As China continues to assert itself as an emerging world power, Europe remains a very important target. While Chinese investment has significantly increased, by 50 times in the last decade, the current figures underestimate the true scope of Beijing’s ambitions in the old continent. To achieve its goals, every European country is important for China: economically, geographically, or politically. Ukraine is no exclusion from the rule.
Beijing’s multifaceted interests in Ukraine mainly relate to its strategic geographic location. It is highly attractive as a logistic transit hub within the Belt and Road (BRI) initiative that links China with European Union (EU) markets. Other attractive factors are its rich natural resources, opportunities for new infrastructure projects and its agricultural industry.
These factors are all in line with the Chinese expansionist agenda in Europe. A member of OBOR since 2017, the business community and political leaders in Ukraine have shown increased interest in deepening cooperation with China. To serve this purpose, the “Belt and Road” Trade and Investment Promotion Center was established in Kyiv, seeing BRI as a tool to improve infrastructure, attract foreign investment from China, invest in energy projects and modernize agricultural technology.
To date, there has been a lot of conversation, but projects are not clearly defined, nor transparent. Being attracted by the promises of the BRI as an opportunity for their country to unlock the potential of it being an “entrepot” to Europe, Ukrainian politicians had earlier expressed their willingness to deeper institutionalize relations with Beijing in offering to join the “16+1” mechanism, a platform created by Beijing to increase trade and economic relations with Central and Eastern Europe.