ChinaSeptember 5 2022, 6:30 am

Think Tank Report Analyzes Chinese Influence across Central and Eastern Europe

The Cen­ter for Euro­pean Pol­i­cy Analy­sis (CEPA), a US think tank, recent­ly pub­lished its #CCPinCEE project ana­lyz­ing Chi­nese influ­ence efforts and oper­a­tions across the nations of Cen­tral and East­ern Europe (CEE). CEPA says lit­tle con­sis­tent pat­tern emerges at first but com­mon­ly dis­play min­i­mal effort and a con­cen­tra­tion on cen­ters of pow­er with a puni­tive approach to polit­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ers who vio­late Chi­nese gov­ern­ment taboos. Accord­ing to the pro­jec­t’s exec­u­tive summary:

  • The Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty (CCP) takes an oppor­tunis­tic approach to Cen­tral and East­ern Europe (CEE). It tar­gets cen­tral gov­ern­ments where pos­si­ble and oth­er sources of polit­i­cal, cul­tur­al, and eco­nom­ic influ­ence where necessary.

  • The CCP min­i­mizes its effort, not seek­ing to under­stand com­plex local pow­er dynam­ics or eco­nom­ic, cul­tur­al, his­tor­i­cal, and geo­graph­i­cal differences.

  • This min­i­mal­ist approach enjoyed mod­er­ate ini­tial suc­cess when it offered easy mon­ey at low polit­i­cal costs. It is less effec­tive now and fails more often than it succeeds.

  • Chi­nese influ­ence efforts exploit exist­ing divi­sions in soci­ety. Key tar­get audi­ences are polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic elites and academics.

  • The CCP seeks to exploit “gaps” that nation­al gov­ern­ments or inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions have failed to address, includ­ing in  infra­struc­ture, finan­cial sup­port, and pan­dem­ic-relat­ed health care (vac­cines and per­son­al pro­tec­tive equipment).

  • Coun­tries out­side big inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions, such as the Euro­pean Union, are more sus­cep­ti­ble to Chi­nese influence.

  • The CCP finds it eas­i­er to pro­mote a neg­a­tive, anti-West­ern agen­da rather than a pos­i­tive (pro-Chi­na) agen­da. Many illib­er­al gov­ern­ments in the region oppor­tunis­ti­cal­ly use Chi­nese sup­port for domes­tic polit­i­cal pur­pos­es. Some inde­pen­dent media and civ­il soci­ety inves­ti­gate and decry Chi­nese influence.

  •  The CCP tol­er­ates its lim­it­ed suc­cess rate, as its invest­ments are low-risk and offer poten­tial long-term rewards.

Read the rest here.

As part of the project, CEPA pub­lished 16 sep­a­rate coun­try reports for each coun­try in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe:

  • Alba­nia: Chi­na seeks clos­er rela­tions with Alba­nia as part of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty’s mega-project to expand the reach of Bei­jing’s influ­ence overseas.
  • Bul­gar­ia: Bul­gar­ia has nev­er been among Bei­jing’s for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties, and the feel­ing has been mutual.
  • Croa­t­ia: Chi­na’s over­all pres­ence in Croa­t­ia, par­tic­u­lar­ly its malign influ­ence, is lim­it­ed com­pared with some oth­er CEE coun­tries as well as West­ern Balkan countries.
  • Czech Repub­lic: Bei­jing’s main strate­gic goals in the Czech Repub­lic have been to weak­en polit­i­cal sup­port for Tai­wan and to improve Chi­na’s image in the country.
  • Esto­nia: Chi­na has tra­di­tion­al­ly been per­ceived as a remote, yet enor­mous inter­na­tion­al play­er with lim­it­ed, if any, inter­est in Eston­ian affairs.
  • Greece Aware of its weak­en­ing eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal clout in Greece in the past two or three years, Chi­na has focused on coop­er­a­tion in cul­ture and education.
  • Hun­gary: Chi­na wields lit­tle influ­ence in Hun­gary, despite the fact that the Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment has been a reli­able part­ner of Bei­jing in the EU for over a decade.
  • Latvia: Chi­nese malign influ­ence efforts in Latvia so far have been rel­a­tive­ly pas­sive, focused most­ly on build­ing local net­works and prob­ing invest­ment opportunities.
  • Lithua­nia: Chi­nese influ­ence activ­i­ties in Lithua­nia take place amid a grad­ual dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the rela­tion­ship since 2019 that became par­tic­u­lar­ly acute in 2021.
  • Mon­tene­gro: Chi­na exerts influ­ence in Mon­tene­gro through its eco­nom­ic clout, pri­mar­i­ly through huge debt for con­struc­tion projects that will bur­den Mon­tene­gro for years.
  • North Mace­do­nia: Chi­na’s pres­ence in North Mace­do­nia gen­er­al­ly fits into the broad­er pat­tern of Chi­nese activ­i­ties in the West­ern Balka­ns and CEE region.
  • Poland: Pol­ish deci­sion-mak­ers have also grown weary of Chi­nese promis­es and Poland’s impor­tance to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty’s influ­ence oper­a­tions in Europe is low.
  • Roma­nia: While there is no rea­son to think Chi­nese inter­est in Roma­nia will wane, Roma­nia is not pri­or­i­tiz­ing its rela­tion­ship with China.
  • Slo­va­kia: Slo­va­kia has been on the mar­gin of Chi­na’s for­eign pol­i­cy inter­est suc­ces­sive Slo­vak gov­ern­ments have not made a pri­or­i­ty of cul­ti­vat­ing ties with China.
  • Slove­nia: Chi­na’s pri­ma­ry goal in Slove­nia is to secure a com­pre­hen­sive long-term polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty part­ner­ship with Ljubljana.

The Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report has pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed on a Carnegie study exam­in­ing Chi­na’s increas­ing influ­ence in South­east­ern, Cen­tral and East­ern Europe and a Glob­sec study exam­in­ing Chi­nese influ­ence in Cen­tral Europe in the West­ern Balkans.


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