søndag 9. mai 2021

Baltic states start to turn away from China

Over the past decade, China has made noteworthy strides towards drawing Eastern Europe into a web of cooperative relations. Through a cheque-book diplomacy approach, Beijing promised lucrative financial investments in the region. After the implementation of the so-called 17+1 platform, Eastern Europe’s ties with the emerging superpower intensified and appeared largely friction-free. China’s courting of this part of Europe even rattled Brussels bureaucrats who worried that the Chinese Communist Party could use its financial and technological prowess to drive a wedge between EU member states. As time has worn on, however, three countries of this cooperation forum—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—have visibly stopped rowing in Beijing’s direction.

The growing wariness of the People’s Republic of China in the Baltics can be tracked through the countries’ annual national intelligence reports. Traditionally, these strategic documents have almost exclusively fixated on their larger eastern neighbour, Russia. Today, however, paragraphs and pages are also reserved for the threat posed by China. Recently, in a rather bold move that caught the headlines of global news agencies, senior Baltic leaders snubbed the annual 17+1 summit and Chinese President Xi Jinping personally. Leading the way, the Lithuanian parliament agreed to exit this forum and politicians advocated for closer links with Taiwan. Why exactly did this once seemingly promising economic partnership sour so quickly?