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First Chinese Train Arrives in Riga as Premier Li Sits Down with 16 East European Countries To Discuss the Belt and Road

Nov. 5, 2016 (EIRNS)—Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang sat down today with the prime ministers of 16 countries from Central and Eastern Europe. Prior to that, he concluded the first visit of a Chinese leader to Latvia since independence was declared in 1991. Also today, the first trans-Eurasia container train arrived in Riga, Latvia, initiating a new track of the Belt and Road. The train departed on Oct. 20 from Yiwu, a vibrant manufacturing hub in east China, and finished a journey of over 11,000 kilometers following the China-Russia-Latvia route. Latvia wishes to bring Chinese investment into their country, with the intention of building a gauge-changing facility for the trains in Riga, and developing two international ports, one in Riga and the other in Ventspils. Riga has also set up its first Confucius Institute.

During the 16+1 meeting, Premier Li said that given the slower than expected global growth, the parties should institute measures scaling up two-way trade, accelerating efforts for greater connectivity, promoting cooperation on production capacity, exploring innovative modalities of financial cooperation, and tapping the potential for tourism cooperation.

Three major projects are already in operation with the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC). In Romania, China, General Nuclear and the Romanian national nuclear company, Nuclearelectrica, signed an agreement last November, in which they agreed to develop, build, and operate units three and four of the Romanian nuclear plant. China is also committed to building a high-speed rail link between Budapest in Hungary and Belgrade in Serbia. And a Chinese company with a loan from the Chinese Development Bank will build a thermal power plant in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

There was an interesting Polish commentary by Anastas Vangeli in Deutsche Welle, on the development of the China-CEEC. He notes that although the Polish antipathies to Russia may not have changed, nevertheless the anti-Communist views which had long been expressed by some of these countries in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, have more or less subsided now with their close involvement with the People’s Republic of China.

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