17 CEE + China Mechanism: the Cultural Undercurrents

The multilayer complex of historical and socio-cultural aspects of the 17+1 mechanism countries merit further research. While historically there is a significant although patchy cultural exchange and cooperation, the countries of the 17+1 mechanism in certain combinations hold diverging historical accounts and narratives about their own, and their relative, unique and shared histories, as well deeply rooted yet contested ideas about their ‘self’ and ‘others’.

The 17 countries of the Mechanism through the recent millennium constituted the border region between the competing Eastern/Russian, Western/Germanic, South-Eastern/Turkish and Southern/Mediterranean cultures, as well as the along the religion-axis between Byzantine/Orthodox, Roman/Catholic, Muslim influences, and other influences.

In the 20th century, this was further complicated by overlapping or contesting (international/global) ideological, economic and cultural affiliations and influences by the USA, Russia, Arab League members and China, alliances and non-alliances interplaying with the growing influence of the former-colonial political and cultural influences, in the context of political, trade and military multilateral and bilateral alliances.

Moreover, the CEE region is experiencing demographic challenges: an aging population and brain drain, political shift to the illiberal side of the spectrum, and what seems to be a lacking capacity and/or willingness to sustainably manage the refugee crisis and deferred regional conflicts.

Dogmatic beliefs and their social infrastructure constitute a cultural and security undercurrent of its own merit. The 20th century teaches that dogmatic beliefs may dominate social narrative particularly in a crisis, such is anticipated in the post-pandemic world. Also, they may create decision-making volatilities when the public image, strong promises matching strong demands, and trust walk the media catwalks as a crucial factor, provoking policy jibs and security discontinuities.

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