CHINESE Premier Li Keqiang outlined his hope yesterday that Beijing’s closer co-operation with central and eastern Europe could help foster prosperity in the region.
Mr Li told a summit of 16 countries in the Hungarian capital Budapest that China’s “new Silk Road” initiative to expand trade across Asia, Africa and Europe should be a boon to Europe’s former socialist countries.
“Our aim is to see a prospering Europe,” he said, adding that the closer ties with the 16 countries, 11 of them European Union members, will “usefully complement” EU-China relations.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is hosting the “16+1” summit, said that the region needed increased external technological and financial resources, including from China.
“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 said.
Mr Orban mentioned reconstruction of a railway line between Budapest and Serbia’s capital Belgrade, financed mainly by China, as a “flagship project” of China’s increased presence in the region.
The upgraded track could become the fastest transport route to western Europe of China’s new Silk Road, he suggested.
Mr Li expressed the aspiration that eastern European countries will account for more of China’s imports, which should total $8 trillion (£6trn) over the next five years.
“We hope the central and eastern European countries find their place in this volume and expand their presence on the huge Chinese market,” he told an economic forum held during the summit.
The Hungarian leader said that Europe needed strong allies” to confront the “historical challenges” it faces.
“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 co-operation with China as a great opportunity.
“We see the Chinese president’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative as a new form of globalisation that does not divide the world into teachers and students but is based on common respect and common advantages,” he added.