The recent Belt and Road Forum in Beijing ushered in a new phase in China’s global repositioning. In his opening speech, President, Xi Jinping reaffirmed the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive investment project launched in 2013 to dramatically expand land and sea trade across Asia and beyond.
At the summit, Xi called the BRI “a new kind of globalization,” a strategy intended to win other countries over rather than coercing them. It seems to be working. The benefits of taking part in the BRI are proving irresistible to many countries—and not just in China’s immediate neighborhood.
Among the 60 representatives who attended this year’s summit, Central and Eastern European (CEE) states formed the largest group of EU countries. Unlike France and Germany, who sent a senator and a minister respectively, they were represented by their highest state officials, an indicator of just how special a role they now play in China’s European plans.
This special relationship began in 2012, when China explicitly renewed its ties with the CEE states via an initiative known as the 16+1. This immediately made the “old” EU member states uncomfortable about the scale of Chinese investment to their east, fearing a “scramble for Europe” might be getting underway.
Indeed, Chinese state-owned enterprises’ investments in European nuclear energy, construction and railway infrastructure have grown rapidly since 2012. In countries such as the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary, Chinese money has flowed into key energy, telecommunications and real estate sectors.
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Source: Brink – GAI