China’s New Silk Roads. Categorising and Grouping the World: Beijing’s 16+1+X European Formula

Open access


In autumn 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe play an important role in this ambitious infrastructure and connectivity project. The analysis of the 16+1 cooperation format, established by Beijing in 2012, shows that Beijing is able to establish new regional groupings that have the potential to undermine the unity of a larger regional bloc. Yet, it also demonstrates that China lacks a coherent BRI master plan. Rather, it pragmatically adapts its strategies to challenges and external criticism. The European Union (EU), notably the European Parliament (EP), became since 2015 more critical of the strategic impacts of BRI on Europe. Austria, which recognised the economic opportunities offered by BRI only recently, supports a common EU position. While Austria plays a strong-if not a leading-role in two Central and Eastern European cooperation mechanisms that may in the future also address BRI, that is, the Salzburg Forum and the Central European Defense Cooperation (CEDC), 16+1 remains the key institution for multi- and bilateral agreements on the New Silk Roads in this region. Austria, however, will remain only an observer and thus an ‘X’ in the 16+1+X format, reducing Vienna’s influence.

Arase, David. 2015. “China’s Two Silk Roads Initiative: What It Means for Southeast Asia.” Southeast Asian Affairs, 1, pp. 25-45.

Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. 2018. “‘A Europe that Protects’ - Priorities of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.” Online: (accessed: June 6, 2018).

Bachler, Martina. 2013. “China kauft Österreich.” In Trend (June 6). Online: (accessed: June 6, 2018).

Benková, Livia. 2018. “Current Developments in Central Europe Regarding the Involvement of the Main External Actors.” In: Livia Benková, Apolonija Rihtaric, and Velina Tchakarova, eds., Will the EU Lose the East? Vienna: Austria Institute for European and Security Policy, pp. 5-23.

Bevins, Vincent. 2018. “New Malaysian Government Steps Back from Spending, Chinese Projects.” In Washington Post (May 30). Online: (accessed: June 7, 2018).

Bundesministerium für europäische und auswärtige Angelegenheiten. 2016. Außen- und Europapolitischer Bericht 2015. Wien.

Bucán, Strahinja. 2018. “16+1-Gipfel: Babiš will mehr Exporte nach China.” Radio Praha (July 9). Online: (accessed: July 12, 2018).

Bures, Doris. 2017. Beantwortung Parlamentarische Anfrage des Abgeordneten zum Nationalrat MMMag. Dr. Kassegger und weitere Abgeordnete vom 29. Juni 2017. 12910/AB vom 29.08.2017 zu 13696/J (XXV.GP). Online: (accessed: May 29, 2018).

Callahan, William A. 2016. “China’s ‘Asia Dream’: The Belt Road Initiative and the New Regional Order.” Asian Journal of Comparative Politics, 1 (3), pp. 226-243.

Casarini, Nicola. 2016. “When All Roads Lead to Beijing: Assessing China’s New Silk Road and its Implications for Europe.” The International Spectator: Italian Journal of International Affairs, 51 (4), pp. 95-108.

Chaisse, Julien and Mitsuo Matsushita. 2018. “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Mapping the World Trade. Normative and Strategic Implications.” Journal of World Trade, 52 (1), pp. 163-185.

Chen, Yu-Wen and Olaf Günther. 2016. “China’s Influence in Uzbekistan: Model Neighbor or Indifferent Partner?” China Brief, 16 (17), pp. 11-14.

China Daily. 2018. “Belt and Road Initiative Spells Opportunities for Austria-China Cooperation.” April 7. Online: (accessed: May 29, 2018).

Council of the European Union. 2016. EU Strategy on China - Council Conclusions. July 18. Brussels (11252/16). Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Das, Khanindra C. 2017. “The Making of One Belt, One Road and Dilemmas in South Asia.” China Report, 53 (2), pp. 125-142.

Der Standard. 2018. “C-Quadrat: FMA gibt finales Okay für Übernahme durch HNA.” April 5. Online: (accessed: June 14, 2018).

Deutsche Welle. 2018. “Report: EU Countries to be Straitjacketed by China’s New Silk Road.” April 18. Online: silk-road/a-43437084 (accessed: May 12, 2018).

Dollar, David. 2015. “China’s Rise as a Regional and Global Power: The AIIB and the ‘One Road, One Belt’.” Horizons, 4, pp. 162-172.

