China's Engagement in Central and Eastern European Countries

AIES (eds.): China's Engagement in Central and Eastern European Countries, AIES Study 2021

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17.06.2021


Over the last decade, world affairs have become increasingly dominated by geopolitical tension between major global actors as each strives to maintain or acquire a strategic advantage over the other – economically, technologically, diplomatically and militarily. Particular attention has been dedicated to the case of China, which many commentators believe may become the world's biggest economy and superpower in the years to come, and to its increasingly assertive behaviour on the international stage.

The Covid-19 pandemic, during which, China was the only major economy to experience economic growth in 2020, has strengthened the sense in some parts of the world that China's rise to global dominance is unstoppable. While it remains to be seen whether this is attainable, it is legitimate in the current context – as we plot a pathway towards a sustainable economic recovery based on democratic values – to consider how China's international engagement continues to evolve in the European context and to consider what the long-term policy response should look like.

Against this background, the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) set out through this study to understand better how China's engagement in CEE countries has developed over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is nine country profiles (from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia), each written by a local author, on the role and influence of China and how this has been received by the general public and policy makers. These perspectives illustrate that engagement with China can bring positive outcomes. But in some cases, countries have engaged with China on assumptions that have led either to undesirable outcomes or unfulfilled expectations. Engagement with China remains important, or even essential: the challenge is to engage in ways that deliver the benefits European countries seek, while maintaining the values central to their democracies and maintaining the security on which their prosperity is founded.