The Politics of the New Relations between China and the Countries of Central, East and Southeast Europe. Lessons from the 16+1 Cooperation

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Anastas Vangeli, Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, Poland


    China is an emerging power with global outreach, with an ever increasing influence in various corners of the globe, including Eastern Europe. Capitalizing on its economic clout, in 2012 China initiated a special platform for cooperation with sixteen post-communist countries, most of them members of the EU or in some stages of accession (dubbed CEE16+1). China has also established strategic partnerships with Belarus and Ukraine. Subsequently, Chinese foreign policy makers have assigned Eastern Europe a special role in the development of the One Belt, One Road (New Silk Road) project. Rhetorically embracing the Chinese interest in the region, Eastern European leaders have not managed to gain leverage in the process, adopting the role of followers, giving way to doubts on the cooperation in Brussels and the Trans-Atlantic community. A rising China also poses normative challenges to the already established paradigms and concepts of how post-1989 (global) politics and economy work. Its model of a successful developmental state / authoritarian resilience / recombinant communism has challenged the universalist claims and triumphalism of the Western model. These issues are of particular importance when analyzing China’s interaction with Eastern Europe, a region where contesting normative orientations have recently taken ground. The paper builds upon primary and secondary sources on the new relations between China and Eastern Europe, as well as data gathered through participant observation in some of the forums where the 16+1 cooperation has been formulated. The increasing interaction with China, as well as the Chinese understanding of the region add new perspectives on the disposition of Eastern Europe in Europe and in the global political landscape, and help craft a more critical understanding of the intra-regional socio-political dynamics.