For those Europeans concerned with China’s growing prowess, here is another reason to be alert. The Chinese are about to cross the Danube. Not with tanks or communist propaganda, but with cash and a charm offensive. The advance is mainly commercially motivated, but its economic support could be a blessing for weakened economies in the region. But if the European Union does not get its house in order, it risks losing political clout on its own doorstep.
Financial crisis has shifted China's economic diplomacy into a higher gear, and Beijing has used Expo 2010 in Shanghai to showcase its expanding relations with new European partners.
This month the Greek government announced a multibillion-dollar investment agreement through which the Chinese will construct new container terminals and airports and participate in shipbuilding. Several Chinese companies have signed up to a special economic zone in Sofia, while Bulgaria's new centre-right government hopes to draw in more Chinese capital to compensate for dwindling western investments. Dozens of Chinese companies also attended a round-table with the Romanian government at the Expo this month to attract fresh investments - and not without result.
The China Development Bank pledged generous support for developing Romania's wind power. A leading contractor promised to build a new thermoelectric power plant, a project that might cost as much as EUR 1bln. Other companies are exploring investment in the country's agricultural and mining sector. China considers Eastern Europe an important economic bridgehead. Its ministry of commerce has established guidelines for new processing hubs to penetrate local markets, and thus circumvent possible EU trade restrictions. Read more in the FT-article here.