：充分彰显务实性)", China Social Science Network 中国社会科学网, 4 September 2019
4Cheng Jianbing, "Promotion of China-Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation to a New Level based on Development of High Quality Trade (以贸易高质量发展助推中国—中东欧合作迈上新台阶)", China Business Herald 中国经贸导刊, Mid-February 2020
5Liu Zuokui, "Greece energizes ‘China-Central and Eastern European Countries Cooperation’ (希腊赋能’中国—中东欧国家合作’)", China Social Science Network中国社会科学网, 5 September 2019; Liu Zuokui, "‘China-Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation’ under the Great Change [of Global Order] 大变局下的 ‘中国-中东欧国家合作’", [China] International Studies 国际问题研究, no. 2, 2020
6Cheng Jianbing, "Promotion of China-Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation to a New Level based on Development of High Quality Trade (以贸易高质量发展助推中国—中东欧合作迈上新台阶)", China Business Herald 中国经贸导刊, Mid-February 2020
7Wang Yichen, "Analyses of EU’s Attitude towards China-Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation and Chinese Response (欧盟对中国-中东欧合作的态度、 原因分析及我国的应对措施)", Development Research 发展研究, No. 7, 2018
8Long Jing, "Recent Developments in Poland’s Special Economic Zones and Prospects for Chinese Investment in Poland (波兰特别经济区的最新发展及中国对波投资的展望)", Eurasian Economy 欧亚经济, No. 5 2019.