Economist. 2017. “Freight Train Coming: New Rail Routes between China and Europe will Change Trade Patterns. The New Silk Railroad will Challenge Airlines and Shipping Firms.” September 16. Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Eder, Thomas S. 2018. “Mapping the Belt and Road Initiative: This Is Where We Stand.” In MERICS Belt and Road Tracker (June 7). Online: (accessed: July 2, 2018).

Ekman, Alice. 2018. “China in the Mediterranean: An Emerging Presence.” Notes de l’Ifri, February 2018.

Erling, Johnny. 2018. “Peking sieht Wien als Brücke zu Europa und zur Seidenstraße.” Der Standard (April 9). Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

Ernst and Young. 2018. “EY-Analyse Chinesische Investoren in Europa 2017. Übernahmeappetit chinesischer Investoren in Europa ebbt ab - Deutschland bleibt im Fokus, leichter Anstieg in Österreich.” January 2018. Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

EURACTIV. 2018. “16+1 Summit: China Ready to Fund Centre in Sofia for EU Partnership.” July 9. Online: (accessed: July 12, 2018).

European Commission. 2011. “European Strategies. White paper 2011. Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area - Towards a Competitive and Resource Efficient Transport System.” Brussels (COM(2011) 144 final).

European Commission. 2015. “EU-China Summit Joint Statement. The Way Forward after Forty Years of EU-China Cooperation.” June 29. Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

European Commission. 2016. “Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council. Elements for a New EU Strategy on China.” Brussels, June 22 (JOIN(2016) 30 final). Online: (accessed: June 3, 2018).

European Commission Website. 2018a. “Infrastructure - TEN-T - Connecting Europe.” Online: (accessed: June 3, 2018).

European Commission Website. 2018b. “Joint Communication: Elements for an EU Strategy on connecting Europe and Asia.” Online: (accessed: July 2, 2018).

European Parliament. 2018. “China’s Arctic Policy: How China Aligns Rights and Interests.” Briefing 2018. Online: (accessed: June 14, 2018).

European Parliament. 2015. “Resolution of 16 December 2015 on EU-China relations (2015/2003(INI)).” Online: (accessed: June 2, 2018).

European Political Strategy Centre. 2015. “The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: A New Multilateral Financial Institution or a Vehicle for China;s Geostrategic Goals.” EPSC Strategic Notes, Issue 1, 24 April, pp. 1-5. Online: (accessed July 12, 2018).

European Political Strategy Centre. 2016. “Engaging China at a Time of Transition: Capitalising on a New Era of Chinese Global Investment and Foreign Policy Initiatives.” EPSC Strategic Notes, Issue 16, 15 July, pp. 1-9. Online:

Eurostat. 2018. “China - EU - international trade in goods statistic.” Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

Fallon, Theresa. 2015. “The New Silk Road: Xi Jinping’s Grand Strategy for Eurasia.” American Foreign Policy Interests, 37, pp. 140-147.

Frankopan, Peter. 2016. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World. London: Bloomsbury.

Fürst, Rudolf. 2017. “The Czech Republic: Receiving the First Relevant Chinese Investments.” In John Seaman, Mikko Huoatari, and Miguel Otero-Iglesias, eds., Chinese Investment in Europe: A Country-Level Approach. European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) Report. Paris, pp. 41-45.

Garcia Herrero, Alice and Jianwei Xu. 2017. “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Can Europe Expect Trade Gains?” China & World Economy, 25 (6), pp. 84-99.

Gaspers, Jan. 2017. “China’s ‘16+1’ Equals Much Ado About Nothing?” Center for Strategic & International Studies - Reconnecting Asia, December 5. Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Gaspers, Jan. 2018. “Divide and Rule.” Berlin Policy Journal, March/April. Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Gerstl, Alfred. 2016. “Recht oder Macht im Südchinesischen Meer.” Der Standard - Kommentar der anderen, July 18. Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

Gerstl, Alfred. 2017. “The South China Sea Dispute: A Shift to a More Proactive Role in ASEAN’s Declamatory Policy and Concrete Policies since 2012?” In Alfred Gerstl and Mária Strašáková, eds., Unresolved Border, Land, and Maritime Disputes in Southeast Asia: Bi- and Multilateral Conflict Resolution Approaches and ASEAN’s Centrality. Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. 183-230.

