Serbia Fortifies Economic and Cultural Bonds with China Through Collaborative Initiatives
On January 17, Serbia and China jointly founded an Association for Promotion of the Economy, Trade, Culture and Tourism. The Serbian Culture Minister has affirmed Belgrade’s dedication to participating in the global development initiatives spearheaded by China. The decision to establish the new association implies that, while the EU and US are growing more distant from China, Serbia is further solidifying a long-term strategic partnership with Beijing.
The establishment of this association aligns with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The Balkan nations, strategically positioned with important land routes, play a crucial role in the success of the Belt and Road Project. This geographical advantage enables China to establish routes to Europe through the Balkans, creating a broad market area for Chinese engagement.
The cultural aspect of the Belt and Road Initiative is crucial for China. Countries with similar cultures and fewer differences find establishing trade agreements and partnerships easier. Conversely, nations with significantly different cultural values may struggle to do so. In the last ten years, more than 50 activities have been realised in Serbia within the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative, mainly as part of festivals, fairs and forums.
Belgrade has embraced a medium-term action plan to execute the Belt and Road Initiative. Within the realm of cultural heritage protection, Serbia and China have inked an agreement addressing the prevention of theft, secret excavations, and illegal import/export of cultural goods. Additionally, there are intentions to foster collaboration with Chinese provinces, focusing initially on their most prominent cultural assets.
As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, Serbia is enhancing collaboration with the Chinese Cultural Centre in Belgrade and its Serbian counterpart in Beijing. The Ministry of Culture has a program with 20 projects for the Serbian centre in Beijing.
In October 2023, Serbia and China signed various agreements at the third Belt and Road Forum, including a free trade deal, an action plan until 2025, cooperation in economic development, the appointment of the Bank of China as a clearing bank for yuan exchange, three commercial contracts with Chinese companies, contract for the third phase of network modernisation in Serbia and more.
Over the past nine years of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Europe, Serbia has become the focal point of China’s economic and political influence in South-Eastern Europe. Serbia actively embraced economic cooperation. This deepened partnership extends across various sectors, such as culture, education, police and military cooperation, and more.