The CEE can be the powerful engine of the China-EU partnership
The foreign ministers of Poland, Serbia and Hungary held bilateral consultations with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi from May 29 to 31 in Guiyang, Guizhou province.
The invitation to the three countries clearly demonstrates China’s growing interest in the dynamic region of Central and Eastern Europe, which is an inalienable part of the rich European market and is important for the planning of the Belt and Road Initiative. Road”.
China, a country where citizens save 46% of their income, compared to 17.6% in the United States and 21.4% in the European Union, has an impressive amount of money for foreign investment, which are now reaching the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
This trend is clearly visible in China’s first major infrastructure project in the region, the 336-kilometer high-speed rail line connecting Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and Budapest, the Hungarian capital. The project cost around $ 3 billion.
The project will not only cut travel time between cities in half, with trains expected to reach at least 160 km / h, but will also provide a land route for freight freight from the Greek port of Piraeus to Europe. from the east and beyond.
Notably, last month’s six-point consensus on the Guiyang talks between Chinese and Serbian foreign ministers indicates that the two countries will jointly endeavor to “complete the construction of the Budapest-Belgrade railway in Serbia by a date. closer, “” promote a high-quality belt and historic road cooperation and cooperation projects “and” continue to support the development and growth of the China-CEEC cooperation mechanism. “
Hungary, meanwhile, is the first European nation to sign a memorandum of understanding with China involving the BRI. It also opened the Bank of China’s first renminbi clearinghouse and last year became Beijing’s top investment destination in Central and Eastern Europe. In addition, bilateral trade grew 64.7% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year.
Sino-Hungarian relations go far beyond trade and investment, as the two countries have developed important ties in the fields of culture and health. Hungary is home to Europe’s first bilingual school, which teaches Hungarian and Chinese, and the first EU member state to approve and use Chinese vaccines.
Following Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto’s visit to China in May, the Hungarian government announced plans to locally produce the Sinopharm vaccine developed in China at a planned $ 187.5 million plant in the eastern city of Debrecen.
According to the Hungarian news agency MTI, the move is expected to make the country self-sufficient in vaccine production by the end of 2022.
Foreign Minister Wang said on May 29 that the China-CEEC cooperation mechanism will be further improved, powered by “three engines.”
The first driver involves the integration of bilateral and regional cooperation between China and the countries of central and eastern Europe, “the two being mutually reinforcing,” Wang said.
The second driver concerns the need to respond to the needs and priorities of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which differ from those of the developed countries of Western Europe.
Therefore, it is in the interests of emerging economies to strengthen ties with China. Grzegorz Kolodko, in his book China and the Future of Globalization: The Political Economy of China’s Rise, writes that “every additional billion dollars of Chinese purchases in the CEECs means a significantly higher employment rate in Poland, more income. high in Ukraine and growing profits in the Czech Republic. Republic”.
The third driver describes pragmatic economic and trade cooperation between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as an important part of China-EU cooperation. The first is “conducive to the balanced development of Europe as a whole and to faster European integration”, underlines Kolodko.
Viewing Central and Eastern European countries’ relations with China as a complement to the broader China-EU relations, rather than competition with Brussels, may not only be of great benefit to European integration, but may also be of great benefit to European integration. create indispensable platforms, especially in times of crisis, for dialogue, exchanges and cooperation between the peoples of China and Europe.
By treating Eastern Europeans as their equals, Western Europe and Europe as a whole stand a good chance of saving the fragile EU bloc from a new divide, while strengthening trade relations and d investment with the world’s second largest economy.
The author is the former chairman of the international affairs committee of UK think tank The Bow Group.