China in Central and Eastern Europe

Chinese infrastructure investment in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is on the rise, according to data collected by Reconnecting Asia in collaboration with the Financial Times. A focal point of this investment is the 16+1 format, which brings together China and 16 CEE countries. In November, at the sixth annual 16+1 summit, Chinese premier Li Keqiang announced an additional $2.4 billion in development-oriented financial cooperation loans. We asked a group of experts to comment on China’s rising economic engagement in the region, which has been called the “gateway to Europe” for its flagship foreign policy initiative, the Belt and Road.

In our first response, Dr. Jens Bastian predicts that China’s emerging “Balkan Silk Road” will firmly cement its role in Southeast Europe as a leading lender, investor, and commercial partner in the coming years.

In our second response, Agatha Kratz discusses the nuances behind China’s infrastructure investment patterns in CEE countries under the 16+1 and the BRI, pinpointing both reasons for concern as well as signs of reassurance.

In our third response, Dr. Justyna Szczudlik concludes that any potential risks China’s infrastructure investments may pose for Europe are limited in scope for now.

In our fourth response, Jan Gaspers argues that Chinese investment in CEE countries has already visibly damaged the EU’s ability to act cohesively vis-à-vis China on trademark foreign policy issues, including the international rule of law and protecting human rights.

In our fifth response, Maesea McCalpin suggests that a successful response to BRI will likely involve nuanced and localized policies in the same way that China has adopted localized approaches to its infrastructure investment abroad.

In our sixth response, Dr. Chen Xin argues that Chinese infrastructure investment in CEE countries has served as a catalyst for regional development and deeper integration within Europe.

Previous Topics in our Big Question series include Strategic Infrastructure,
Arctic Opportunities, Asia’s Overland Connections, The World’s Infrastructure Laboratory, Emerging Technology and Tomorrow’s Geography, and Asia’s Unintended Flows.