“China in Central Europe: Out of Steam?”, Tamás Peragovics (IWE CERS, Hungary)

Since the creation in 2012 of the framework of 16 Central and Eastern European countries plus China (16+1) and the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) a year later, Beijing’s courting of the Visegrád Four (V4) countries has been a mainstay of policy discussions. Hungary was the first European country to sign up to the BRI in 2015. The Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia quickly followed suit the same year. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán lauded the dominating ‘wind from the east’ in global economic relations, and former Czech president Miloš Zeman sought to make his country into China’s ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’. Though the political fanfare was often out of sync with the reality of meagre investment and trade statistics, there were fears of China pocketing the region and turning the V4 into a Trojan horse.

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