Li’s trip to se­cure gains, re­in­force bonds

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Pre­mier LiKe­qiang em­barked on an eight-day trip to Cen­tral Asia and Europe onWed­nes­day, dur­ing which he will vis­itKyr­gyzs­tan, Kaza­khstan, Latvia andRus­sia. His par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 5th Meet­ing of theHeads ofGovern­ment of China and Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean (CEE) coun­tries in Riga, Latvia, is ex­pected to add fresh mo­men­tum to the “16+1” co­op­er­a­tive mech­a­nism and the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and 21st Cen­tu­ryMar­itime Silk Road).

The 16+1 mech­a­nism pro­posed by Bei­jing is an ex­change pro­gram in­volv­ing 1,000 peo­ple from China and 16 CEE coun­tries to en­hance peo­ple-to-peo­ple com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Since the first 16+1 meet­ing in War­sawin 2012 the multi­na­tional mech­a­nism has be­come an ex­am­ple of China-Europe co­op­er­a­tion and is hav­ing a greater pos­i­tive ef­fect on re­gional co­op­er­a­tion. It is ex­pected to syn­er­gize with the Belt and Road projects, too, by boost­ing trade and in­vest­ment ex­changes.

CEE coun­tries ac­count for about a quar­ter of all “road­side” coun­tries and play a key role in the world’s emerg­ing mar­ket, which al­lows them to co­op­er­ate with China on a highly com­ple­men­tary ba­sis, es­pe­cially when it comes to con­nec­tiv­ity, ca­pac­ity co­op­er­a­tion and cross-bor­der trade.

TheHun­gary-Ser­bia rail­way, sched­uled for com­ple­tion by the end of 2017, will ex­tend to the im­por­tant Greek port of Pi­raeus and could be­come a Euro­pean pivot con­nect­ing the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road.

The ef­fi­cient ca­pac­ity co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Ser­bia in re­cent years is an­other case in point. Since it es­tab­lished a strate­gic part­ner­ship with China in 2009, the Balkan state has ac­com­mo­dated an in­creas­ing num­ber of in­fra­struc­ture projects spon­sored by China, in­clud­ing the Pupin Bridge over the Danube River in Bel­grade and the Kos­to­lac power plant, the first Chi­nese elec­tric power project in Europe.

On the trade and in­vest­ment front, cross-bor­der e-com­merce has great po­ten­tial to take the 16+1 co­op­er­a­tion to a newheight. City-to-city col­lab­o­ra­tion, too, has be­gun to bear fruit. Chengdu in South­west China’s Sichuan prov­ince is now a sis­ter city to Poland’s Lodz and home to a con­sulate gen­eral of Poland.

The China-EU 2020 Strate­gic Agenda for Co­op­er­a­tion, adopted at the 2013 China-EU sum­mit, has en­dorsed the 16+1 mech­a­nism and en­hanced its sta­tus as a new­plat­form for Euro­pean in­te­gra­tion, which should si­lence peo­ple ac­cus­ing Bei­jing of us­ing a “di­vide­and-rule” strat­egy to­ward Europe.

New­fi­nanc­ing plat­forms, such as aChina-CEE in­vest­ment bank un­der de­lib­er­a­tion, will pro­mote the fi­nan­cial in­te­gra­tion not just be­tween the two par­ties, but also within Europe. In fact, the Euro­peanUnion has come to re­al­ize the im­por­tance of the 16+1 mech­a­nism as a sup­ple­ment to theChina-Europe re­la­tion­ship. That ex­plains why theEUis­nowan ob­server at theMeet­ing ofHeads ofGovern­ment of China and Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean Coun­tries.

CEE coun­tries are rel­a­tively ea­ger for Bei­jing’s tech­no­log­i­cal and fi­nan­cial sup­port com­pared with other EU mem­bers, open­ing a rare win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for China-Europe co­op­er­a­tion. So, un­der the frame­work of the 16+1 mech­a­nism, China has ev­ery rea­son to deepen its part­ner­ship with Europe and ex­pe­dite the Belt and Road’s ex­pan­sion.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Ren­min Univer­sity of China.

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