Dr. Zhao Baige opens the 6th China-CEECs High-level Think Tanks Symposium


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Dr. Zhao Baige, Vice Chairwoman of the 12th National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairwoman of Advisory committee of the Belt and One Road International Think Tank, CASS: the 17 plus 1 and the Belt and Road have been developed in synergy.



One of the top European and American studies expert Dr. Huang Ping, Director General of CASS' Institute of European Studies and chairman of the 17+1 think tank network said at the Symposium that China multilateralism has not been a formal thing but practical actions and the principal feature of its diplomacy. The current world is faced with issues from keeping free trade on track to fighting climate change and for resolving them bilateral ties are not enough.


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                                                                               Dr. Huang Ping, Director General of CASS' Institute of European Studies and chairman of the 17+1 think tank network: China multilateralism is based on practical actions.


- The “Belt and Road Initiative”, the China International Import Expo and 17+1 cooperation are important partsof China’s new multilateralism and its practice led by China’s new generation of leaders focused to raise China-EU relations to a new height. Toaddressing challenges of anti-globalization and protectionism, D. Huang stressed, we must adhere to the principles of openness, norms of multilateralism and mutual benefit.

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     Ambassador Huo Yuzhen, a Special Representative for Cooperation between China and CEECs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of P.R. China: We are working on strengtheningfoundation for   building more influential public diplomacy of 17+ 1.


Ambassador Huo Yuzhen, a Special Representative for Cooperation between China and CEECs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of P.R. China, described "17+1 cooperation" as the most dynamic and representative cross-regional cooperation mechanism that has achieved fruitful results.

Ambassador Huo said in the current complex international environment „17+1 cooperation" should be based on promoting the development of "17+1 cooperation" to high quality through deepening of tripartite and multi-party cooperation focused on development of China-EU relations. Ambassador Huo supported strengthening foundation for  building more influential public diplomacy of 17+ 1.

Parallel Session II: Innovative and sustainable development of 17 plus 1

Professor Liu

Moderator Prof. Liu Zuokui, Secretary General of the 17 + 1 Think Tanks Network:China-CEEC Cooperation has succeeded to develop many levels of cooperation from local, agricultural to new energy cooperation.





Dr. Jasna Plevnik, Croatia drawn by Zackabier Cro zmaj1, attended Parallel Session II: Innovative and sustainable development of 17 plus 1 Cooperation chaired by Prof. Liu Zuokui, Senior Research Fellow, Director of the Department of CEE Studies, Institute of European Studies, CASS and Secretary General of the 17 + 1 Think Tanks Network.Prof. Liu emphasized in the introduction China-CEEC Cooperation has succeeded to develop many levels of cooperation from local, agricultural to new energy cooperation.

Dr. Jasna Plevnik´s speech was focused on exploring an influence of China – CEEC cooperation (the 17 plus 1) on six Southeast Europe countries’ (SEE6) relations with the European Union. She elaborated effects of the 17 plus 1 on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia process of association with to the European Union. 


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  Dr. Jasna Plevnik: the 17 plus 1 and the BRI  support  SEE6 relations with the European Union.


In the case of the two EU members states from Southeast Europe – Croatia and Slovenia Dr. Plevnik analysed whether the 17 plus 1 cooperation were inserted in their diplomacy within the EU and China relations.Considering the SEE6 – China relations she concluded the 17 plus 1 and the BRI have developed in Southeast Europe also as a supportive diplomacy towards SEE6 and their relations with the European Union.

China – CEEC’s cooperation has been focused on regional cooperation and infrastructure connectivity projects that indirectly have boosted up implementation of the stabilisation and association agreement that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia   signed with the EU.

Within the context of claims the 17 plus 1 in Southeast Europe could be explained as China’s tool for dividing the European Union Dr. Jasna Plevnik showed that kind of approaches did not provide a specific description of modern Southeast Europe geopolitical significance for China and other global powers’ geostrategic interests.  She concluded in most cases, geopolitical framing of the 17 plus 1 rested upon on mechanical repetition of qualifications derived from some other geographical area and events included in big geopolitical game.

