China’s approach to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has changed dramatically in recent years. For the last three decades, the region was not high on China’s Europe agenda, which focused mainly on Western Europe. But in 2012, the 16+1 format was unveiled during Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to Poland, signaling a new approach to the region. Since the announcement of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, infrastructure has become a primary focus for the 16+1. China has both economic and political aims for this unusual grouping of countries, and its investments are raising concerns about transparency and accountability. For now, however, the risks are relatively manageable given the modest scope of investment.
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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.