Gerstl, Alfred. Forthcoming. “Aktuelle Konflikte in Südostasien im Kontext der internationalen Geopolitik: Das Südchinesische Meer, die Neuen Seidenstraßen und Terrorismus.” In Karl Husa, Rüdiger Korff, and Helmut Wohlschlägl, eds., Südostasien - Gesellschaften, Räume und Entwicklung vom 19. bis zum 21. Jahrhundert. Wien: Promedia.

Global Times. 2017. “China Proposes Initiatives to Advance Cooperation with CEE Countries.” November 28. Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

Godehart, Nadine. 2016. “No End of History: A Chinese Alternative Concept of International Order?” Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Research Paper 2. Online: (accessed: May 14, 2018).

Goh, Brenda and John Ruwitch. 2017. “Pressure on as Xi’s ‘Belt and Road’ Enshrined in Chinese Party Charter.” Reuters (October 24). Online: (accessed: May 14, 2018).

Grübler, Julia. 2017. “Wirtschaftliche Konvergenz trotz politischer Unsicherheit. Wirtschaftsanalyse und Ausblick für Mittel-, Ost- und Südosteuropa und dessen Wirtschaftsbeziehungen mit Österreich.” wiiw, Forschungsbericht 7, Wien.

Grübler, Julia, Alexandra Bykova, Mahdi Ghodsi, Doris Hanzl-Weiss, Mario Holzner, Gábor Hunya, and Robert Stehrer. 2018. “Economic Policy Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative for CESEE and Austria.” wiiw, Policy Notes and Reports 23, Wien.

Heide, Dana, Till Hoppe, Stephan Scheuer, and Klaus Stratmann. 2018. “Streit über ‘Neue Seidenstraße’ - Europa sendet Warnsignal an China.” Handelsblatt (April 16). Online: (accessed: May 17, 2018).

Heilmann, Sebastian and Jan Gaspers. 2017. “Die Neue Seidenstraße.” Le Monde Diplomatique (June 8). Online:!5408466 (accessed: June 14, 2018).

Holzmann, Anna Karin. 2018. “China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative: A Discourse Analysis of Speeches by Chinese Politicians and Indonesian Newspaper Articles.” M.A. thesis, University of Vienna, Austria.

Hu, Weijia. 2018. “Ditching Chinese-built High-speed Rail Project will Carry High Costs for Malaysia.” Global Times (May 31). Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

Jakóbowski, Jakub. 2018. “Chinese-led Regional Multilateralism in Central and Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America: 16 + 1, FOCAC, and CCF.” Journal of Contemporary China, 27 (113), pp. 659-673.

Johnson, Keith. 2018. “Why Is China Buying Up Europe’s Ports? State-owned Port Operators are the Aggressive Leading Edge of Beijing’s Massive Belt and Road Project.” Foreign Policy (February 2). Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

Klose, Stephan, Astrid Pepermans, and Leia Wang. 2017. “An Uphill Struggle? Towards Coordinated EU Engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” European Policy Brief, 48. Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

Kneissl, Karin. 2018. “Gastkommentar: Was vom Völkerrecht noch übrig ist.” Neue Zürcher Zeitung (July 27), p. 10.

Kowalski, Bartosz. 2017. “China’s Foreign Policy Towards Central and Eastern Europe: The ‘16+1’ Format in the South-South Cooperation Perspective. Cases of the Czech Republic and Hungary.” Cambridge Journal of Eurasian Studies, 1 (1). Online:

Kowalski, Bartosz. 2018. “What’s Next for the China-CEE 16+1 Platform?” The Diplomat (July 13). Online: (accessed: July 21, 2018).

Kramer, Helmut. 2010. “Österreich ist ‘hinternational’: Zur Stagnation und Krise der österreichischen Außenpolitik.” International, 1, pp. 4-8.

Kramer, Helmut. 2016 Austrian Foreign Policy 1995-2015. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft (ÖZP), 45 (2), pp. 49-57.

Kusai, Sándor Zsoltán. 2017. “Some Lessons, Prospects and International Aspects of the CEEC - China Cooperation and the Belt & Road Initiative.” China-CEE Institute, Working Paper no. 13, Budapest, December 11, pp. 1-16. Online: (accessed: July 18, 2018).

Li, Jiang. 2017. “The 16 + 1 Mechanism and One Belt One Road Initiative, New Channels of Promoting Sino-Czech Relations.” Global Economic Observer, 5 (1), pp. 159-166.

