Xi’s visit to Poland to up Belt and Road con­struc­tion, ce­ment ties with CEE

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

OUR COR­RE­SPON­DENT BEI­JING—Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit to Poland from Sun­day to Tues­day is ex­pected to boost the tra­di­tional friend­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

Poland, which is an im­por­tant hub on China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, is the sec­ond leg of Xi’s three-stop visit.

Xi will meet with Pol­ish lead­ers, and to­gether they will at­tend a sign­ing cer­e­mony of co­op­er­a­tive treaties, an in­ter­na­tional fo­rum on the Silk Road Eco­nomic Zone, the open­ing cer­e­mony of a China-Poland trade fo­rum, and wel­come the ar­rival of freight trains that will ply be­tween China and Europe.

For­mer Pol­ish Am­bas­sador to China Krzysztof Szum­ski said that now is a good time for Poland to de­velop co­op­er­a­tion with China, as China has of­fered its am­bi­tious Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, in which Poland oc­cu­pies an im­por­tant po­si­tion.

As China’s big­gest trade part­ner in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe (CEE) and the largest econ­omy in the re­gion, Poland re­sponded with great en­thu­si­asm to the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. It was the re­gion’s first coun­try to join the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank, and has been co­op­er­at­ing ac­tively with China’s western prov­inces. Pol­ish Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda ex­pressed the hope that Poland could play a key role in the de­vel­op­ment of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, and be­come China’s gate­way to Europe due to its unique lo­ca­tion.

“We can be­come the im­age am­bas­sador of ‘One Belt, One Road’ in Europe,” Duda said. Poland, Ser­bia and Uzbek­istan were among the first coun­tries to re­spond to China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. Ser­bia has been ac­tively pro­mot­ing its re-in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion strat­egy, and hopes to be in­volved in the Belt and Road pro­gram and at­tract more for­eign in­vest­ment.

Uzbek­istan’s econ­omy re­lies heav­ily on en­ergy and agri­cul­ture, and its in­dus­try is com­par­a­tively weak. Con­nect­ing Uzbek­istan to the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive would com­pli­ment the Chi­nese econ­omy and the Uzbek econ­omy and en­hance bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion.

The three coun­tries are lo­cated in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe (CEE) and Cen­tral Asia re­spec­tively — one is an im­por­tant hub and route con­nect­ing Europe and Asia, while the other is the first stop of the Silk Road Eco­nomic Zone out­side China. Dur­ing Xi’s visit, the Belt and Road pro­gram will top his agenda. He will dis­cuss with lead­ers from Ser­bia, Poland and Uzbek­istan new mea­sures to pro­mote the Belt and Road con­struc­tion, and seal rel­e­vant co­op­er­a­tive agree­ments.

Such ma­jor Belt and Road projects as the Chi­naEurope land-sea ex­press pas­sage, freight train ser­vices be­tween China and Europe, a rail link be­tween Ser­bian and Hun­gar­ian cap­i­tals, the cross-Danube bridge in Bel­grade, the Kos­to­lac power sta­tion in Ser­bia, the China-Cen­tral Asia gas pipe­line, have been given the go-ahead or are un­der­way, bring­ing ben­e­fits to lo­cal peo­ple. “Poland, Ser­bia and Uzbek­istan have a strong will to co­op­er­ate with China. Our co­op­er­a­tion also en­joys spe­cial ad­van­tages and huge po­ten­tial, and will play an im­por­tant role in the de­vel­op­ment of One Belt, One Road,” said Liu Zuokui, a re­searcher with the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

Xi’s visit will also be a pro­mo­tion tour for China-Europe co­op­er­a­tion. Poland is an im­por­tant coun­try in the Euro­pean Union (EU), as well as the largest, most pop­u­lous and largest econ­omy in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe. Xi’s state visit to Poland will boost China-CEE re­la­tions, to some ex­tent China-Europe re­la­tions.

As two in­flu­en­tial coun­tries in South­east­ern Europe and Cen­tral Europe, Ser­bia and Poland will play a pos­i­tive role in pro­mot­ing China-Europe co­op­er­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Liu. “Given the in­flu­ence of Ser­bia and Poland in CEE coun­tries, their bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with China will be­come an ex­am­ple and ac­cel­er­a­tor of China-Europe re­la­tions,” Liu said.

Xi’s up­com­ing visit to the CEE fol­lows his state visit to the Czech Re­pub­lic in April, sig­nal­ing the re­gion’s grow­ing im­por­tance to China, Liu added. Ac­cord­ing to Wang Yi­wei, a pro­fes­sor of the School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, Ren­min Univer­sity of China, China-CEE co­op­er­a­tion is the highlight of China-Europe co­op­er­a­tion.

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