Central Europe’s China Reckoning

April 23, 2020

Central Europeans are about to find out what it means to be dependent on Xi Jinping.

For years, capitals across Europe’s eastern frontier have welcomed Chinese investment, inking deals with Chinese state-owned companies and taking on Beijing-backed loans. Easy credit brought jobs and growth. Coming after the 2009 Eurozone crisis, when credit from Western banks slowed to a trickle, Chinese money was an irresistible temptation.

Viewed on a map, the importance of the Baltic-to-Black sea corridor to Chinese grand strategy is obvious. The region forms a western entrepôt for the sea road stretching through the Red Sea and Indian Ocean to its origins on the Chinese coast. Chinese bridge, road, and port projects stretch from Greece through Serbia and into Hungary, which Beijing has cultivated as its main bridgehead for penetrating Europe. To cement these ties, Beijing formed a special club, the 17+1 Format, with its own secretariat, national coordinators, and annual meetings at the head-of-state level.

The American Interest

Dr. A. Wess Mitchell is co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative, a policy initiative focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition.