(Yicai Global) Sept.17 -- The importance of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to China's efforts at implementing the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was highlighted today during the First China-CEE Development Forum in Warsaw. The audience included a high-level delegation of local government officials and business leaders from the eastern coastal Chinese city of Qingdao, their Polish peers, as well as individuals interested in doing business in and with China and the CEE. China's Ambassador to Poland H.E. Xu Jian was among the keynote speakers during the event hosted by China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and Kozminski University.
"There has been steady progress in trade between the two sides. Within the context of a sustained downturn in the international economy, China's trade with CEE countries has still grown," said Ambassador Xu. "Mutual investment also continued to expand. Chinese enterprises have invested more than US$8 billion in CEE and they have expanded on the areas in which they are investing."
Among those hoping to see more Chinese investment into CEE, and Poland specifically, is Poland's Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Development, Paweł Chorąży. Expressing pleasure that the China-Poland relationship has now been elevated to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership, he stressed the need for a more balanced collaboration that would see win-win for both sides. "More Chinese businesses would be welcome, with open arms, to Poland. We would also expect Chinese parties to be equally open," he said.
There may very well be opportunities on the horizon for Poland and the wider CEE. Under the BRI and the "16+1" cooperation framework, China regards CEE – a potential driver of European economic growth – as a significant partner and destination for investment. The two sides are expected to step up their cooperation in various fields such as economy and trade, investment, infrastructure construction, finance, energy, tourism, education, agriculture, cultural exchange and regional partnerships.
According to Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the SINO-CEE Fund that facilitates financial collaboration between China and CEE, as well as other markets that have ties with those regions of Europe, the CEE is worthy of special focus. ""A crucial hub connecting East and West, located between the vital markets of the EU, Russia and the Middle East, CEE is an emerging market to which we should pay special attention. CEE countries certainly have an important role to play in the BRI," he said. Jiang, who is also Adjunct Professor of Finance at CEIBS and Director of CEIBS Lujiazui Institute of International Finance, spoke of the increasingly strong ties between China and CEE in recent years, with trade growing at roughly double-digit rates. "It increased to US$58.65 billion last year, recorded a steady increase of 9.5% compared to 2015, accounting for 10.2% of China-Europe trade," he said. "Chinese investments to Central and Eastern European countries also saw a rapid and steady increase. In general, CEE is becoming an important destination for China in terms of investment and economic cooperation."
Poland, with its comparative advantages of geographical location and abundant resources, is expected to be very attractive for investment. CEIBS Vice President & Dean Professor Ding Yuan noted that the country did US$17.6 billion in trade with China in 2016, up from US$14.8 billion three years earlier; there have been improvements in railway lines linking Europe to China via Poland; China's Cathay Pacific Airways built its 4th Global Contact Centre in Kraków; while there have been food and beverage, automobile, and building materials exported to China. Meanwhile, there have been shared opportunities for Poland, BRI and CEE from an upgrading of Polish infrastructure in anticipation of economic take-off; provision of a gateway to connect the China and EU markets; a transportation and communication hub for Eurasia; as well as more balanced funding resources towards a more diversified economy, he said.
It is anticipated that even greater collaboration will be forged during events like today's conference, which brought together leaders from China and the CEE's political, business and economic circles for a frank discussion. They spoke on a range of topics including infrastructure construction, new energy, and internet e-commerce – and how new approaches to China-CEE cooperation can result in shared prosperity. The event also included panel discussions that looked at both the new economy and traditional sectors, and the potential opportunities and challenges for collaborations under each scenario.
Today's forum in Warsaw is part of this year's series of CEIBS 3rd Europe Forum. More content generated from this and previous events in London, Paris and Munich are available here. The next event will be in Zurich on October 18. The CEIBS 3rd Europe Forum 2017 is part of CEIBS' efforts to provide the political, business and academic communities in China and Europe with an opportunity to offer insights into crucial international issues.
China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) is among the top international business schools in Asia, where it is the only b-school to have simultaneously made it to the Financial Times' top 30 list of MBA, EMBA and Executive Education programmes. CEIBS' world-class faculty – from both China and abroad – are experts in their fields. CEIBS, which has provided management education to over 130,000 executives both at home and abroad, has campuses in Shanghai, Beijing, Zurich and Accra along with a teaching centre in Shenzhen.