Austria’s government has declared it will be a bridge-builder in the European Union between its western and eastern members. This is in fact rather more an endorsement of the Union cohesion on the eve of Austria’s presidency of the EU Council than a genuine offer to represent the Visegrad states’ interests in the EU. Vienna is also trying to strengthen its position in Central Europe using regional cooperation initiatives such as the Slavkov Triangle, Three Seas Initiative, and the V4+ format. However, Austria’s pro-Russia stances and economic conflicts of interest have burdened relations with regional partners. Common goals remain limited but include the development of transport infrastructure, an endorsement of the European integration of the Western Balkans and strengthening the EU’s external borders.
In his first term, Chinese leader Xi Jinping abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s foreign policy dictum of “keeping a low profile”. But China’s activism in the middle of Xi’s first term was still more reactive than creative. However, in the last two years a new phase of diplomacy has emerged, in which all actions are subordinated to China’s unchanging strategic foreign policy goal of regaining its superpower status. This means that China strives to enforce change in the global system, which is dominated by the West. The PRC is already trying to introduce new standards for international relations and promotes its values and principles more aggressively worldwide. There are already examples that Xi is effectively implementing his ideas.