Romania – China strategic partnership: from an agenda of good intentions to concrete results ?

At the beginning of midsummer agenda of Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta included an Asian tour, during which he had several bilateral meetings among the most significant being the counterpart Chinese Li Keqiang, the head of government in Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying and even the new president of China, Xi Jinping.

And after returning to the motherland, a european country in official document but “balkan” in behavior and attitude within its essential institutional cell, media agenda divided between presidential &government team – with a multitude of accusations, without apology but with more emphasis and explanations that went down to the proletarian propaganda (a sign that to the government level, communication remained somewhere in the century past). Much, less ? With warrant or without warrant from the Cotroceni Palace ? With or without businessmen delegation ? With or without a detailed plan previously established by the diplomatic steps? The truth, as usual, seems to be somewhere in the middle. And the answers to these questions do not alter the existing reality.

We havea partnership.How will manage it?

From all these issues surface about which nobody will remember after five or ten years, we have one thing certain, and positive: the opening (or re-opening) a diplomatic landing, systematically neglected the last twenty years – Asia, with overlooking to the main global player in the Asia-Pacific and the second in the world economy (even if in serious crisis and creaking from its all joints): China. Romania, through its fleeting executive leader, has achieved a very important goal for Romania, which is the first in East-European area that won a meeting with Chinese President and Prime Minister, quickly after they took their office“, and now has an affirmative agenda with the economic giant that seems to make the rules of the geopolitical games of the XXI century. Is thissomethingto be condemned ?

Rather I think we should see how we can to materialize all these statements of good intent. How many of the investments of the Secretariat China Eastern Europe (program initiated by former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in which Romania has become one of the countries that aimed at access resources from the $ 10 billion budget provided by the Chinese side) will focus on Romania and how many will also bear fruit? Do we have laws that provide a business climate if not attractive at least normal? How do we solve institutionalized corruption that makes to the most stoic investor to run out? But the frauds of fiscal field? How many of the current ministers are actually able to manage the country’s interest in such projects? There are some questions to which the Prime Minister should think a little more than to the superficial discord generated by oversized egos (his own and of the President, of course).

We have strengths. How will use them?

Moreover, we have a well thought and strategic plan, rooted in economic reality of the country concerning targeted partnerships? Or will usually accept any crumb that they offer, because we are unable to use our own strengths? Latter option seems unfortunately very likely.

And to convince me that I’m wrong, the Ponta cabinet ministers (headed even with him) should explain to the public what kind of approach strategy they have. The fact that we have projects and opportunities is important and nothing. We are not only ones who have. Right, we are now outside the euro zone turmoil. But to claim thatwe will open the gates of Europe for China” is a PM`s teenage arrogance“, as funny as that of jumping over the linein diplomatic meetings. And it’s not enough a partnership, even beautifully packaged and labeled “strategic.” Romania has also other strategic partnerships with leading global players. But concrete results of these partnerships are still awaited, for a long time.

China CNOOCIn the book “China’s Choice” Hugh White reiterates the main economic partnership XXI century relationship between the U.S. and China, suggesting the need for a new vision and approach and arguing with figures why is necessary to waive the existing status quo practiced by the United States and to avoid strategic rivalry could prove harmful to United States interests, and by extension to the entire world economy. Regarding Romania, there is no question of rivalry, but that of necessity. Not just ours (as was the case with U.S. partnership, which combined with the incompetence of our government gave a logical result – we are rather “with losses” than with significant gains! I remember about because it are clamed intensive the infrastructure projects led by Minister Sova).  And if we talk about investments in energy, I suppose that the Minister Nita`s experts fully understand that the growth pattern of China’s planned investments aimed strictly needs to compensate their shortcomings. Specifically, Chinese energy companies are obliged to seek profits overseas to compensate their lamentable businesses at home.

Recently, in an analysis, published by Quartz, expert Steve LeVine noted that “China is nowhere near self-sufficient in energy, so companies like PetroChina and Sinopec must import much of the country’s oil. They’re also highly vulnerable to fluctuations in world energy prices, unable to pass on increases to consumers because of government price caps, as such losses will be transferred elsewhere”. Meanwhile, energy companies from China also want to gain financially by the sale of oil and gas (that they produce abroad) on world markets, competing with giants like BP, Chevron or ExxonMobil. I think we should know where Romania stand in this amalgam of giant interests. And what are the practical and pragmatic criteria by which we choose our partners, apart from the traditional “bribecharged by various politicians?

When also a strategic partnership with Romania?

And there’s something else to think about: will have someday the wisdom to not bury every viable projects of predecessors just because they belong to the opposite camp? Because that’s exactly what all governments have done in the last two decades with a fervor  worthy of a better cause.

We will learn to be flexible and open-minded, more attached to the fund and not the form, if the fund aims to benefit others – more to the detriment of unique and personal interest? I watch to the Romanian political scene and if tomorrow someone should replace the Prime Minister Ponta, I’m unable to nominate someone who fulfills those criteria. Basic criteria.

I think before to fight on statements about who and how many strategic partnerships (which, I reiterate, it’s not a bad thing!) have signed with world heavyweights, Romania’s top politicians, with direct reference to the prime minister and president, would be good to think a strategic partnership with their country. Because, although it’s not a monument of intelligence in its entirety, Romanian people understand that the huge wealth of politicians, is not collected of wages paid by the Romanian taxpayer, but from the other “benefits” of their statute that would not had access without its vote. As such is entitled to priority as a strategic partner.

Published by Cadran Politic, July 2013. Romanian version here.

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