Croatia and the Chinese “17+1” Cooperation Framework

Abstract

Since the Pelješac bridge construction project was awarded to the Chinese company China Road and Bridge Cooperation (CRBC) in Januar y 2018, the Sino-Croatian relations reached a new high point. Since then, and contrar y to Croatia’s past activity and interest, Croatia not only opted to more actively participate in the “17+1” cooperation framework, but even stepped forward by hosting the latest “17+1” summit, held in April 2019. The rekindled relations have since been, on the surface, bursting with possibilities regarding investment, exchanges of personnel, and cooperation on various levels. However, years of neglect, especially on the Croatian side, had created a situation in which Croatia is critically falling behind in experts, Chinese-speaking talents, and various aspects of knowledge needed to support this level of cooperation. Furthermore, judging by the press releases and the lack of clarifications from the Croatian government regarding the short-term decisions and the long-term direction the renewed Sino-Croatian friendship is taking, general understanding of how concepts such as the “17+1” or the Belt and Road Initiative actually reflect on Croatia with regards to their influence on the wider regional and global circumstances is also lacking. This paper analyses the width of the uneven approach China and Croatia are taking in the development of their relations and will attempt to address the issues and challenges that could arise from this unevenness.

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