Beijing: Furthering Beijing into irrelevance, Estonia and Latvia have both pulled out of China’s diplomatic and trade forum in Central and Eastern Europe.
The Forums was once known as the 17+1 however, it is now down to 14 countries and as per US-based media outlet Foreign Policy, other countries may follow suit, including Slovakia, which in recent years has become a fierce China critic.
One of the major backdrops with which this latest move will be seen is how deeply China’s diplomacy has felt the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Beijing has not only failed to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but has also accused NATO of the escalation of the conflict in Eastern Europe.
All this commentary for Russian President Vladimir Putin has not gone down well in Eastern Europe as the region has already witnessed imperialism from the soviet union. With the latest move, China’s biggest supporter left in Europe is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Putin ally.
Soviet Union violently annexed the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1940. With this, they may see a certain shared identity with Taiwan, a democratic state threatened by a far larger neighbour.
Last year, China got into a dispute with Lithuania where Beijing tried to tighten its clutch on the Baltic state over Taiwan’s diplomatic status in the country. Following this, Beijing had cut trade ties with Vilnius and sought to force other countries to do the same, as per the media portal.
The 17+1 group began as the 16+1 in 2012, with Greece added in 2019. However, now it has weakened. As per Chinese analyst, the grouping earlier was seen as a major milestone for China in Europe but many voiced their concerns that this could be a potential way for Beijing to undermine unity on the continent.
Another important point to be noted is China’s expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative which is already perceived as a debt trap for developing countries. It must also be understood that even before Lithuania pulled out, the body had become practically irrelevant.
A signature rail line between Belgrade, Serbia, and Budapest, Hungary, is far over schedule and over budget and an independent Hungarian media have estimated it may take 130 years for the route to turn a profit. Construction on power plants hasn’t even started. By 2019, several leaders had started dropping the Chinese-European grouping’s events from their schedules.
Central and Eastern European countries aren’t the only ones turning against China; its image is now damaged throughout the continent. A major trade deal between China and the European Union has been dead in the water since March 2021, when Beijing sanctioned European politicians for calling out its human rights record.