Due to the coronavirus crisis, the summit of 17 Central and Eastern European countries with China (known as 17+1), which was scheduled to take place in April 2020 in Beijing, has been postponed indefinitely. Despite the rescheduling amid the pandemic, the 17+1 will continue to shape relations between the countries of the region and China. The platform may be even more important in the future, as before the postponement, China already announced it would elevate the summit from the level of prime ministers to the level of heads of state.

The 17+1 has been labeled by some as China’s tool to divide and conquer Europe. At the same time, analysts (the author included) frequently dismissed these charges, arguing that the 17+1 is an “empty shell” and that cooperation between Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and China lacks substance.

The proponents of the “empty shell” concept, however, seem to be wrong. A large-scale audit of the 17+1 points to a more alarming scenario. Substance in relations with China is, indeed, not lacking, and cooperation between China and CEE countries flourishes, encompassing political, economic, and societal dimensions.

Read the whole article at The Diplomat.