China has expressed hopes of helping Poland to become a logistics hub and boosting trade with Central and Eastern European countries, as Beijing tries to improve its relations with the region. President Xi Jinping voiced the aim when he met Polish President Andrzej Duda on Sunday morning in one of a number of diplomatic discussions held during visits by foreign delegations to Beijing for the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics . Duda was the only elected European head of state to attend Friday’s ceremony, after several countries announced diplomatic boycotts citing human rights concerns and others opted to miss it over concerns about Covid-19 . “President Xi expressed China’s readiness to take an active part in Poland’s endeavour to build itself into a logistics hub and to support Poland’s effort to become a key point in China-European Union industrial and supply chains,” a Chinese statement said on Sunday. The statement said that Xi had hailed relations with Poland as a “true, trusting and sincere friendship” as he promised to expand agricultural, food and other imports from Poland while “encouraging more Chinese enterprises to go to Poland for investment and cooperation”. Also discussed were plans to establish in Poland an agricultural wholesale market between China and Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) that would turn into “an early flagship programme for China-CEEC cooperation”. Beijing has maintained a diplomatic and economic platform with those countries since 2012. “The two sides also need to seek more synergies in development strategies such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative , China-CEEC cooperation and Poland’s programme to boost the economy after the pandemic, and tap into their potential in areas like trade, investment, transport, logistics and high-technology, so as to bring bilateral practical cooperation to new heights,” the Chinese statement said. ‘Lessons learned’, what’s next for China’s modern-day Silk Road projects? “[Xi] also expressed the hope that Poland will continue to make active contributions to the development of China-CEEC cooperation and China-EU relations as a whole.” Duda’s office had said that he was making the trip to gain an opportunity to offer Beijing an alternative perspective on the Ukraine crisis to that presented by Russia. However, security matters were not mentioned in the Chinese statement. The Polish presidential office had yet to release a statement as of Monday evening, but Beijing’s statement said Duda had expressed hope that Poland could “become China’s gateway to Europe”. Beijing has made Poland a priority after challenges emerged in Chinese-CEEC cooperation, with some countries in the region growing sceptical about the economic benefits on offer from China and the potential of closer ties to undermine the solidarity of the EU. The CEEC mechanism’s future role was again questioned when Lithuania last year announced its decision to withdraw from it. “In the past two years, China has begun to realise more and more the potential of Poland, considering the country’s size, location and economic potential,” said Liu Zuokui, director of the department of Central and Eastern European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “While Poland has demonstrated doubts about working with China, it has never stopped working with China.” Ukraine: Diplomatic manoeuvres intensify to avert Russia-Nato clash Poland has excluded Chinese company Huawei from its 5G networks after concerns, led by the United States, about the potential security risks of using the tech giant’s equipment. Liu said Poland had become China’s best hope for improving ties with the CEEC, but even a boost in economic relations would not guarantee fundamental changes in the overall relationship with the region. “The whole geopolitical climate has changed for those countries,” he said. “No matter what we do, whether our investment rises or trade gets a boost, they are not that keen. Their priority is now security.” Liu added that Poland – a member of the Nato security alliance – would be very concerned about tensions between Ukraine, which it neighbours, and Russia, and would have expectations of China, as Russia’s close partner. “This could help boost China-CEEC cooperation … and could be welcomed by the EU, too,” he said. Ding Chun, director of Fudan University’s European Studies Centre, said the Chinese statement about the Xi-Duda meeting suggested substantial plans were in the pipeline. “However, Poland’s ability to help improve relations between China and the EU will be limited,” he said. “This cannot depend on Poland, or any country alone. Major countries such as Germany and France are still at the core of Europe, and their roles are more significant.” Damian Wnukowski, an analyst in the Polish Institute of International Affairs’ Asia-Pacific programme, said there were still other challenges in developing China-Poland relations. “One of the main issues is the barriers for Polish exports into the Chinese market,” he said, adding that there was the fallout from EU-China tensions and China’s disputes with certain countries in the region, including Lithuania .