China’s Engagement in Central and Eastern European Countries

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Over the last decade, world affairs have become increasingly dominated by geopolitical tension between major global actors as each strives to maintain or acquire a strategic advantage over the other – economically, technologically, diplomatically, and militarily. Particular attention has been dedicated to the case of China, which many commentators believe may become the world’s biggest economy and superpower in the years to come, and to its increasingly assertive behavior on the international stage.

The Covid-19 pandemic, during which, China was the only major economy to experience economic growth in 2020, has strengthened the sense in some parts of the world that China’s rise to global dominance is unstoppable. While it remains to be seen whether this is attainable, it is legitimate in the current context – as we plot a pathway towards a sustainable economic recovery based on democratic values – to consider how China’s international engagement continues to evolve in the European context and to consider what the long-term policy response should look like.

Against this background, a new paper edited by the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES) sets out how China’s engagement in CEE countries has developed over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The brand new report includes two chapters authored by CEIAS researchers.

Richard Turcsányi analyzed how the divided perception of China among the Czech public and politicians impacts the country’s policy on China.

Matej Šimalčík provides an overview of how domestic political change, coupled with a COVID-19 crisis, caused a change of Slovakia’s approach towards China from an economic pragmaticism to a more value-based and security-conscious approach.

China's Engagement in Central and Eastern European Countries


  • Matej Šimalčík is the CEIAS Executive Director. His research looks at China’s economic and political presence and ‎influence in Central Europe, elite relations as well as the role of European legal ‎instruments in dealing with China. ‎ He has a background in law (Masaryk University) and international relations (University ‎of Groningen). ‎ He is also a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of ‎Great Britain and Ireland and a contributor to the European Think-tank Network on ‎China (ETNC) and MapInfluenCE initiatives. Between April and September 2021, Matej was as a visiting EU China Policy Fellow at Mercator ‎Institute for China Studies (MERICS). ‎ Previously, he was an in-house legal counsel at the Slovak branch of Transparency ‎International, a global anti-corruption watchdog, where he focused on promoting ‎transparency and countering corruption in the judiciary, legal tools for countering ‎corruption (freedom of information laws, whistleblowing, etc.), and strategic litigation ‎in public interest cases. He also practices law in Slovakia, where he focuses mostly on ‎competition, compliance, and administrative litigation.‎

  • Richard Q. Turcsányi is the program director of CEIAS. He studies international relations, economics, and political science at the Masaryk University in Brno. Currently, he is an assistant professor at the Institute of Territorial Studies of the Mendel University in Brno where he teaches courses on current East Asia, geopolitics, and theories of International Relations. He is also a researcher at the Palacky University in Olomouc where he works on the research project Sinophone Borderlands. Between August 2014 and January 2015, he conducted research as a Taiwan Fellow at the National Chengchi University. In 2016 he was doing research at Peking University and Fudan University in China.