This article analyses China’s Belt and Road as a medium through which novel regional development ideas and practices are being generated, (re)articulated, and diffused, via a case study of its implementation in the broader region of Central-East and Southeast Europe (CESEE). The example of CESEE shows that via the Belt and Road, Chinese actors have advanced comprehensive region work based on social interactions, which includes regular high-level diplomatic exchange and quasi-institutionalisation as well as people-to-people relations, resting on the potent geoeconomic imaginaries of the New Silk Roads. This approach, in the case of CESEE, has allowed for regional co-operation to advance even in times of friction and uncertainties. Nevertheless, as region work is essentially a contentious endeavour, China’s attempt at regionalism in CESEE has been challenged by the European Union (EU), the United States and regional actors who feel uneasy about China’s advance.
This article was published in the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs (Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 14-32).