The fourth meeting of leaders of China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries will be held in east China's Suzhou city from Tuesday to Wednesday, providing a valuable opportunity to plan their cooperation.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and leaders from the 16 CEE countries will attend the meeting, and about 1,000 Chinese and CEE business leaders will participate in a trade and investment forum.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao said this China-CEE leaders' meeting, the first to be held in China, would be "an important occasion to inherit the past and usher in the future."
Established as an annual event in Warsaw in 2012 and subsequently staged in Bucharest and Belgrade, the new platform has greatly increased scope for cooperation.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the "16+1" face a much improved situation and more established working patterns after the first three meetings.
When it comes to the next step, Wang Yi said the most important thing is to take advantage of the 16 countries'respective advantages and promote partnerships among them, notably in major projects such as the Hungary-Serbia high-speed railway.
With the theme of this year's meeting "New beginning, New fields, New vision," Wang Chao said the host country hopes to make it "a new milestone in the development of China-CEE cooperation."
The meeting will hear proposals on new measures in connecting infrastructure, investment, trade, finance, agriculture and people-to-people exchanges.
As a new mode of sub-regional cooperation pioneered by China, the 16+1 has been gaining increasing attention from the international community, Wang Yi said.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said the mechanism provides a powerful supplement to China-Europe relations.
Former Macedonian ambassador to China Risto Nikovski said Macedonia should try to maximize cooperation with China, "the world's economic miracle."
The trade volume between China and CEE countries was 43.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, increasing to 60.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2014.
"Trade has grown rapidly, and there is potential for it to grow more," said Zhou Hong, a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China and the CEE countries complement each other in terms of their economic development, meaning they have strong desire to cooperate, according to Wang Chao.
The 16+1 serves as a platform for CEE countries to vitalize their economies, organize international industrial cooperation and building of infrastructure to help realize their development plans, Zhou said.
During Wang Yi's visit to the Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria last month, leaders of the three countries all expressed keenness to support and join in construction of the "Belt and Road" initiative, which will add richer connotations to the fourth leaders' meeting.
China and CEE countries will be more closely linked by this China-proposed regional trade and infrastructure network, creating potential for deeper cooperation, noted Vice Commerce Minister Gao Yan.
Wang Yi said China was not just interested in partnerships with the old European powerhouses of the UK, France and Europe, but also with governments across the continent: "China's diplomacy toward Europe is all-dimensional and open to all European countries."