Liff, Adam P. 2018. “China and the US Alliance System.” The China Quarterly, 233, pp. 137-165.

Lloyd, John. 2018. “The New Illiberal International.” New Statesman (July 18). Online: (accessed: July 21, 2018).

Makocki, Michal. 2018. “China, the New Silk Road and the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood.” In Niu Popescu and Stanislav Secrieru, eds., Third Powers in Europe’s East. Chaillot Papers 144. Paris, pp. 21-28.

Mardell, Jacob. 2018. “Dispute Settlement on China’s Terms: Beijing’s New Belt and Road Courts.” Mercator Blog (February 14). Online: (accessed: June 24, 2018).

Mečiar, Vladimir. 2018. Speech, given at “25 Jahre Unabhängigkeit der Slowakischen und der Tschechischen Republik. Wie kam es zur friedlichen Teilung der Tschechoslowakei?” Diplomatic Academy Vienna, own notes. Vienna, May 23, 2018.

Müller, Matthias. 2018. “China drückt der Globalisierung seinen Stempel auf.” Neue Zürcher Zeitung (May 25). Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

Müller, Patrick. 2016. “Europeanization and Regional Cooperation Initiatives: Austria’s Participation in the Salzburg Forum and in Central European Defence Cooperation.” Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politik (ÖZP), 45 (2), pp. 23-34.

Müller, Patrick and Heidi Maurer. 2016. “Austrian Foreign Policy and 20 Years of EU Membership: Opportunities and Constraints.” Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politik (ÖZP), 45 (2), pp. 1-9.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 1995. “Ungarns aussichtsreiche Beziehungen zu China. Wahrung wirtschaftlicher Interessen durch die Gastgeber.” July 12, p. 5.

Orovits, Thomas. 2018. “Terminal für russische Breitspurbahn: Parndorf ist aus dem Rennen.” Kurier (May 16). Online: (accessed: May 24, 2018).

Pavlićević, Dragan. Forthcoming. “A Power Shift Underway in Europe? China’s Relationship with Central and Eastern Europe under the Belt and Road Initiative’.” In Xing Li, ed., Mapping China’s ‘One Belt, One Road Initiative’. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. In publication. Quoted as author’s final manuscript. Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Ploberger, Christian. 2017. “One Belt, One Road - China’s New Grand Strategy.” Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, 15 (3), pp. 289-305.

Pomfret, John. 2010. “U.S. Takes a Tougher Tone with China.” Washington Post (July 30). Online: (accessed: July 4, 2018).

Qiaoan, Runya T. 2015. “Czech President Zeman at Chinese V-day Parade.” Institute of Asian Studies (Bratislava) Blog (September 8). Online: (accessed: June 18, 2018).

Rolland, Nadège. 2017. “China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’: Underwhelming or Game-Changer?” The Washington Quarterly, 40 (1), pp. 127-142.

Salzburg Forum 2010. Salzburg Forum Vision 2020. August 24. Online: (accessed: July 4, 2018).

Salzburger Nachrichten. 2018. “Österreich ist Top-Investor in China - Außenhandel floriert.” April 3. Online: (accessed: June 17, 2018).

Sano, Shutaro. 2018. “Japan Buckles Up to Join China’s Belt and Road.” East Asia Forum (March 20). Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Scimia, Emanuele. 2018. “Eurasian Connectivity: The EU and India Enter the Fray.” Asia Times (May 18). Online: (accessed: July 2, 2018).

Schnauder, Andreas. 2018. “Seidenstraße sieht rot-weiß-rot.” Der Standard (April 12). Online: (accessed: May 21, 2018).

Schultz, Stefan. 2018. “Deutsch-chinesischer Gipfel: Zwangsvereint gegen Trump.” Spiegel Online (July 9). Online: (accessed: July 21, 2018).

Seaman, John, Mikko Huoatari, and Miguel Otero-Iglesias. 2017. Chinese Investment in Europe. A Country-Level Approach. European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) Report. Paris, December 2017.

Sidaway, James D. and Chih Yuan Woon. 2017. “Chinese Narratives on ‘One Belt, One Road’ in Geopolitical and Imperial Contexts.” The Professional Geographer, 69 (207), pp. 591-603.

