The International Symposium on the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative and China-Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation was held in SUIBE on 11 November. The forum offering an opportunity for an in-depth and interdisciplinary analysis of cooperation between China and Central-Eastern Europe drew some ten experts and scholars from countries such as Russia, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Czech, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as researchers from the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Tongji University, the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, and the SUIBE Center for Central and Eastern Europe Studies.
An key part of China-EU Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, China-Central and Eastern Europe Cooperation (16+1 Cooperation) is a platform of cooperation set up by China and 16 Central-Eastern European countries. As pointed out by Kong Tianping, a researcher at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the 16+1 Cooperation Framework has become all the more important at a time when Europe is facing both a refugee crisis and security threats against the backdrop of deglobalization. The 16+1 Cooperation, which offers all the participating countries a flexible mechanism for mutually beneficial cooperation on an equal footing, has produced fruitful results in trade and investment, connectivity, manufacturing capacity, science and technology, and cultural exchange. With the “Belt and Road” Initiative, there is a great potential for future cooperation between China and countries in Central-Eastern Europe; the key lies in the sound design of a platform and mechanism.
After comparing the shifts in the scales and trends of China’s investment in the EU and Central-Eastern Europe and giving an account of China’s investment in Hungary from the perspectives of investment patterns, fields and motivations, Ágnes Szunomár, a research fellow at the Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, observed that what impacts China’s investment in Hungary the most is economic (such as European market and skilled labor) and institutional (such as EU membership and bilateral relations) factors.
Whiling pointing out that China’s investment in Czech is growing fast but still limited in scale compared with non-16+1 countries in the EU, Richard Turcsanyi, from Mendel University in Brno, the Czech Republic, argued that the key factor impacting future investment of Chinese businesses in Czech is information asymmetry, including skepticism towards Chinese investment (political or economically driven) and the public’s acceptability of Chinese investment (the quality rather than the amount of investment).
Polish scholar Patrycja Pendrakowska, Croatian scholar Senada ŠeloŠabić, Slovakian scholar Martin Gress, Italian scholar Marija Adela, Serbian scholar Duško Dimitrijević, Song li, associate professor at Tongji University, and Ren Zaipin, Zhang Juan and Yan Xiyan, associate professors at SUIBE discussed respectively the achievements made in the 16+1 Cooperation format from the perspectives of multilateral or bilateral investment, asymmetric relations, EU institutional framework, and immigration networks. Meanwhile, they also identified problems to be resolved in strengthening the 16+1 Cooperation, including the best way for Chinese companies to respond to the forthcoming new EU framework for investment screening, investment risks brought about by the rising debt of local governments because of the increase in investment in non-EU Central-Eastern European countries, the role of China and the EU – competition or cooperation – in Central-Eastern European countries, and the coordination of the conflicts between the long-term yielding of Chinese investment and the short-term gains emphasized by local governments in Central-Eastern European countries. As is generally agreed among the participants of the forum, only by tackling these problems properly can the 16+1 Cooperation go further and benefit all the countries involved.