There is an old myth in Romania that during the communist era, dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu systematically avoided developing infrastructure in the eastern part of the country because he feared a Soviet invasion. Today the tension between connectivity and security is playing out in a different way.

The problem of critical infrastructure was highlighted recently by the Huawei saga, which has drawn a digital curtain between China and the United States. Both governments started to cajole or try to put pressure on other countries to take their side. Romania is an interesting arena for the U.S.-China confrontation because it hosts an American military base and an American anti-ballistic shield, as well as a Huawei regional hub and potential Chinese investment in one of the most important nuclear power plants in Central and Eastern Europe: Cernavodă.

In May, after almost four years of negotiations, Romania and China reached an agreement for reactors 3 and 4 of the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant, an investment that is estimated at almost $8 billion. Cernavodă, Romania’s only nuclear power plant, was designed during the communist rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu. It currently operates just two reactors, which began operating in 1996 and 2007, but it supplies around 20 percent of Romania’s energy. The Romanian government has tried to finish the construction of reactors 3 and 4 for more than a decade, but it has been a bumpy ride. In 2009, Nuclearelectrica, the government-controlled Romanian company that operates Cernavodă, formed a joint venture with RWE, GDF Suez, ENEL, CEZ, ArcelorMittal, and Iberdrola. Less than three years later, all the foreign companies had withdrawn from the project and Romania was left to search for other alternative partners.

That is when China stepped onto the stage. []

This article has been published by Andreea Brînză, Vice President of RISAP, in the Diplomat. You can read the full article on the Diplomat’s website.