The Central and East European (CEE) part of the Eurasian landmass is often overlooked in the conversations on contemporary geopolitics. Yet, owing to China’s investment in the CEE countries, the region has been subject to growing strategic attention. This article offers a brief overview of the history of this relationship by focusing on the “16+1” mechanism. Nestled within the broader Belt and Road Initiative, the “16+1” has provided a unique regional arrangement for extending Chinese influence in the sixteen CEE countries. The article inquires whether there is something else than the instrumental economic reasoning for the willingness of CEE countries to partner with China. The analysis detects four distinct (and mutually exclusive) strategic narratives motivating the participation of CEE states in the “16+1” mechanism. The study concludes with an enquiry on China’s preparedness to respond to such identity geopolitics not only in the CEE region, but throughout the vast expanse covered by the BRI initiative.
The Balkans and Iraq have become emblematic features of the post-cold war geography of international relations. However, by concentrating on the current ruptures in the Euro-Atlantic community, most commentators: (i) neglect the macro-historical tendency of the US towards unilateralism in response to ‘existential threats’ and to multilateral approaches whenever and wherever the sense of urgency is not pressing; and (ii) overlook the fact that the Iraq crisis is an aberration in an otherwise persisting transatlantic relationship of co-operation. It can be argued that an exploration of the externally-driven processes of order-promotion in the region indicates that the Iraq crisis did not impact dramatically on the role of either the EU or NATO.This is because the Balkans remains an area of co-operation between the transatlantic partners as a result of their reaction to the Kosovo crisis. Secondly, the current regional perspective suggests that the transatlantic rows offered Balkan states the opportunity to pursue particular agendas. Finally, it can be suggested that, unlike Iraq, the Balkans region is not in fact prone to a relapse into socalled ‘Balkanisation’.