Singh, Sinderpal. 2018. “Far from Plain Sailing on the Maritime Silk Road.” East Asia Forum (May 26). Online: (accessed: June 18, 2018).

State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 2015. “Action Plan on the Belt and Road Initiative.” Beijing, March 30. Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 2018. “China’s Arctic Policy.” Beijing, January 26. Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

Suokas, Janne. 2017. “China Adds Arctic Sea Route to Its Silk Road Plan.” Global Times (June 21). Online: (accessed: June 12, 2018).

Swaine, Michael. 2015. “Chinese Views and Commentary on the ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative.” China Leadership Monitor, 47, pp. 1-24.

Tchakarova, Velina. 2018. “Competitive Interests and Strategies Towards the Shared Neighbourhood in Eastern Europe.” In Livia Benková, Apolonija Rihtaric, and Velina Tchakarova, eds., Will the EU Lose the East? Vienna: Austria Institute for European and Security Policy, pp. 42-67.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 2018. “Consensus by Deletion: Reviewing the 32nd ASEAN Leaders’ Summit and the South China Sea.” The Diplomat (April 30). Online: (accessed: July 21, 2018).

Tiezzi, Shannon. 2016. “President Xi’s Visit to Czech Republic Sparks Praise, Protests.” The Diplomat (March 30). Online: (accessed: July 21, 2018).

Turcsányi, Richard Q. 2017. “Growing Tensions Between China and the EU Over 16+1 Platform.” The Diplomat (November 29). Online: (accessed: May 29, 2018).

Turcsányi, Richard, Tamás Matura, and Rudolf Fürst. 2015. “The Visegrad Countries’ Political Relations with China: Goals, Results and Prospects.” In Ágnes Szunomár, ed., Chinese Investments and Financial Engagement in Visegrad Countries: Myth or Reality? Budapest: Institute of World Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, pp. 127-141.

Vangeli, Anastas. 2017. “China’s Engagement with the Sixteen Countries of Central, East and Southeast Europe under the Belt and Road Initiative.” China & World Economy, 25 (5), pp. 101-124.

Vangeli, Anastas. 2018. “Global China and Symbolic Power: The Case of 16+1 Cooperation.” Journal of Contemporary China, 27 (113), pp. 674-687.

Varga, Agi. 2004. “President Hu Jintao Boosts Chinese-Hungarian Relations with Visit to Budapest.” Radio Praha (June 11). Online: (accessed: July 2, 2018).

Wang, Cong. 2018. “Austria Looks to Triple Chinese Investment, Expand Exports to China: Minister.” Global Times (April 11). Online: (accessed: June 14, 2018).

Wirtschaftskammer Österreich (WKO). 2018. Außenwirtschaft Austria: Update China. Wien, März 2018.

Wirtschaftskammer Wien. 2017. Die neue Seidenstraße. Wien 2017.

Wong, Reuben. 2012. “Perspectives on China’s Relations with the European Union.” In Emilian Kavalski, ed., The Ashgate Research Companion to Chinese Foreign Policy. Burlington: Ashgate, pp. 201-210.

Xi, Jinping. 2014. “New Asian Security Concept for New Progress in Security Cooperation.” Remarks at the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. Shanghai Expo Center, Shanghai, May 21. Online: (accessed: May 12, 2018).

Xi, Jinping. 2017a. “Full text of President Xi’s speech at opening of Belt and Road forum.” Xinhua (May 14). Online: (accessed: May 12, 2018).

Xi, Jinping. 2017b. “Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era Delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.” Speech given on 18.10.2017. Xinhuanet (November 3). Online:'s_report_at_19th_CPC_National_Congress.pdf (accessed: May 12, 2018).

Xinhua. 2017. “China Investment Boon Not Threat to Countries along Belt and Road: Senior Representatives of News Agencies.” September 11. Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

Yu, Hong. 2017. “Motivation behind China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiatives and Establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.” Journal of Contemporary China, 26 (105), pp. 353-368.

Zhang, Yunbi. 2018. “Historic Visit Upgrades Ties with Austria.” China Daily (April 9). Online: (accessed: May 29, 2018).

Zhang, Christian. 2018. “The Belt and Road’s Biggest Impact. Small, High-Risk Markets.” Center for Strategic & International Studies - Reconnecting Asia (May 29). Online: (accessed: June 21, 2018).

Journal Information


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 288 288 44
PDF Downloads 191 191 26