China’s once-thriving 17+1 cooperation forum with Central and Eastern European states has now shrunk to just 14 as more and more of these countries move away from Beijing over its close ties with Russia in the middle of the war in Ukraine, media reported. China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries launched the “16 plus one” economic cooperation initiative in 2012. At the time, most countries in the region, including Poland, Hungary and Romania, joined the group, reports Nikkei Asia.
Greece became a member in 2019, making it “17 plus one”. There were annual diplomatic meetings and grouping summits every year. China viewed these countries with hope for infrastructure investment and technology cooperation. However, the good times did not last long. In a move that demonstrates its growing concerns and dissatisfaction with Beijing, Lithuania had previously withdrawn from China’s 17+1 cooperation forum. Later, in August 2022, Latvia and Estonia joined the trial and with that, the number of European members was left at just 14.
According to Nikkei Asia, the next likely country could be the Czech Republic to leave the cooperation forum because in May the foreign affairs committee of the country’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to withdraw from the grouping with China. One of the main reasons for this is China’s position vis-à-vis Russia. Those European countries with bitter ties to Russia want China to reprimand Russia’s war in Ukraine, but that is far from the reality.
In the early 2010s, these Central and Eastern European countries were strident towards China, which was a fast-growing economy and had money to invest abroad. Soon they realized that cooperating with China was apparently a disappointment. These nations still recall the shadows of the Soviet Union era that witnessed the Cold War. Beijing’s continued friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin have therefore infuriated many in those countries, Nikkei Asia reported.
“Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe have a growing resentment and distrust of China because Beijing maintains close relations with Russia, even after its invasion of Ukraine,” said Jakub Jakobowski, senior researcher at the Center. Oriental Studies Polish. “Through a painful experience of the Soviet era, most countries in this region have a strong allergy to the Communist Party system and have bad feelings towards the Chinese political system. The region’s tendency to away from China will not stop,” he added. said.
There is growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the region which is seeing its impact on economic exchanges between these two European countries and China. For example, the Romanian government has decided to impose strict restrictions on infrastructure investment by Chinese companies. Romania abandoned a joint project to build a nuclear power plant with a Chinese company was abandoned in 2020. The country froze and reached a new agreement with an American company.
Central and Eastern Europe received only about 3% of China’s overall direct investment in Europe in 2020, according to the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a German think tank, Nikkei Asia reported. (ANI)
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