Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries

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Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries
Formation26 April 2012
PurposeRegional Cooperation
3 Former Members
China Deng Li

Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEE, China-CEEC, also 14+1; formerly 17+1 from 2019 to 2021 and 16+1 from 2021 to 2022) is an initiative by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote business and investment relations between China and 14 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE, CEEC): Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.[1][2][3] Prior to their 2022 withdrawal, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were members of the initiative.


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 the 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.[4]

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".[5][6] These goals are supported by "growing ties in the areas of culture, education, and tourism ... cultural exchanges, think tanks, and NGOs."[5]


Order Hosting Country City Date Theme
1  Poland Warsaw 2012.4.26
2  Romania Bucharest 2013.11.26 "Win-Win Cooperation and Common Development"
3  Serbia Belgrade 2014.12.16 "New Power, New Platform, New Engine"
4  China Suzhou 2015.11.24 "New Starting Point, New Field, New Vision"
5  Latvia Riga 2016.11.5 "Interconnection, Innovation, Integration and Mutual Aid"
6  Hungary Budapest 2017.11.27 "Deepen Economic, Trade and Financial Cooperation and Promote Mutually Beneficial and Win-Win Development"
7  Bulgaria Sofia 2018.7.7 "Deepening Open and Pragmatic Cooperation to Jointly Promote Shared Prosperity and Development"
8  Croatia Dubrovnik 2019.4.12 "Building a Bridge of Openness, Innovation and Partnership"
9  China Video conference 2021.2.9 (postponed due to COVID)



In the 2019 summit (Dubrovnik), Greece, previously an observer, became a full member of the mechanism.[7]



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".[8] 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.[8][9][10]

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.[11][12] Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda 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.[13] Furthermore, a January 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.[14] Later on, a poll that was conducted soon after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine showed that 20% of Lithuanian respondents viewed China very negatively and 44% rather negatively.[15]

According to the Centre for European Policy Studies, Lithuania has been noted as a target of Chinese influence activities along with many countries in Europe.[16]

Estonia and Latvia[edit]

On 11 August 2022, Estonia and Latvia stepped out of the format.[17][18]

Inactive members[edit]

Czech Republic[edit]

In January 2023, Czech president Miloš Zeman spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping through a video conference to promote trade and bilateral relations [19] Following the end of Zeman's term in March 2023 however, the foreign ministry of the Czech Republic said it is "not an active member" of the format in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[20] The format was publicly panned by the foreign minister of the Czech Republic as lacking substance or a future.[20]

Infrastructure, investment, and trade[edit]

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.[5] 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.[6]

Cultural links[edit]

All CEEC countries host at least one Confucius Institute, and some (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, and Romania) host multiple of them.[21]: 165 

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.[quantify] 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.[citation needed]


Jeremy Garlick, a British assistant professor at the Prague University of Economics and Business, accused China of pursuing an assertive strategy of 'divide and conquer' tactics designed to benefit China at the EU's expense.[22] Others such as the European Commission, European Parliament, and several scholars, view the China–EU cooperation as 'win–win' and mutually beneficial for China, the countries involved, and the European Union (EU).[23][24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chinese '17+1' Initiative to Be Called '16+1' after Greece Joins Group". N1. April 13, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  2. ^ Introduction of the Secretariat for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, on the web (2013/11/20)
  3. ^ "Lithuania pulls out of China's '17+1′ bloc in Eastern Europe". POLITICO. 2021-05-21. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  4. ^ National Coordinators on the web
  5. ^ a b c ‘16+1’ mechanism set to bolster China-Europe ties, on the web (2018/07/10)
  6. ^ a b Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern Europe: Promising Start, Doubtful Outlook, by Ágnes Szunomár, China-US Focus, December 6, 2017
  7. ^ 中国政府网 (2019-04-14). "这个合作平台:希腊终于加入,还有国家递了申请". Retrieved 2019-10-22.
  8. ^ a b "Lithuania mulls leaving China's 17+1 forum, expanding links with Taiwan". Lithuanian National Radio and Television. March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  9. ^ Sytas, Andrius (March 3, 2021). "Lithuania says will open trade representation office in Taiwan". Reuters. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  10. ^ "Tiny Lithuania stands up to China as Europe freezes investment pact with Beijing". 23 May 2021.
  11. ^ Bounds, Andy (3 December 2021). "Lithuania complains of trade 'sanctions' by China after Taiwan dispute". Financial Times.
  12. ^ Lau, Stuart; Moens, Barbara. "China's trade attack on Lithuania exposes EU's powerlessness". Politico. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  13. ^ Lithuanian president takes aim at government ‘mistake’ in Taiwan representative office row, South China Morning Post, retrieved 8 January 2022
  14. ^ Bermingham, Finbarr (13 January 2022). "Lithuanians overwhelmingly oppose Vilnius' policy on China, poll shows". SCMP. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  15. ^ Andrijauskas, Konstantinas (2 August 2022). "Chinese Influence in Lithuania". Center for European Policy Analysis. Archived from the original on 14 August 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2022. Finally, the most recent available poll, largely conducted soon after the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, showed that 20% of Lithuanian respondents viewed China very negatively and 44% rather negatively, suggesting a certain impact of the war.
  16. ^ Andrijauskas, Konstantinas (2022-08-02). "Chinese Influence in Lithuania". Centre for European Policy Studies. Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  17. ^ "Estonia, Latvia withdrawing from China's 16+1 cooperation format". ERR. 11 August 2022. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  18. ^ "Latvia ceases its participation in the cooperation framework of Central and Eastern European Countries and China". Ministry of foreign affairs of the Republic of Latvia. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  19. ^ "President vows to advance Sino-Czech relations". China-CECC. 10 January 2023. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  20. ^ a b "China's club for talking to Central Europe is dead, Czechs say". POLITICO. 2023-05-04. Retrieved 2023-05-04.
  21. ^ Arežina, Sanja (2023). "China's Relations with Central and Eastern European Countries in a Multipolar World Order 2.0". China and Eurasian Powers in a Multipolar World Order 2.0: Security, Diplomacy, Economy and Cyberspace. Mher Sahakyan. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-003-35258-7. OCLC 1353290533.
  22. ^ Garlick, Jeremy (2019). "China's Economic Diplomacy in Central and Eastern Europe: A Case of Offensive Mercantilism?". Europe-Asia Studies. 71 (8): 1390–1414. doi:10.1080/09668136.2019.1648764. S2CID 203343108.
  23. ^ Directorate General for External Policies of the Union (May 2020). "EU-China trade and investment relations in challenging times" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-07-13.
  24. ^ "EU-China – A strategic outlook" (PDF). 2019-03-12. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-03-22.
  25. ^ Cihelková, Eva; Nguyen, Hung Phuoc; Wožniaková, Mária; Straková, Radka (2017-06-30). "The EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in Context of EU General Concept of the 'Strategic Partnership'" (PDF). Journal of Security and Sustainability Issues. 6 (4): 729–744. doi:10.9770/jssi.2017.6.4(17).


External links[edit]