China wants to step up its cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe, where it already finances a number of projects in the framework of its aspiration towards greater global influence, a key infrastructure minister from the Chinese government announced.

Chinese Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng, who attended a meeting in Belgrade with representatives of 16 European countries, said that improving economic and other relations is based on “mutual benefits” for both China and this part of Europe.

“The current international situation is quite complicated and uncertainty is growing,” the Chinese representative said. “China wants and prepares together with the 16 countries of the region to deepen our cooperation,” he added.

The Chinese interest in Central and Eastern Europe is linked to the New Silk Road initiative (also known as Belt & Road Initiative) to increase Chinese influence abroad through investment and close economic cooperation. In Serbia, the supported by China projects include the construction of a high-speed railway between the capital of Belgrade and the capital of Hungary – Budapest.

Serbian President Alexander Vucic appreciated China’s role by saying it was “very benefiting” for his poor country.

“We would never be able to do it by ourselves if it was not this positive pressure from China to build something, to link rivers with bridges, build new roads,” Vucic said.

Meanwhile, the Fourth meeting of Central and Eastern Europe and China’s local leaders “16+1” will take place in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia on 20 October 2018. Cooperation in areas such as tourism, agriculture, industrial and demonstration zones and parks, small and medium-sized enterprises will be among the topics discussed. The forum aims to further develop and build on the results achieved by the Summit held in Sofia on 7 July.

In the new economic conditions, China operates as rational as possible, looking for both opportunities in other regions and opening its own economy to foreign partners. It was Beijing the one with the biggest beneficiary of foreign direct investment in the first half of 2018, attracting approximately USD 70 billion inflows. Investment flows towards China continue to increase despite growing tensions in trade and increasing production costs.