Xi Jinping shakes hands with Tomislav Nikolic during an honorary citizenship ceremony for the Serbian president at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 30, 2017. Photo: Reuters, Lintao Zhang

China announced last year a fund to provide US$11 billion in capital for central and eastern European nations, and many leaders are welcoming China with open arms. But Beijing’s growing presence in the region is ruffling feathers among other EU members, reports the Financial Times.

Critics in the EU worry that Beijing is trying to diminish the bloc’s influence and erode challenges to Chinese investment in sensitive high-tech projects.

There are also concerns that the investment push has already influenced the EU’s voice on foreign policy issues, notably, when Hungary and Greece were unwilling to sign off on mention of China’s legal defeat in The Hague over South China Sea territorial claims.

The divide in Europe looks likely to only grow deeper in the near term, as leaders from Hungary, Serbia, Poland and the Czech Republic represent Europe at the Belt and Road summit in Beijing next week.

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