From Dr. Jasna Plevnik's presentation (the long read).

An assesment


Good morning to everyone. Prof. Liu thank you for the invitation.

Here I  would try to response to those concerns repeatedly  expressed  at academic, political and media levels that the 17 plus 1 cooperation presents  a serious risk for relations between the EU and six Southeast Europe countries and internal and external unity of the EU.

It is normal not just  for individuals but also for  institutions and states to be concerned. These concerns would be less severe if would put them into a context of empirical knowledge. Not expectations. 



The relations between Southeast Europe and China have deepened through  many agencies, associations, centres, networks and  mechanisms established by  17 plus 1 format.

The cooperation has not been understood in Southeast Europe as an alternative for the European Union but more as an additional opportunity for development and integration into direction of Eurasia and China. Especially the first economic globalisation did not bring expected benefits. 

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Dubrovnik summit has brought to the cooperation a vital change that has enabled the cooperation to go further in Europe,that is an “organic” tendency of the format. The enlargement towards south of Europe, to Greece might help to develop more  stronger connection between 17 plus 1 and the Belt and Road in the region. Greece has s significant place inside the BRI’s economic corridors. The position of 17 plus 1 inside Belt and Road stays open as a significant issue of further evolution of  the 17 plus one. The both initiatives as a new kind of multilateralism in the international relations have power to move world intoa new phase of economic globalisation.






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The 17 plus 1 cooperation, like every other diplomacy, remains sensible on events in the world. The post cold international relations has come under pressure of anti-globalisation tendencies, anti-free trade politics. In a such a special and sensitive period Dubrovnik guidelines (2019) put its first global focus on supporting the economic globalisation and “a rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade at its core.” That connectsDubrovnik guidelines  withEU – China – A Strategic Outlook’s five  action. Obviously, 17 plus 1 diplomacy has become more and more confidentto face the current complex global situation.


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The European Union and China are not in tense situation and they are not geopolitical rivals though current America’s administration is acting to change it. The EU is currently trying to unify its approach to China not to select a side between China and the USA. But in EU-China –A Strategic Outlook Document March 2019, China became "a systemic rival" that promotes an alternative model of governance.

The EU  has been involved in 17 plus 1 as a summit observer. For the past seven years from Karel de Gucht  to Johanes Hahn the EU have be concerned  about the rise of China’s exports in Southeast Europe or China’s banks presence in the region and China’s investments into energy sector.

The trade imbalances in China’s relations with Southeast Europe is an issue that is a global phenomenon. China has been working on policies that encourages a more balanced trade into direction of reciprocity. Like The China International Import Expo. There is no regulation in trade that require of China or any other country to export the same value as it imports.

The data on China’s exports in Southeast Europe since 2011 to 2018 did not show dramatic growth despite the region’s entering in the 17 plus 1 and the Belt and Road Initiative. The trends show the EU’ s countries are the most important foreign trade partners of the observed countries.


Share trade Bih Serbia Northern Macedonia Eu China percentage



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Share trade Crotaia Slovenia Montenegro theEu China percentage

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Croatia Eu China


                                                                              Croatian imports from China has been decreased.

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Serbia Eu China


                                                            The largest importer of goods from China is Serbia. The value of imports in 2018 was about $ 2.2 billion (about 1.9 billion euros).



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Slovenia Eu China

                                                          The largest export of goods to China was recorded by Slovenia, 303 million euros in 2018 (320 million in 2017). From regional perspective only Slovenia had a positive balance of trade in 2018.


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 When we look at evolution of the 17 plus 1, we can see it has reached satisfying degree of harmony  with the European Union and  with its development strategies. The process of harmonisation with the EU’ standards depends on the EU contributions too that is stressed in Dubrovnik guidelines.

In some areas compliance between the 17 plus 1 and the EU norms is profound (principles, importance of transport infrastructure connectivity, trade, people-to-people cooperation) while in other domains should be more deeply formulated (ecology,  public procurements, energy sector).

