17+1: China's Foreign Policy in Central Europe

Once the beacon of Chinese influence in Central and Eastern Europe, the 17+1 project has largely proved ineffective. How will Chinese diplomacy fare in a post-Covid world where transatlantic cooperation seems to be re-emerging?

Inaugurated in 2012 and expanded in 2019, the 17+1 is a cooperation mechanism between China and Central, Eastern and Southern European countries, which has provoked considerable debate in academic and policy making circles. Although Beijing tries to paint the initiative as a successful example of Chinese diplomacy, reflecting a more pro-active diplomatic posture adopted under General Secretary Xi Jinping, observers in- and outside the region have held strongly diverging views.

While the EU is concerned about any potential ‘divide & conquer’ strategy deployed by Beijing to weaken the bloc, regional state leaders have lamented the empty promises of growing Chinese investment and improved trade balances, which have largely failed to materialise.

Spanning from Greece to the Baltic states, the future of 17+1 holds important insights into China’s overall influence in Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe in the context of complex regional politics and European integration. Against the backdrop of the last 17+1 summit in February 2021, this panel will review the current state of the 17+1 mechanism and discuss likely ways forward in the context of post-COVID recovery, evolving regional political landscapes, and a gradual revitalisation of transatlantic cooperation between the U.S. and its European allies.



This event was held on Friday 28 May 2021.


Yu Jie is senior research fellow on China in the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, focusing on the decision-making process of Chinese foreign policy as well as China’s economic diplomacy. She regularly briefs senior policy practitioners from the G7 member governments, the UK Cabinet Office and the Silk Road Fund in Beijing, as well as major FTSE 100 corporates. Yu Jie has testified at the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and International Trade Committee, and was also head of China Foresight at LSE IDEAS.

Ivana Karásková is a founder and a project leader of MapInfluenCE, an international project mapping China’s influence in Central Europe, and China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe (CHOICE) platform, which gathers more than 40 China watchers from Central and Eastern Europe. Ivana has been an in-house China Research Fellow at the Association for International Affairs (AMO), Prague-based foreign policy think tank, since 2007. She is currently a European China Policy Fellow at MERICS, Berlin. She holds Ph.D. in International Relations and other university degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication, European Studies and International Relations.

Edward Lucas is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). He was formerly a senior editor at The Economist and has covered Central and Eastern European affairs since 1986, writing, broadcasting, and speaking on the politics, economics, and security of the region. A graduate of the London School of Economics and long-serving foreign correspondent in Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, and the Baltic states, he is an internationally recognised expert on espionage, subversion, the use and abuse of history, energy security and information warfare. He is the author of four books: The New Cold War (2008, newly revised and republished); Deception (2011); The Snowden Operation (2014), and Cyberphobia (2015).

Meet the chair

Michael Cox is a Founding Director of LSE IDEAS, as well as Senior Academic Adviser to the China Foresight Forum. He directed and taught on the LSE-PKU Summer School for several years and has published widely on China’s relationship with the West.