The latest trove of cooperation documents signed between China and the central and eastern European(CEE) countries are solid proof that their 16+1 mechanism is full of vigor and has started to reshape the landscape of China-Europe cooperation.[Special Coverage]
Since the first 16+1 leaders' meeting in Warsaw in 2012, China and the CEE countries have made great strides in pushing forward win-win cooperation, exemplified by various China-supported key infrastructure projects in the less developed part of the European continent as well as the increasing volume of exports from CEE countries to the Chinese market.
China and the CEE countries share a bright prospect for further cooperation since their economies are highly complementary.
In 2014, trade volume between China and the 16 CEE countries surpassed 60 billion U.S. dollars. Though still small considering their overall economic output, the figure represents a substantial increase from the previous years, thanks to efforts by both sides to boost cooperation in the field of economy and beyond.
China is a promising export market for the CEE countries at a time when consumer sentiment remains low across the European continent, dragged by a sluggish economic recovery.
Moreover, the CEE countries now face an urgent need to update their infrastructure network, an area in which China has accumulated rich experiences in the past several years.
Their cooperation potential will be further boosted by the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China, as almost all CEE countries are along the ancient routes the initiative tries to revive, and have expressed a strong interest in being part of the program.
With existing rail and air links connecting China and the CEE countries and the planned China-Europe land-sea express passage, connectivity within the 16+1 framework will be further strengthened to facilitate the movement of goods and people.
It is a fact that China's trade with Western European countries accounts for a lion's share of China-Europe trade while CEE countries now jointly account for about a tenth of China-Europe trade.
Given the enormous cooperation potential between China and CEE countries, and the strong political will of the 16+1 leaders to promote all-around cooperation, it will not be long before the CEE countries significantly increase its trade with China.
It is worth noting that the bigger role the CEE countries will play in China-Europe ties will pose no challenge to Western European nations, which have also pinned high hopes on trade with a rapidly growing China. What is happening within the 16+1 framework is actually a boon to the rest of Europe.
On the one hand, the major contents of their exports to China differ, which decides that West Europe hardly faces any competition from the CEE countries in terms of trade with China.
On the other hand, improved transportation and revamped ports in the CEE countries will also greatly facilitate trade flow between China and Western Europe.
As Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Tuesday, there are great opportunities "right under our noses" for 16+1 cooperation. It is hoped business leaders on both sides will seize the opportunities to give China-Europe win-win cooperation a hefty boost.