Has the 'pause button' been pressed on China-CEEC cooperation amid COVID-19?
Updated 14:00, 10-Feb-2021

Has the "pause button" been pressed on the China-CEEC cooperation amid COVID-19? The answer is no, even though the whole world experienced a severe collapse in economy in 2020.

According to the latest data from China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), China's total trade volume with 17 CEE countries reached $103.45 billion in 2020, crossing the 100-billion-dollar mark for the first time and providing the global economy with a buffer against the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.

The achievements of China-CEEC collaboration inject confidence for more expectations in the future.

The China-CEEC cooperation mechanism

Almost a year has passed since China announced the postponement of the ninth summit between the CEE countries due to the COVID-19, which originally scheduled for the first half of 2020.

China-CEEC cooperation is a cross-regional cooperation platform based on the common aspirations of China and the CEE countries, and has yielded early harvests and important results in nearly 20 fields of cooperation.

Members of the cooperation mechanism include China, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Greece. 

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointed out that China-CEEC collaboration is part of China-Europe cooperation and a helpful complement to China's cooperation with the European Union (EU).

The China-CEEC cooperation, which arises from the common desires and mutual needs of China and the CEE countries, is in no way intended to start all over again, let alone to divide Europe, the minister has stressed.

Fight the virus, economic recovery and more

Global cooperation against the COVID-19 can be the key phrase from last year. 

In this regard, China and the CEE countries held video conferences of experts on COVID-19 prevention and control, during which officials of the China's Foreign Ministry, National Health Commission, and Chinese experts in disease control, civil aviation, customs and other fields shared information on the fight against the pandemic and exchanging prevention and control experience with government officials and experts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and the Czech Republic and other CEE countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also talked over phone with Polish President Andrzej Duda, noting that China had held a video conference of health experts with Poland and other CEE countries to timely share information and relevant measures on epidemic prevention and control.

Moreover, cooperation between China and the CEE countries has become closer in multiple areas, including trade and investment, the promotion of China Railway Express, the freight trains connecting China and the Europe, and project agreements.

China's foreign trade with the CEECs grow by 8.4% in 2020 exceeding $100 billion, which is faster than the country's annual trade volume with Europe as a whole, and also faster than China's yearly foreign trade growth rate for the year, according to Gao Feng, spokesperson of the MOFCOM.

Since 2012, the country's trade ascent with these partners has averaged 8 percent annually.

China-Europe freight train leaves Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, March 28, 2020. /Getty

China-Europe freight train leaves Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, March 28, 2020. /Getty

Meanwhile, playing a big role in the economic development, China-Europe freight trains, as an important symbol of Belt and Road Initiative cooperation, has become a major transportation channel and a green lane connecting Asia and Europe with unique advantages of high efficiency, large rail networks and all-weather operation.

The number of China-Europe freight trains stood at 12,400 in 2020, with key passages and destinations including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Besides traditional cooperation, China and the CEE countries also show the momentum to expand their cooperation into new fields such as digital economy, artificial intelligence, financial technology, life science and environmental protection.

China-CEEC cooperation has maintained exuberant vigor and vitality, which is supported by the constant development of economic and trade cooperation, said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the opening ceremony of the 9th Business Forum of CEEC and China in 2019.

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