China woos Central, Eastern Europe
PM Li Keqiang pledged $3bn for cooperation at the 16+1 summit
1 December, 2017
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last Monday pledged strong financing support for cooperation between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), also known as the 16+1 format.
Li took part in Budapest, Hungary, in the sixth meeting of heads of government of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries. Eleven from them are EU members and another five are Balkan states, each in the process of negotiating their accession to the Union.
In a keynote speech to over 1,000 entrepreneurs at the China-CEEC Economic and Trade Forum, Li announced the establishment of China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association and the second phase of China-Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund, Xinhua reported. The China Development Bank will provide an equivalent amount of €2bn ($2.4bn) as development-oriented financial cooperation loans for the inter-bank association, Li said. He added that the second phase of the Investment cooperation fund that totalled $1bn will be mainly invested in Central and Eastern Europe. Li noted that Chinese venture in CEEC grew to US$9bn last year, more than triple that of 2010. The Investment Cooperation Fund was set up in 2016 by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Speaking at the forum, Li also demanded efforts to accelerate the building of connectivity projects and promote the development of China-Europe freight train services. Production capacity is also an area where the two sides should expand cooperation, Li said, calling for jointly building economic and trade cooperation zones and creating an industrial chain, value chain and logistics chain featuring closer integration, stronger drive and wider benefit.
The Chinese premier urged the two sides to expand financing channels to support China-CEEC cooperation.
Li expressed hope that his country's closer cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe will help foster prosperity in the region. "Our aim is to see a prospering Europe," he noted.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, host of the 16+1 summit, said the region was in need of external technological and financial resources, including from China, to grow. "European resources are in themselves insufficient," Orban said. "For this reason we welcome the fact that as part of the new economic world order, China sees this region as one in whose progress and development it wants to be present." Orban mentioned the reconstruction of a railway line between Budapest and Belgrade, a project financed mainly by China, as a "flagship project" of China's increased presence in the region. Orban pointed that the upgraded railroad line could become the fastest transport route to Western Europe of China's new Silk Road. He promised the CEEC will actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative and create better environment for Chinese companies investing and developing in Central and Eastern Europe. “We see the Chinese president’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative as the new form of globalization which does not divide the world into teachers and students but is based on common respect and common advantages,” the Hungarian premier said.
The seventh Meeting of Heads of State and Government of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and China in 2018 will be hosted by Bulgaria.