China’s Mission To Eastern Europe
On June the 5th, a delegation of over a hundred people from eighty Chinese companies arrived in Lodz, Poland for a two-day conference and brokerage event. The companies range from agriculture, to technology, and even renewable energy. This event, known as the ‘Lodz Mission’, seeks to bring together companies from China and Central and Eastern Europe. In doing so, companies hope to broker deals and ties that will prove very valuable for business. The governments hope that it strengthen both economic and diplomatic ties between Europe’s eastern edge and the world’s largest economy. This is not a new phenomenon. The ‘Lodz Mission’ is simply the latest in a succession of meetings, delegations, and conferences. Eastern Europe is part of China’s global strategy to search for new market opportunities and reach the colossal figure of $1 trillion worth of trade with Europe by 2020. Eastern Europe also shares many of China’s strategic industries and exports whilst acting as a window to Western Europe markets.
In recent years, China has been cultivating strong relationships with some of Central and Eastern Europe’s most promising economies.
In December of last year, Belgrade, Serbia was host to the third annual CEEC Fair, a meeting of the heads of Central and Eastern European countries and the Chinese government. In a previous summit, held in Bucharest, the Chinese representatives proposed a credit line of €10bn. This led to the establishment of Chinese banks in some Central and Eastern European countries. From the 8th to the 12th of June, the China-CEEC Investment and Trade Expo in Ningbo will showcase products from sixteen countries. But it is not only in business that China and Eastern Europe are finding common ground. The tourism industry in both directions is experiencing a boost from the increasing cooperation. Chinese tourists avoid heavy import taxation by purchasing goods in both Eastern and Western Europe; although Eastern Europe is a considerably cheaper option. Earlier this year in Hungary, an event brought together the tourism boards of China and countries in Central and Eastern Europe to help foster greater cooperation. Following the event, the China-Central and Eastern Europe Tourism Centre was opened in Budapest.
‘The Eastern Europe Express’
Beyond businesses and tourism, major infrastructure projects may soon be in the works. In December, at a meeting between the heads of government of China, Serbia, Hungary, and Macedonia, a significant project was given the green light.
The governments unanimously agreed on a joint project to build a land-sea express passage linking China to Europe.
The passage would be an upgrade and extension of the old Serbia-Hungary Railway, linking Budapest to Piraeus in Greece. The project would pass through Skopje, Macedonia, and cut the journey from Belgrade to Bucharest from eight hours to only two. The port of Piraeus, close to Athens, has been extensively redeveloped by the Chinese company Cosco, and will serve as the sea-leg of the express route. The express passage will connect the port with land-locked Central and Eastern European countries, thereby speeding up trade. With the construction of the express passage, Chinese cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe looks set to grow.