June 2019
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This is a special issue of economic and financial (E&F) newsletter, whose aim is to draw attention to the project “Comparative analysis of the approach towards China: V4 + and Belt and Road Initiative”. 

In June 2019 PSSI released a final report on comparative analysis of economic relations between China and the Visegrád countries + Serbia. It reveals that while China’s role in each of their economies has grown over the last decade, developments have been anything but homogenous, and that concerns about China’s impact on national security will be a critical factor in the success of the “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”. Using a common analytical framework across each of the chapters, these countries’ relations with China are reviewed in terms of recent bilateral trade and financial data, major investment projects, and the impact of national investment screening activity. A complex overview of bilateral dynamics emerges out of this framework. The variety of results suggests that no matter the disparity between China and its partners in economic power or the financial incentives it may be able to offer, realizing the BRI is dependent on the quality of China’s relations with each of the individual sovereign nations involved.

This project was supported by the International Visegrad Fund (IVF). Project partners include Institute of Asian Studies (Slovakia), HAS Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Institute of World Economics (Hungary),  Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) (Serbia), and Centre for International Relations (CIR) (Poland).

Report's selected takeaways

Policy and strategic environment in the Czech Republic

The 2015 foreign policy concept of the Czech Republic acknowledges that economic cooperation with China is regarded as playing an important role in forming and strengthening the bilateral relationship.

On the political level until 2013 the Czech Republic had been generally regarded among the EU member countries as one of the most critical towards China. With the change of government and new leadership the improvement of bilateral relations was made a key priority. Following the parliamentary elections in 2017, the approach adopted by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been rather cautious with a desire to develop relations with Chinese businesses on a more pragmatic basis.

Sino-Slovak trade relations

Sino-Slovak trade relations are suffering from deepening trade imbalance. Slovakia joined the 17+1 platform under the promise of improving Slovak exports to China. However, since joining the 17+1, Slovak exports have decrease by some 50%, mostly due to decrease in car exports from Slovakia. Even though there were numerous attempts to kick-start exports from other sectors of Slovak economy, the small production scales and bureaucratic hurdles on China’s part made these attempts mostly unsuccessful.

Investment screening in Poland

The Polish Act of 24 July 2015 “On the Control of Certain Investments” is aimed at screening investments in sectors of strategic importance for the economy, particularly energy and the defence industry. Lawmakers authorized the Polish government to specify by way of regulation a list of entities subject to protection. Such a list may – but doesn’t need to - be issued every year. 

Chinese investment in Hungary

Although Chinese multinational companies represent a relatively small share of total FDI stock in Hungary (2,4 %), Hungary hosts more Chinese investment stock than other CEE countries. The major Chinese investors targeting the country are primarily interested in telecommunication, electronics, chemical industry, transportation.

In the past decade, Chinese companies expressed their interest in several Hungarian infrastructure-related investment in recent years, but none of them have been realized so far. The project to modernize the Belgrade–Budapest railway is planned under a new framework, China’s Belt and Road initiative and was delayed by the European Commission because of transparency issues and questioned for its price/quality ratio domestically, too. Despite these concerns, the Hungarian government insists on the implementation of the project.

Future prospects in the relations between China and Serbia

China is perceived as an important and beneficial partner in the field of international relations, but also in the internal economic development. The phrase that is most often used to describe relations between two countries is ‘’steel friendship’’. The relations between China and Serbia have been on the rise during past 10 years based on the numerous financial agreements, Chinese FDI, political support and cooperation and development of cultural relations

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Prague Security Studies Institute · Pohorelec 6 · Prague 118 00 · Czech Republic