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China’s Xi Jinping gets red-carpet welcome in Serbia

Legend, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (second from right) and his wife Tamara Vucic welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Belgrade

  • Author, Guy Delauney
  • Role, BBC News, Belgrade

The red flags start from Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport and extend along the highway to the center of the Serbian capital.

It’s Serbia’s way of showing it’s proud of its “ironclad friendship” with China – and welcoming Xi Jinping to Belgrade.

At the city’s West Gate, more commonly known as the Genex Tower, an entire tower is draped in China’s national colors.

For good measure, there’s a billboard for Hisense, the Chinese appliance maker that last year opened a refrigerator factory in Valjevo, western Serbia.

In certain regions of Europe, the Chinese president’s itinerary may have raised eyebrows. After all, it’s not often that Serbia finds itself part of a three-stop tour by an international leader of such stature.

But Serbia has deepened its relations with China in recent years, while continuing its negotiations to join the European Union.

Mr. Xi will likely use his trip to highlight his criticism of NATO. His visit coincides with the 25th anniversary of the US airstrikes against the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. And in an editorial in the Serbian newspaper Politika, the president made clear that feelings over the incident were still running high.

“We should never forget,” he wrote. “The Chinese people cherish peace, but we will never allow such a tragic story to happen again. »

This kind of rhetoric resonates in Serbia, where the vast majority of the population opposes NATO membership. This is a key factor in why this leg of Mr. Xi’s European tour makes perfect sense.

Image source, Oliver Bunic/Bloomberg

Legend, The NATO bombing campaign in 1999 aimed to drive Serbian forces out of Kosovo.

Business connections are also a factor. The two countries signed a free trade agreement last year, building on a “comprehensive strategic partnership” in 2016 – the year of Mr Xi’s previous visit to Serbia.

China now claims to be the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Serbia. Its ambassador, Li Ming, says Hisense, along with mining company Zijin and tire maker Linglong, will supply 20,000.

UN trade figures actually put China in fifth place on the foreign direct investment list, behind Germany, Italy, the United States and Russia.

Nonetheless, Chinese investment is eye-catching – and will only increase. Serbia has just received delivery of its first Chinese high-speed electric trains. They will eventually operate alongside Swiss-made rolling stock on the Belgrade-Budapest railway, which is being rebuilt with Chinese expertise and funding.

And that’s just the beginning. Serbian Infrastructure Minister Goran Vesic said Chinese partners would work on other infrastructure, including roads, bridges, tunnels and sewers. “There are really a lot of possibilities for cooperation with Chinese companies,” he told Serbian national broadcaster RTS.

It’s no wonder that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic plans to personally serve the best wines his country has to offer to his Chinese counterpart at a banquet in honor of Mr. Xi.

Image source, Reuters/Aurélien Morissard

Legend, Xi Jinping enjoyed a rainy day in the Pyrenees at the end of his visit to France

Noting that within five years Serbian wine will not be subject to any import tariffs in China, Vucic told China Central Television that Serbian wines were “not as expensive as ( those) in France” and that he thought Mr. Xi “was going to like” his selections. .

It was perhaps a small dig at Emmanuel Macron, who welcomed Mr. Xi for the first leg of his European trip. The French president’s offering was a bottle of Rémy Martin Louis XIII cognac, which would cost the better part of €5,000 in Belgrade.

A trip to the Pyrenees was also included in the charm offensive – to soften calls from Mr Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for Mr Xi to ensure more balanced trade with Europe and influences Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

After Belgrade, the Chinese president’s next stop will be Budapest, where he will meet his biggest ally among EU member state leaders, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Chinese investment is also a big factor there – with a factory for electric car giant BYD among the projects strengthening Mr Orban’s resistance to European consensus on everything from migration to supplying arms to Ukraine .

News Source :
Gn world

jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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