The relations between Southeast Europe and the 17 plus 1 have developed into direction of encouraging regional cooperation that is in line with   the European Union’s stabilisation and association process (SAP) that has started in Southeast Europe  two decades is not completed yet especially not in terms of connecting Southeast Europe’s countries transport infrastructure mutually and with the European Union.  





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All SEE countries except Slovenia (European agreement) signed with the EU Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA).

An unavoidable part of SAAs is regional cooperation that aims to strengthen stability in Southeast Europe, improve intra-regional cooperation and create conditions for spill over effects in economy that no country alone could achieve.

Every agreement has a “Title III, regional cooperation that is focused on “active promotion of regional cooperation projects with a regional or cross-border dimension…”

North Macedonia was the first  country that signed SAA with the EU in February 2001. Croatia signed SAA in April the same year. Montenegro in 2007 and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in 2008. Croatia’s SAA is out of force because it entered to the EU in 2013 but it is obliged, as well as Slovenia, to support regional cooperation and even to be a role model.







Title 3 SAA





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The stabilisation and association process and European Neighbourhood Policy have a persistent problem to produce faster results in the field of building hard infrastructure inside and outside of SEE6. Those difficulties have been well recognised in Southeast Europe.In October 2018, the Summit 100 in Belgrade, which is a meeting between business leaders from southeast Europe, concluded with a declaration that weak physical interconnectedness amongst countries fundamentally blocks Balkan’s development.Perhaps of it the 17 plus 1 has within South East Europe a reputation of cooperation that could strength Southeast Europe transport position inside Europe.


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Besides it appears the concept of the EU strategy on connecting Europe and Asia (2018), that could be seen as a response to the BRI, does not reach Southeast Europe in a substantial way. In theorizing that strategy of the EU should give more significance to the geographical position of Southeast Europe that through history has been defined as an unavoidable link between East and West.

A greater part of southeast Europe is covered with a basic transport European network that Brussels plans to finish upgrading by 2050.




projecst connecting

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These  projects have potential to  stimulate regional cooperation in Southeast Europe through building transport infrastructures and connect the region with new different kinds of China - Europe networks They could be understood as a support to the European Union stabilisation and association process the SAP and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

HS Railways Belgrade – Budapest rail line project entails in itself many levels of cooperation and connections: inside Southeast Europe (Serbia, Macedonia) and connects Serbia with the EU member countries Hungary and in the future with Greece.

Montenegro highway should link Montenegro's southern port of Bar with Serbia, financed by loan from China, should bring the country more tourists, and investments as well as higher level of connectivity with the region.

In the long run a project "Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea Seaport Cooperation", which was launched in 2015, during Suzhou summit, and was featured in Riga declaration (2016), has strong potential to connect Southeast Europe’s sea ports and the inland waterways.

The 17 plus 1 cooperation in area of people – to – people bonds has powerful potential to improve regional cooperation. All Southeast Europe countries share same interest to attract China’s tourists so they are interested to shape a new regional scale tourist product for China's market that will include the most attractive Southeast Europe destinations with interconnected direct flights to China. 




Southeast Europe countries have no capacity to influence EU’s political and economic stand towards Beijing and divide the European Union. The region’s relations with China are essentially less developed than bilateral trade and investment relations of the EU most developed countries and China. Germany, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Netherlands are countries that have significant mechanisms and strength to influence relations between Brussels and Beijing and do it.

Since 2012 to 2018, there have been no evidences that Southeast Europe countries were included in building some “China coalition” aimed to divide the European Union, weaken the European Commission’s trade policy or influence the EU’s cooperation with NATO.

The EU unity is endangered by rise of centrifugal forces inside the block. Brexit and strengthening of populism in Europe have become forces that divide the Union and slow its process of enlargement in Southeast Europe.

The research “EU Coalition Explorer", on coalition building in the European Union, published in October 2018, shows only a few European countries from “17 plus 1” (Poland and Hungary) have some potential to influence the EU.

Croatia and Slovenia have developed their relations with China in consistency with   these documents down that all have as the goals creating of efficient infrastructure and connections from transport links to energy networks, people-to-people contacts to digital webs between the EU and China and Asia and as such are in a natural harmony with the 17 plus 1 and the BRI type of relations.


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recom cooperation

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