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China rethinks its ways to win over Europe's former Soviet bloc

CHINA's plan to induce Europe's former Iron Curtain countries into a Beijing-led economic co-operative, called the 16+1 group, has come unstuck after Chinese commitments have not been met, reports Bloomberg

China rethinks its ways to win over Europe's former Soviet bloc
26 October 2018 - 19:00

CHINA's plan to induce Europe's former Iron Curtain countries into a Beijing-led economic co-operative, called the 16+1 group, has come unstuck after Chinese commitments have not been met, reports Bloomberg.

But 16+1 Forum is unlikely to end, disappointed eastern European officials agree, because the former Soviet bloc states still see value in annual audiences with the Chinese premier.



Moreover, 16+1 also raises their profile in China's investment-rich provinces, much valued by forum's smallest nations.



But they are disappointed with the lack of investment from China, and Beijing's recent preference to provide loans rather than grants. This has led to better deals available within the EU, such as deals offered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.



Conditions attached to projects are seen as similar to those offered to African states. 'The package just isn't quite as attractive as China would make believe it is,' said Jan Weidenfeld, head of European affairs for the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.



Brussels and core EU member states such as Germany and France tighter screening of Chinese investments in critical infrastructure. Germany has been increasingly vocal in its criticism of the 16+1, said Bloomberg.



There is an implied risk that Chinese investment assumes political favours in return, said a German official in Berlin.



'There was a mismatch of expectations,' said Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw bureau of the European Council on Foreign Relations.



Poland wanted Chinese direct investment and involvement in greenfield projects, whereas the Chinese were more interested in public contracts for infrastructure, preferential terms and purchases of high-tech companies.



Mr Buras also cited a conflict among some east Europeans at being seen to choose China as a strategic partner over the US. Poland, said Burase said, 'has chosen the US and it's tough for them to go into bed with both.'

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