> Opinion

SHEN DINGLI: ‘16 plus one’ cooperation boosts China-CEEC ties

| 2017-12-07
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the start of “16 plus one” China’s cooperation with Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC).


On Nov. 27, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended the sixth meeting between the heads of government of China and 16 CEE countries.


A crucial part of and complement to China-Europe relations, China-CEEC cooperation is conducive to promoting the development of China and CEE countries themselves and to fostering the comprehensive balanced development of China-Europe relations. Cooperation between China and CEE countries, which connects the continents of Europe and Asia, also plays an important role in maintaining regional and global development and stability.


Chinese President Xi Jinping values China-CEEC cooperation. During talks with the heads of government of CEE countries at their fourth meeting in China, Xi suggested the two sides strengthen their cooperation in all sectors based on the principle of mutual benefit, openness and inclusiveness. He put forward three “alignments:” one is to fully align the “16 plus one” mechanism with the “Belt and Road” initiative; the second is to comprehensively align the mechanism with China-Europe comprehensive strategic partnership; the third is to effectively align the mechanism with the development strategies of China and CEE countries themselves.


The three plans of “alignment” are now progressing smoothly. The B&R initiative has connected China and CEE countries more tightly than ever, with closer trade ties and people-to-people exchanges. During this recent meeting between the heads of government, China signed several cooperation agreements with many of CEE countries, moving toward the goal of expanding the coverage of the B&R initiative to include all 16 CEE countries.


In a world that is undergoing major developments, transformations and adjustments, China and CEE countries have reasons to foster mutually beneficial development. After nearly 40 years of reform and opening up, China has made achievements that are increasingly drawing the attention of CEE countries. At a time when CEE countries urgently need to upgrade their infrastructure and improve connectivity with other countries, China stands ready to provide technologies and financing to CEE countries. During Chinese industry’s current critical phase of transformation and upgrading, the development demand from CEE countries will also create a strong cooperative market for China.


In the past five years, the two sides have established more than 20 institutional exchange platforms spanning trade, agriculture, health, tourism and other sectors. They have put forward several major initiatives, including the Hungary-Serbia Railway, the China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line, Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Seaport Cooperation, and rolled out more than 200 specific measures. Together, these actions form a blueprint for “16 plus one” cooperation and have solidified its foundation.
The key to the fast development and vitality of “16 plus one” cooperation lies in China’s commitment to the concepts of “equal consultation, mutual benefit, openness and inclusiveness, results-oriented and innovative” in developing its cooperation with CEE countries.


In the past five years, “16 plus one” cooperation has been gaining momentum and become increasingly mature, especially against the backdrop of a bleak world economy. The sustainable and substantial progress that China and CEE countries have made has not come easy. It is in the interests of the two sides to make the best of the “16 plus one” platform and fully actualize the economic advantages that are complementary to each country for more considerable cooperation.

 

This article was translated from People’s Daily Overseas Edition. Shen Dingli is a professor and deputy director of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.