China Studies academic comments on China’s “16+1” platform

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An academic from the Department of China Studies at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University has commented on China’s “16+1”, a cooperation mechanism between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries.

Dragan Pavlićević, a lecturer in China Studies, wrote commentaries for The Diplomat, the premiere international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region, and the International Public Policy Review, which offers knowledge and expertise on Asian and world affairs to the public as well as the business community.

Dragan analyses the development and progress of the 16+1 framework, which was designed to boost cooperation between China and the CEE countries but has faced challenges, some of which Dragan addresses in his commentaries.

Across both articles he stresses, among other points, that the 16+1 is a highly complex grouping and that “the European members of this group have trouble finding common interests and articulating common policies under the 16+1 framework”. This, coupled with the “unsubstantiated” assumption that the arrangement is a threat to the EU, has led to the perception that the initiative stalling, he writes.

“There is palpable frustration on both sides of the China-CEE platform regarding the speed and substance of developments under the 16+1 framework. There is a shared sense that the platform has been underachieving,” he writes.

However, he concludes that this is not the case and that the “the mainstream doom-and-gloom perceptions of the 16+1 are mistaken”. He writes that the format is unlikely to fail, but will instead grow in importance over the coming years.

He cautions that China will be required to be the driving force behind the initiative and should take the lead in addressing the challenges: “Beijing…must act quickly to rectify its approach so as to become more responsive to the diversity and complexity of the CEE region,” he writes, indicating that a new set of policies to broaden the scope and modalities of economic cooperation will be crucial to “reinvigorating the initiative”.

Dragan joined the Department of China Studies at the beginning of July and will be teaching two modules on China’s international relations.

His research at XJTLU will be focussed on the implications of China's export of high-speed railways as well as on understanding the impact of China's multilateral diplomacy in Europe on European internal and foreign policies. He is also interested in China's domestic politics and will continue working on journal articles concerned with state-society relations and as well as preparing a book on grassroots political participation in contemporary China.

He feels it’s a ‘privilege’ to be working at XJTLU due to the opportunity it affords him to experience first-hand China’s rapid development: “For a specialist on contemporary China it is of utmost importance to be able to observe and keep pace with these developments. Being based in China also provides me with an opportunity to understand better the narratives that shape development of Chinese policies, both domestically and in terms of China's foreign policy,” he said.

Prior to joining XJTLU, Dragan was a visiting research fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. He is also contributing analyst at the geostrategic consultancy Wikistrat.

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