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Report and photos: PR Team of the Faculty of Political Sciences

A panel discussion on “Cooperation of China with the Western Balkans and Visegrad Group countries” was held at the Faculty of Political Sciences. Speakers at the panel were Program Director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence Marko Savković, Researcher from the Center for European Studies Strahinja Subotić and Program Assistant of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence Stefan Vladisavljev.

Marko Savkovic explained that China is the biggest advocate of the free trade on the global agenda, while preserving the traditions of communism at the same time, and is the only competitor to the United States and the European Union. “China is the only country with a global strategy primarily focused on economic integration, for example, on building corridors that will facilitate trade,” Savkovic added. He reminded us that we do not understand the political culture of China, and that cultural ties have not been developed sufficiently, despite all the programs of exchange and cooperation – which is definitely something that should be further improved. “We have a long way to learning what China is and what it wants to be in the 21st century, which, according to one general assessment, is the century of Asia,” Savkovic concluded.

“In relations with China Serbia is, according to all parameters, ahead of other Western Balkan countries, whether it is a political, economic or cultural aspect,” said Strahinja Subotic. The great in that relationship is that China has accepted Serbia’s position on Kosovo, and that the political elites in Serbia have a positive attitude towards China. “In several documents, Serbia has committed itself to aligning with China’s foreign policy – primarily regarding the problems connected with the South China Sea, but also that the countries will be on the same side when it comes to the United Nations declarations adoption,” Subotic said. He pointed out that Serbia was the first to sign a strategic and comprehensive partnership with China in the Western Balkans and that analyses show that partnerships of this kind can represent a significant indicator in the China’s foreign policy approach.

Stefan Vladisavljev noted that besides Western Balkan countries, the relations with China that Visegrad Group countries (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary) should be discussed. “As for Slovakia, it has the least developed trade relations with China and this year they have committed to the introduction of so-called screening mechanisms, that also exist in other European Union countries, in order to protect their interests and national security from the Chinese influence through numerous investments,” he said. Vladisavljev pointed out that from all the countries of the Visegrad Group, Hungary is its biggest partner, while other countries have certain types of cooperation with China, but not so significant. Of all the countries with which Hungary has trade relations, China is third or fourth country on that list, continuously through years.” The great impact on China’s international relations has a campaign by the United States, regarding Huawei and the controversy surrounding its position on the international field, as well as alleged spying accusations in order to work in China’s interest. However, we believe that for now, for Serbia, there is no fear of China’s influence,” Vladisavljev concluded.

This panel discussion was organized as part of the project “Comparative analysis of the approach towards China: V4 + and One Belt One Road” which BFPE is implementing in a cooperation with Prague Security Studies Institute (Czech Republic), Institute of Asian Studies (Slovakia), HAS Center for Economic and Regional Studies, Institute of World Economics (Hungary) and Center for International Relations (Poland).

The International Visegrad Fund (IVF) supports the project.

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