China celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Belt and Road Initiative trade project in Beijing this week. Among the guests from around 140 countries were Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Europe's press discusses the significance of the project - and the motives of those who attended the event.

Beijing-Moscow alliance firmly established

Latvia’s Diena lists its concerns:

“Firstly, despite all the changes and problems, the Belt and Road Initiative continues to expand, and the number of countries in the world that are overtly or covertly leaving the West's sphere of influence is steadily growing. ... Of course, there is no shortage of countries that want to sit on the fence, but the overall trend is obvious. ... Secondly (in a strategic sense even firstly), it was announced during the forum - not officially but by clear indications and agreements - that the West has no hope of dissolving the informal alliance between China and Russia. ... This is perhaps the worst news from Beijing.”


Changing the balance of power

The Belt and Road project is altering the global world order, Finland’s Keskisuomalainen believes:

“Under Xi, China has always defined its foreign policy using the term harmony. Even now, Xi told his guests that China will not engage in 'ideological disputes, geopolitical games or confrontations between blocs'. Yet the Belt and Road projects represent all these things. ... Now the Belt and Road Initiative is increasingly part of the green transition, with solar energy and battery factories for electric cars in demand. The project is changing the world and the balance of power as China offers its alternative, especially to emerging and developing countries, as part of an ideological struggle against the US and the West.”

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The West can only stand by and watch

There is little the West can do about China and Russia working together, Poland’s Polityka points out:


“Putin's visit to Beijing is a demonstration of the order created by the two leaders. And of the vision of the future they want. Already, China and its partisans can flout the rules that have hitherto prevailed in the international community. And without consequences, because the guardians of these rules - above all the US and the rest of the West - lack the instruments to discipline the Chinese. Nor do they have the will to do so, because it would entail significant economic losses, cancelled contracts and trade barriers for exports to China, combined with closed factories, sacked workers and angry voters.”

Putin clinging to China

In a Telegram post picked up by Echo (Russian), political scientist Vladimir Pastukhov describes Putin's visit as a gesture of submission:

“Let's abstract ourselves for once from the current political agenda. ... And let's try to focus on the main feature of the current epoch for Russia. What remains as the essence is this strategic civilizational turning away from Europe and towards China. ... The main problem is that this turnaround is not being carried out in Russia's interest, but in the interest of its ruling clan, which has become entangled in a self-created knot of insoluble problems and sees no other way to retain power than to give up itself and the country to China.”


Russia has nothing to offer

China does not particularly value Russia as an economic partner, economist Vladislav Inozemtsev (Russian) explains on his Facebook page:

“China is holding back to avoid becoming energy-dependent on one supplier and, more importantly, shows no desire to invest in Russia - after all, our Western 'partners' burnt their fingers there. ... Apart from raw materials, Russia has nothing to offer Beijing, especially since China has secured access to raw materials markets with its Belt and Road initiative. Russia has been completely discredited as a transit country, since there is now a strong barrier on its western borders. ... In terms of technology, too, cooperation is difficult, since a wide range of goods can only be supplied semi-officially.”

New global trading blocs emerging

The Belt and Road Initiative is increasingly mutating into an alternative global model, notes Germany’s Stuttgarter Zeitung:

“China, the largest of all developing countries, offers advice, support and help to countries on the shady side of the globe. Of course, one may not see it like this, but this view is widespread among the states in question. Instead of global, unified trade, there is now the danger that, analogous to military and political cooperation, the world will also split up into trading blocs that stake their claims. The EU's Global Gateway project and the cooperation between India, Europe and the US agreed at the recent G20 summit are clearly aimed at competing with China.”


Hard times for Orbán

The Polish elections and the Israeli conflict aren't helping Hungary's relations with the East, observes Hungary’s Hvg:

“The China trip was further complicated by the situation in Israel and Orbán's loss of clout in Europe. ... Beijing, like Moscow, needs an ally that can effectively destroy the Brussels bloc and carry significant weight at the EU table. After the Polish elections Orbán looks considerably smaller from a distance. ... The Hungarian government, which has been sowing discord between the blocs and looking for ways to finance a profligate state, will now have an even harder time on both sides of the globe.”

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