Xi's visit adds more fuel to Belt and Road initiative

By Zhang Min
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 24, 2016
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Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Serbia and Poland from June 17 to 21, marking his second visit to Central and Eastern Europe in three months. Such frequent visits highlight the strategic significance of diplomatic relations between China and Central and Eastern Europe.

First of all, the visits add more fuel to the "Belt and Road" initiative and the "16+1" program, marking a new phase in the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Central and Eastern Europe. Since the launch of 16+1 in April 2012, Chinese leaders have met with their counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe four times. Both the Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries and the Suzhou Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries are now under implementation. The new mode of cooperation -- regardless of the differences in geographical locations and political systems -- is meant to benefit China, Central and Eastern Europe, and the European Union.

The "Belt and Road" initiative has been greeted with a warm response by Central and Eastern European countries. All 16 countries from Central and Eastern Europe are included in the "Belt and Road" initiative, and seven of them have signed a memorandum of understanding with China.

President Xi's visit to Serbia has landmark significance: This is the first time in 32 years that a Chinese president has visited the country. Serbia is the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to have established a strategic partnership with China; the two have also signed a number of cooperation agreements ranging from infrastructure, agriculture, defense, to telecommunication, power stations, banks and education. The visits have also made Serbia and Poland outstanding representatives of the ties between China and Central and Eastern Europe.

Poland is equally important. The Polish capital of Warsaw was the location of the first meeting between Chinese leaders and Central and Eastern European leaders and the birth place of 16+1. Poland is not only the largest country in Central and Eastern Europe, but also China's largest trading partner in the region and the only founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in the region. The visit will push China-Poland ties to new heights.

In addition, the visits will add more fuel to trade and investment cooperation, infrastructure building and other pragmatic forms of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern Europe. The Pupin Bridge -- a bridge over the Danube River in Belgrade, Serbia and the first project built with loans from China in the region -- has been completed and is now in operation. The construction of the Serbian section of the Hungary-Serbia railway, which will be carried out by Chinese companies, was launched late last year. Moreover, direct flights are available between China and Hungary and between China and the Czech Republic, and a number of trains between China and Central and Eastern European countries are in operation.

China and Central and Eastern European countries are bound to build a community of common interests in such sectors as economy and trade, science and technology, culture and media and education. Under the cooperation framework of China and Central and Eastern Europe, the prosperity of the region will provide continuous support to the regional integration in Europe.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of European Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The article was written in Chinese and translated by Zhang Lulu.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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