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Xi’s visit to deepen CEE ties

By Bai Tiantian (Global Times)    09:03, June 17, 2016

Serbia, Poland, Uzbekistan trip promotes China’s vision

Chinese President Xi Jinping begins a three-nation tour on Friday before attending the 16th annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan.

Analysts said the state visits to Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan are aimed at promoting China's global economic vision in Central Europe and Central Asia, focusing on cooperation in industrial capacity and infrastructure. Also, this year's SCO summit is expected to witness significant progress in India and Pakistan's pursuit to become formal SCO members.

"Adding members shows the organization's openness and will increase the SCO's capabilities in resolving security and economic issues. The fact that more countries wish to join the SCO proves the organization's influence is growing," Xia Yishan, a research fellow of Central Asian studies at the China Institutes of International Studies, told the Global Times.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Minister Li Huilai told the media on Wednesday that the inclusion is a sign that the organization has matured.

The entry of India and Pakistan will add about 1.5 billion people under the SCO umbrella.

This may also help improve strained ties between India and Pakistan by opening another communication channel, Xia said.

"Under the SCO framework, heads of states and their security and law enforcement departments will regularly meet. This will to some extent help the two countries engage in conciliatory dialogue," Fu Xiaoqiang, an expert on South Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier said that the SCO has become a paradigm of regional and global cooperation with great vitality.

"The SCO serves as a model of efficient cooperation by simultaneously paying equal attention to economic development and security cooperation, which has helped safeguard regional peace and stability," Wang told reporters in May.

The summit will also discuss anti-terrorism, drug smuggling and transnational crimes to deepen security cooperation in the region.

Founded in 2001, the SCO currently has China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full members, with Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers.

Cooperation framework

Aside from the SCO summit, Xi's visits to the three countries serve to boost China's relationship with Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Central Asia, analysts said.

China and Serbia will sign trade, industry and finance agreements while China and Poland will close deals on finance, aviation, science and education.

Within the China-CEE cooperation framework, or the "16+1" mechanism, major projects have been given the green light or are underway, including a China-Europe land-sea express passage, freight train services to strengthen connectivity between China and Europe, and the construction and renovation of a rail link between the Serbian and Hungarian capitals.

In April, China's Hebei Iron and Steel Group signed a 46 million euro ($52 million) deal to take over Serbia's century-old steel plant Smederevo, hoping to transform the plant into one of the most competitive firms in Europe.

Xi's CEE visits come on the heels of his state visit to the Czech Republic in April.

The presidents of the Czech Republic and Serbia attended China's V-day parade in Beijing last year.

"Much emphasis in recent years has been given to economic cooperation with the CEE. The region is also vital to China's Belt and Road initiative," said Ding Chun, director of the Europe Research Center at Fudan University.

The three nations were among the first to respond to the Belt and Road initiative.

Serbia is pushing forward with a re-industrialization strategy to attract more foreign investment, while Poland, as the sole member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in the region, hopes to provide a gateway for China to Europe.

In an interview with the Global Times, Miroslaw Gajewski, Polish Ambassador to China, said Poland can become a key partner in the Belt and Road initiative due to its position as a major transportation hub in Europe.

"Large-scale investments in infrastructure and logistics systematically strengthened Poland's competitive advantage in the transport business, where our position is already very strong," Gajewski said.

Xi will be the first Chinese head of state to visit Serbia in 32 years. In 2009, Serbia became the first CEE country to establish a strategic partnership with China. Poland is China's largest trading partner in Central and Eastern Europe, while China is Poland's largest trading partner in Asia as well as its third-largest importer.

China is also eyeing capacity cooperation with Uzbekistan, whose economy mainly relies on energy and agriculture.

Song Shengxia and Xinhua contributed to this story 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Yuan Can,Bianji)

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