||The relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the countries of Central Eastern Europe are simultaneously complex, contingent, and contextual. Owing to distinct historical factors and processes, China and the CEE region do not appear to have either specific or imagined pasts on which to pivot their contemporary interactions. As a result, both Asia and China have been far too distant geographically, historically, and ideationally to have meaningful resonance in the political, cultural, and (until very recently) economic imaginaries of the CEE region. Conspicuously, the dearth of such experience makes it difficult both to root contemporary interactions and to use history as an entrepreneurial pivot for the present.
Though there is a substantial body of literature comparing the post-Cold War transitions of the CEE countries and China, such analyses have tended to assess the social, political, and economic changes. In the process, these studies have been inclined to sideline the views of these countries towards each other. Not to mention that such analyses tend to focus on the perceptions and perspectives of China among (selected) CEE countries. The few studies examining Chinese attitudes towards the CEE region appear to scrutinize specific periods or particular events rather than offer a comprehensive overview.
This chapter aims to redress this by providing a thorough examination of Chinese perceptions of the developments in the CEE countries from the fall of communism in 1989 to the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in 2020. This assessment will take stock of the current state of the art on the topic and bring fresh perspectives on the explanation and understanding of the shifts in Chinese attitudes towards the CEE region. In particular, the study will process-trace the main periods in China’s interactions with the CEE countries and identify the key themes that have dominated Beijing’s perceptions and outreach. The analysis concludes with a discussion of broader European as well as CEE reactions and reflections on the patterns of China’s policies towards the region.