The high-profile arrests last month of a former Polish intelligence official and a Huawei executive in Poland have stoked an ongoing policy debate in Warsaw over how to calibrate its relationship with China. The 16+1 framework, which Beijing introduced in 2012 to promote engagement with Central and Eastern Europe, raised expectations among Polish officials for increased Chinese investment and trade ties. But those hopes have been slow to materialize, and in the meantime, national security concerns, primarily over espionage and Beijing’s long-term goals in the region, have grown. In an interview with WPR, Patrycja Pendrakowska, president of the board at the Poland-Asia Research Center in Warsaw, discusses the evolution of Poland’s approach to China.
World Politics Review: How has Poland’s relationship with China developed in recent years, particularly since the introduction of the 16+1 framework? What prompted leaders in Warsaw and Beijing to seek closer ties?
Patrycja Pendrakowska: Generally, Poland sees itself as a central hub for China’s expanding trade ties in Europe. There is also some indication that China views Poland as a gateway to Europe when it comes to expanding freight trade through railway connections and logistical hubs. For example, a rail link between Lodz, in central Poland, and the Chinese city of Chengdu was inaugurated in 2013. With funding from the European Union likely to decrease after 2020, when a new EU budget goes into effect, the Polish government is looking for new sources of investment, and it would like to internationalize Polish companies and introduce them to Asian markets.