China’s East-European “Leverage”: Understanding the Region’s Post-Communist Transition and Stance in Relation to the European Union
In most general methodological sense, Chinese experts’ community of today looks upon East-Central European socio-economic and political developments since 1989 as a direct consequence of the “third wave of democratization”, proclaimed in famous book by S. Huntington in 1974. Fundamental improvement of East-West relations, subsequent end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union created indispensable context for these pivotal systemic changes in the countries of the region. Perspective of the integration into EU and actual integration which happened for 11 East-Central European states is viewed by the Chinese as crucial external condition for understanding the substance and direction of the region’s post-communist transformation. Moreover, this transformation is perceived by many in Beijing to be generally successful.
However, observing recent domestic trends in some important countries of the region and growing tension between them and EU authorities, several Chinese experts expressed the view that “shock therapies”, “rapid privatization” and “swift transition to multi-party systems” “were a mismatch to the actual conditions of these societies”. This “mismatch”, according to such view, posed serious problems regarding the future path of the region’s development as well as dynamics of EU itself.
Chinese mainstream experts invariably underline the importance of PRC’s economic cooperation with all East-Central European countries, not, however, at the expense of deterioration of relations between Beijing and Brussels (EU in general and “Old Europe” in particular). This sensitivity is manifested, among other things, in China’s stress to fully develop “regional cooperation” between PRC and East-Central European states. Chinese experts also point to serious socio-economic, political, and culture-historic differences and even discrepancies between the countries of East-Central European region.