Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries
Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEE, China-CEEC, also 16+1; during 2019-2021 – 17+1) is an initiative by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote business and investment relations between China and 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE, CEEC): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The format was founded in 2012 in Budapest to push for cooperation of the "16+1" (the 16 CEE countries and PRC). In 2019 at Dubrovnik Summit Greece joined the grouping, while in 2021 Lithuania left it. The 16+1 meet annually; summits were held in Dubrovnik (2019), Sofia (2018), Budapest (2017), Riga (2016), Suzhou (2015), Belgrade (2014), Bucharest (2013) and Warsaw (2012). The China-CEE secretariat is in Beijing, with 16 "national coordinators" in each of the partner CEE countries.
The format's goals are to promote the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and enhance cooperation in the fields of infrastructure, transportation and logistics, trade and investment". These goals are supported by "growing ties in the areas of culture, education and tourism ... cultural exchanges, think tanks and NGOs."
Withdrawal of Lithuania
In March 2021, the Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT) reported that in February, the Lithuanian parliament agreed to leave what was previously China's 17+1 format. Foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the cooperation between Beijing and Lithuania has brought "almost no benefits". At the same time, it was also reported that Lithuania would open a trade representative office in Taiwan, formally known as the Republic of China (ROC) to boost unofficial relations with Taipei.
The incident led to a diplomatic row with China and further trade disputes, including Chinese boycotts of Lithuanian components, dragging the European Union into the dispute. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda stated in January 2022 that it was a mistake in allowing Taiwan to open a representative office under the 'Taiwan' name, and that he was not consulted on the decision. Furthermore, a 2022 poll commissioned by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs found that a large majority of Lithuanian citizens are critical of current government policy towards China, leading to opposition figures calling for the repair of bilateral relations.
Infrastructure, investment and trade
This includes (as of 2017) Serbia's E763 Highway project, the Budapest–Belgrade railway and the China–Europe Land–Sea Express Route. In Croatia, a Chinese consortium led by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) was contracted for the first phase of the construction of Pelješac Bridge and its access roads. In Poland, Chinese companies acquired Huta Stalowa Wola's civil engineering machinery division and Poland's PBF bearings.
According to China Customs' statistics, China's trade volume with CEEC totaled $67.98 billion in 2017, a 15.9 percent increase compared to that of 2016. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in 2016 China-CEE trade increased to $58.7 billion (from $43.9 billion in 2010), while its investment in CEE countries has accumulated to more than $8 billion, covering industries such as machinery, chemical, telecom and new energy.
From 2012 to 2017 six new direct flight routes between China and CEEC have been opened, the number of Chinese tourists visiting CEEC increased from 280,000 to 930,000, and the number of exchange students doubled as well[provide figures]. A China-CEEC Coordination Center for Cultural Cooperation was opened in North Macedonia. In China, the China-CEEC training center for young artists and China-CEEC Cultural and Creative Industries Exchanges and Cooperation Center were opened in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
Attributed as a ‘win–win’ cooperation for China, the countries involved, and the European Union (EU), Jeremy Garlick, a British assistant professor at the Prague University of Economics and Business, accused China as pursuing an assertive strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ tactics designed to benefit China at the EU's expanse. This view has been challenged however, including by the European Commission, European Parliament, and several scholars, who view China–EU relations as mutually beneficial.
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