“Myopic” Estonia and Latvia leave China-CEEC under US pressure; do not affect the mechanism with their marginal role
Envoys from Central and Eastern European countries visit northwest China’s Qinghai Province on October 22, 2021. Photo: VCG
Estonia and Latvia, trapped in geosecurity angst and under pressure from the United States, withdrew from cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries (China-CEEC cooperation), which which Chinese analysts say is a “short-sighted approach” and means they will lose their diplomatic independence and sacrifice their development opportunities.
The decision of the two Baltic countries will not have a major impact on China-CEEC cooperation, but it is very unwise to place their hopes in the EU and the United States, because the EU and the United States can difficult to offer them tangible or indispensable economic benefits. help, analysts say.
The two Baltic countries issued similar statements on Thursday, saying they had decided to stop participating in the cooperation framework of China-CEEC cooperation, but would continue to strive for constructive and pragmatic relations with China bilaterally and through EU-China cooperation.
Estonia further stated that it has not attended any of the format’s meetings since February 2021.
Analysts said their decision would not be a setback for China or China-CEEC cooperation as claimed by some Western media, as the Baltic countries cannot represent the majority of the CEE due to their limited participation in the mechanism. . They noted that it is unlikely that many CEE participants would follow this example.
Liu Zuokui, a researcher in European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the China-CEEC cooperation will not crumble, crumble or fail, and that the decision of the two country is part of the framework optimization. He noted that the importance of the mechanism remains for both China and the CEECs.
The move comes amid the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as the Baltic countries have fallen into growing security concerns. Thus, they prioritized security over the economy, and even ignored residents’ livelihoods, analysts said.
On the same day of their departure from the mechanism, the Latvian parliament designated Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism” for military operations against Ukraine, and Estonia declared that it will prevent from next week most Russians to enter the country with visas issued by Estonian authorities. authorities, according to Reuters.
For the Baltic countries, geopolitical and security factors are now undoubtedly crowding out the foreign trade space, said Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, at the GlobalTimes.
Lithuania left the mechanism in May 2021, but Liu said that unlike Lithuania, whose departure was “destructive” due to its dangerous decision to challenge the one-China principle, Latvia and Estonia have stated in their statements that they would continue to strive for pragmatic relations with China. thanks to EU-China cooperation.
Besides the two, Lithuania went further by suggesting that the mechanism be replaced by cooperation between China and the EU.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called the mechanism “redundant and divisive” in a tweet on Thursday, and he said the mechanism should be replaced by EU27+1.
However, analysts say CEE countries are struggling to achieve the cooperation that works best for them through the EU-China mechanism.
Within the EU framework, cooperation with China is mainly dominated by larger EU members that focus on green technologies and the digital economy, but many CEEC members actually need more support. infrastructure, said Mr. Liu.
Five of the CEECs under China-CEEC cooperation are non-EU countries, including Albania and Serbia.
Thus, the China-CEEC cooperation is a valuable complement to the China-EU cooperation, as it takes good care of the real needs of the CCEE, analysts said.
The China-CEEC cooperation, launched in 2012, has become a model of cross-regional cooperation. Over the past decade, practical cooperation between China and the CEECs has doubled the volume of trade. Chinese investment in the CEECs has increased sixfold, according to the National Development and Reform Commission.
Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) on Friday announced plans to invest 7.34 billion euros ($7.56 billion) in a new plant in Hungary to supply major European automakers.
In late July, the Chinese-built Peljesac Bridge in Croatia opened, connecting two parts of the country’s coast for the first time. It is the largest infrastructure project undertaken by the Chinese side in Croatia, illustrating the strong cooperation between China and Europe, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the country is proud that CATL has decided to execute the biggest investment ever in the history of Hungary, according to CATL.
While other CEE countries are getting more development opportunities and regional interconnections through China-CEEC cooperation, the Baltic countries have introduced politics and ideology into the economy under the influence of the United States. United, analysts said.
US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said “we respect and support the sovereign decision of Estonia and Latvia to no longer participate”, and expressed “deep concern” about relations between China with Russia.
Cui said the reason the Baltics left the framework was also because they wanted to get more political and security protection from the United States, but blindly following the United States makes it difficult for them to make decisions based on market rules.
Their short-sighted approach will see them lose opportunities for regional cooperation in the framework and are unlikely to get tangible benefits from the US, analysts said, noting that US economic plans are purely designed to serve their geopolitical objectives without worrying about the needs of partners. .
More importantly, as the world looks to Asia for economic opportunities, because Asia, of which China is an important part, represents the future of the global economy, running in the opposite direction would be a long-term loss to prosperity, Cui said.
The London-based think tank, the Center for Economics and Business Research, predicted in early 2022 that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy in 2030.
“When the economic and supply chain arrangements in Asia are completed, there will be no room for the Baltic countries,” Cui said.