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The China-led “16+1” initiative in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is crafting a soft version of the old East European bloc, this time under Chinese rather than Russian tutelage. A collection of sixteen bilateral, uneven relationships with China rather than a true regional organization, 16+1 undermines existing Euro-Atlantic alliances. It also reinforces tendencies toward crony capitalism in the participating CEE states, reversing the progress toward more open socioeconomic systems that these countries have achieved since 1989 under the EU’s normative guidance. Ultimately, CEE countries will have to choose between the EU regulatory framework, designed to secure a level playing field, and the “China model” of a politicized economy controlled by a party-state.