Closed roundtable: V4 and the Belt and Road Initiative
During the closed roundtable, organized by the Centre for International Relations on December 10, 2018, the invited experts on Sino-Polish relations were informed about the findings of the project “Comparative analysis of the approach towards China: V4+ and One Belt One Road” implemented in partnership with renowned European think tanks: Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) from Serbia, HAS Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Institute of World Economics from Hungary, Institute of Asian Studies from Slovakia, and Prague Security Studies Institute from Czechia (project’s leader), with the support of the International Visegrad Fund. Recent developments in China – Poland relations were also discussed.
Particular attention was paid to the newly released report by the BIS – Czech Security Information Service on the intensity of Chinese espionage in Czech Republic, agents of influence active there, as well as the Chinese investments, including CEFC and CITIC (among others). Our Guests showed special interest in Hungary’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom, and support offered by Budapest to China on the international stage. One of the topics was also the China – CEE Institute set up in Hungary in 2017. Discussing Serbia’s „Steel Friendship” with China, both presenters and the Guests noted the exceptional situation of the country as it cannot use EU funds for upgrading its infrastructure and its options as for FDI are very limited. On the other hand, striking is the lack of public awareness that the bulk of the Chinese investment is loan-driven, and that still this is EU and not China that is Serbia’s biggest trading partner. This, however, results from the transparency issues.
Poland, since the inception of the 16 +1 format in 2012, has been one of its most active stakeholders. Despite that, the prevailing understanding is that the initiative has not brought concrete results, and does not translate into the development of mutual relations between Poland and China. Therefore, not the 16 + 1 but the bilateral partnership remains the priority. What is, however, critical, implementation of agreements signed in 2016 during the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to Warsaw, also failed to fulfill expectations: lower than expected Chinese investments in Poland, weak involvement on the part of Beijing despite Poland’s goodwill and its geopolitical location. The trade imbalance is growing rapidly, it’s 1:12 now – as Prime Minister Morawiecki recalled this year, but there is no consensus as to the exact ratio, and whether the trade imbalance is that bad for Poland’s trade or not. Many of imported goods are re-exported into other countries.
The guests pointed out that it is necessary for Poland to create an internally coherent cooperation strategy with China – which doesn’t exist at the moment – as well as within the EU and the V4 group, which was also mentioned by the Slovak partners in their brief.