Tuesday, February 19, 2019

US ‘Trying to Disrupt’ China-CEE Ties
By Yang Sheng
Global Times
2019/2/11 21:43:39

Pompeo’s visit aims to shift focus from economy to security: observers

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Central and Eastern Europe this week is meant to contain and sideline China and Russia's influence in the region, and to make security a mainstream issue for the region rather than economic development, said Chinese observers.

Pompeo visits Hungary on Monday before traveling on Tuesday to Slovakia and then Poland, where he will co-host a conference on security in the Middle East with the Polish government, US news portal Politico reported on Monday.

Cui Hongjian, director of EU Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday that Central and Eastern Europe is an "arena of struggle among great powers."

Even though China is different from other major powers, since its presence is focused on economic development rather than security, such as the 16+1 cooperation (16 regional countries plus China), the West still considers China engaged in the power struggle, he said.

Pompeo wants to make up for a lack of US engagement that opened the door to more Chinese and Russian influence in Central Europe, US officials told Reuters on Monday. "This is overdue and needed," a senior US administration official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Our message is we have to show up or expect to lose."

"Our efforts at diplomatic engagement are aimed at competing for positive influence and giving allies in the region an indication of US support and interest in order to have alternatives to China and Russia," the official said.

In the past few years, the 16+1 framework has already made economic cooperation the mainstream of Central and Eastern Europe, but recently, due to the Ukrainian crisis and the pullout of the US from the INF treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty), Washington is trying to transform the mainstream in the region from economic cooperation to security, according to Cui. 

Washington is also concerned about China's growing presence, in particular the expansion of Huawei Technologies, the world's biggest telecoms gear maker, in Hungary and Poland, Reuters reported.

On the issue of Huawei and 5G, which is also related to security, the US intends to use its advantage in security to push China's economic influence out from the region, Cui said.

Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Monday that "the US is good at using technologies to threaten other countries' security, and Edward Snowden has proved it. That's why it is so nervous about Huawei and 5G."

However, 5G is a key infrastructure in the next round of technological revolution, so choosing to cooperate with the US and closing the door on China's 5G will serve Washington's interests but will harm those of Central and Eastern European countries, Yang noted.

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