Trade, Investment and Politics between China and Central and Eastern Europe Economic Necessity or a Trojan Horse?

Matura, Tamás Attila (2021) Trade, Investment and Politics between China and Central and Eastern Europe Economic Necessity or a Trojan Horse? PhD thesis, Budapesti Corvinus Egyetem, Nemzetközi Kapcsolatok és Politikatudományi Doktori Iskola. DOI

PDF : (dissertation in English)
PDF : (draft in English)


Ever since the inception of the cooperation, the 16+1 has been a target of tremendous criticism. The EU and certain Western member states have been concerned of the increased level of Chinese activity in the Eastern part of the integration and afraid that Beijing might try to divide and rule the EU through the 16+1. Furthermore, EU-China relations have been deteriorating in general recently, as Europe is more and more frustrated by the rise of China, and Beijing is getting more and more disappointed by the slow progress of the EU while its own self confidence is on the rise. Certain major European countries like France or Germany are concerned of the Chinese activities in the CEE region, as they see China as a competitor on a market they have always considered as their home turf. In 2012, I was attending an interesting closed-door roundtable on EU-China relations in Brussels, where a diplomat from one of the Western European countries set forth his remarkable assessment of the 16+1 initiative as he said: “China and Central Europe were building a new Berlin Wall across the EU.” In the following, I would like to challenge this oversimplified discourse and to point out that Chinese influence in the region is very limited if not marginal, and its source is not the economy, as despite all previous expectations Chinese economic presence is still insignificant in CEE countries, and what China has been offering is not an attractive economic alternative to the EU members of the region. I believe it is of utmost importance to understand the real causes of the pro-China movement of certain CEE countries, since a misguided and oversimplified discourse, focusing on Chinese economic offers does not catch the reality, and measured responses cannot be placed on misbeliefs. Based on the arguments offered by the dissertation, the dilemma presented in the subtitle of the present thesis is invalid. The cooperation between China and the CEE-11 countries was driven by economic necessities following the double crises of the early 2010’s, but it has never fulfilled its promises, and thus it has been losing its significance lately. Alleged Chinese attempts to divide the EU through its cooperation with CEE-11 countries cannot be proven, as Beijing does not have the economic leverage in the region to exercise real political influence over the EU level policies of CEE-11 nations. Some CEE-11 government, however, have tried to gain political and economic benefits through serving Chinese interests in certain cases, but these attempts have rather served the personal political interest of CEE-11 politicians than of the nation they are supposed to work for. Therefore, the source of Chinese influence in CEE-11 countries does not originate directly from Beijing but from the political elite of some Central and Eastern European Countries.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD thesis)
Supervisor:Csicsmann László
Subjects:International relations
Economic policy
ID Code:1126
Date:9 April 2021
Deposited On:16 Mar 2021 21:21
Last Modified:05 May 2021 08:24

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