Nov. 27 -Joint cooperation through the global Belt and Road Initiative was the leading topic at the Sixth Summit of the China-Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), also known as the “16+1 Cooperation,” which opened today in Budapest.
The Hungarian and Chinese Prime Ministers, Viktor Orban and Li Kequiang, kicked off this discussion in their addresses to over 1,000 entrepreneurs from China and the CEEC member countries attending the opening of the Economic and Trade Forum connected to the summit, according to a Xinhua report. The meeting of all 16 heads of government followed.
“If Europe shuts itself in, it loses the possibility of growth. We 16 have always been open and would always like to remain so. We always saw cooperation with China as a great opportunity,” Orban stated at the outset. “European resources are in themselves insufficient. For this reason we welcome the fact that as part of the new economic world order, China sees this region as one in whose progress and development it wants to be present.”
He referred to the Chinese role in the planned reconstruction of the railway line between Budapest and Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, as the “flagship project” of China’s increased presence in the region, asserting that the rail line could become the fastest transport route to Western Europe for China’s New Silk Road. Hungary announced today the public procurement tenders for the reconstruction of that railway line, which is being financed mainly by China.
“We see the Chinese president’s One Belt, One Road initiative as the new form of globalization which does not divide the world into teachers and students, but is based on common respect and common advantages,” Orban said.
Chinese Premier Li laid out an aggressive program for increased China-CEEC cooperation by “docking” the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of the CEEC, in the words of Xinhua. “Our aim is to see a prospering Europe,” he said, adding that the closer ties with the 16 countries, which includes 11 European Union members, will “usefully complement” EU-China relations.
Li pressed for the building of connectivity projects such as the Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway to be accelerated; proposed production capacity building be expanded, through the joint
building of “economic and trade cooperation zones and creating an industrial chain, value chain and logistics chain featuring closer integration, stronger drive and wider benefit;” and called for cooperation between small and medium-sized enterprises to be promoted, according to Xinhua’s report.
Li estimated China’s imports over the next five years should total $8 trillion, as it has moved from a phase of high-speed growth to high-quality growth, which “will surely create opportunities for all countries in the world… We hope the central and eastern European countries find their place in this volume and expand their presence on the huge Chinese market.”
Financial resources for all this, were also addressed. Li announced that the China Development Bank will provide $2.4 billion (2 billion Euros) for the China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association being inaugurated on Monday, and that China will provide another $1 billion for the second phase of capitalization of the China-Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund, most of which will be channeled to CEE countries.