The European Commission has become increasingly critical of various Chinese investments within the EU, fueling an ongoing debate within Europe about investment screening. While the EU released a framework for foreign investment screening implicitly aimed at China in November 2018, the debate has exposed cross-cutting divisions within Europe. Looking ahead to 2019, we should not expect a clear resolution anytime soon.
Browse our analysis section for news and articles on topics such as China's Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR), the Competing Visions of Japan, India, and other regional powers, and the stakes for U.S. policy.
China's latest "16+1" summit in Sofia Bulgaria perfectly captures China’s deceptive brand of multilateralism. Bringing together many countries, it gives the outward appearance of inclusivity and consensus-building, but beneath the surface, it is fundamentally different from the multilateral practices and institutions it claims to uphold. China has yet to offer the world deep multilateralism at scale.
This Friday China will gather 16 Central and Eastern European countries in Sofia, Bulgaria, for the annual China-Central and Eastern European "16+1" summit. As the gathering may help China build a bigger economic and political presence in Europe and exercise its power bilaterally under the cover of a multilateral veneer, it warrants more attention from Brussels and Washington.
"China has lavished investment pledges on Balkan states as it prepares for a summit with 16 EU countries and aspiring members, stoking fears in Brussels and influential national capitals of an effort to divide the bloc" reports the Financial Times, citing data collected in collaboration with the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project.
Since 2012, China has held an annual "16 plus one" forum on economic cooperation with 16 Eastern European states and has pledged to invest a total of $15 billion in infrastructure improvements so far.
Reconnecting Asia is tracking developments across a vast landmass that includes 60 percent of the global economy. Every day, new infrastructure projects are announced, some are advanced, and others encounter obstacles. Here is a selection of the top projects to watch in 2018.
Chinese infrastructure investment in CEE countries has served as a catalyst for regional development and deeper integration within Europe.
Broad generalizations about “Belt and Road projects,” whether positive or negative, are not particularly helpful and could even be dangerous when formulating policy. A more successful approach is likely to involve nuanced and localized policies in the same way that China has adopted localized approaches to infrastructure investment under the BRI umbrella.
The political damage Chinese investment in the CEE has created for the EU is already visible in its inability to act cohesively vis-à-vis China on trademark foreign policy issues, namely upholding the international rule of law and protecting human rights.
Chinese investments in Central and Eastern Europe are raising concerns about transparency and accountability, but for now, the risks are relatively manageable given the modest scope of investment.
At the onset of Beijing’s sixth 16+1 forum, China’s involvement with Central and Eastern Europe under the Belt and Road is beginning to take shape. Results on the ground have proven mixed so far, and a more nuanced local picture is slowly emerging; with some reasons for concerns but also much reassurance provided.
Beijing’s star is rising in central and eastern European nations,” reports the Financial Times
Our “Big Questions” series brings together leading scholars, former policymakers, and top industry experts to tackle critical questions. In the seventh part of this series, we asked a group of experts to comment on China's growing infrastructure investment in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).