Programs / The role and influence of the People’s Republic of China on Visegrad Group Countries

The aim of the project is to monitor the activities of the People’s Republic of China in relation to the Visegrad Group countries – Poland, the Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia

It is no secret the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is expanding its economic and political influence in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). PRC imports to the Czech Republic are rising fast, and the PRC is Slovakia’s third, Poland’s second, and Hungary’s first largest trading partner outside the EU. The New Silk Road’s supply logistics chain also carry risks of exploitable dependence. Infrastructure projects, such as the EU-funded Croatia’s Pelješac bridge (EUR 340 mln), or the Budapest-Belgrade high-speed rail (USD 2.1 bln) are but some examples. Nor is it a secret that constructing 5G networks allows acquisition of user data and thus to exert unfair leverage behind the scenes. Most recently, the disinformation and “mask diplomacy” during the COVID-19 pandemic hints that there may be more dependence of European states on the PRC than previously supposed. The shortage of medical supplies throughout Western states without extras from the PRC is as worrying as the revelation that many of these turned out to be dysfunctional is curious. Not to mention that Chinese businessmen transported medical equipment under the auspices of the Red Cross to Italy but sold it outside legal trade. These may make one think of how similar and different it might be with regard to CEE and any dependency on supplies. These would also make one sure that the Visegrád Group developing a coherent and cohesive approach to it is both feasible and beneficial. In cases where it would demand cleverly mitigating a potentially aggressive policy from the PRC, this becomes a necessity.

The best way to counteract practices that may violate the interests of the V4 member states is the broadly understood act of informing the public and, not to be underestimated, raising awareness of the risks of uncontrolled rapprochement with Beijing and excessive economic dependence of Central and Eastern European countries on the PRC. A series of articles devoted to the activities of the PRC in individual V4 countries and a dedicated Special Report will allow for a more insightful and comprehensive understanding of the strategies and tactics of the PRC in influencing the Visegrád Group countries, as well as building competitive advantages in this part of Europe, taking into account their individual context. In the implementation of the project, citizens , gov.t bodies, media, NGOs, and other organisations of V4 countries will have user friendly means to be able to more acutely recognise the potential activities of the PRC in their countries and identify the risks associated with it. The most direct effect of the project will be the strengthening of cooperation between individual V4 states, through a better understanding of the unique interests of the Member States and placing them in the broader context of geopolitical and economic relations between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle Kingdom. The common approach developed by the V4 countries will not only strengthen their negotiating position with regard to Beijing, but will also become more noticeable internationally, potentially even providing some example to others in comparable situations.

The project was funded by the International Visegrad Fund.