Home » News » The signing of the Bilateral Cooperation Plan reaffirms our commitment to continue a mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas


24 June 2019

The signing of the Bilateral Cooperation Plan reaffirms our commitment to continue a mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas

President of the National Council for Coordination of Cooperation with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China Tomislav Nikolić talked today in Belgrade with the Chinese delegation led by Secretary General of the Beijing-based Wanli Think Tank Institute Yue Zhao. The visiting delegation was composed of academic and business representatives from the People’s Republic of China. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Finance and the Development Agency of Serbia, who introduced the Chinese delegation to the advantages of investing in Serbia.

 The signing of the Bilateral Cooperation Plan reaffirms our commitment to continue a mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas

Photograph: National Council

Secretary General of the Beijing-based Wanli Think Tank Institute Yue Zhao emphasized that China perceived Serbia as a very good investment destination. “The main areas offering potential for further Sino-Serbian collaboration are infrastructure, transport, energy, tourism, health system and culture. Chinese companies already operating in Serbia are making significant headway and we share their experiences with other Chinese companies, which express a growing interest in doing business in Serbia. The main goal of our visit is to learn about further investment opportunities in Serbia and the ways of building a future together in a most prosperous way”, Mr. Yue Zhao said.

In the meeting, Council President Nikolić gave the following speech, addressing those present:

“It is my great pleasure to be your host for the second time round this year at the offices of the National Council for Coordination of Cooperation with Russia and China.

This institution is unique in Europe. Only Serbia has a Government body responsible for improving collaboration with two major world powers which are at the same time its two great friends. Most European governments have imposed sanctions against Russia, while allocating funds to fight against Chinfluence. Others look at China’s growing influence in Europe as a threat, thinking that this is something to be countered. General Charles de Gaulle once said: “When China awakes, the world will shake”. It is no secret that many Western countries regard today’s transformation of the global political system as a big threat, interpreting De Gaulle’s words in this sense. Those on the serious side understand China’s participation in world politics correctly – as an opportunity to change the architecture of international relations for the better, in the interest of most of the mankind. The world should not be unipolar, it is no longer tenable to manage global politics from one center of power only.

A multipolar world, with Russia and China as major powers that have already struck the balance of power in international relations, is our vested interest as well. Western unilateralism and unilateral actions prevent Russia and China from exercising a bigger influence. The problems burdening global politics and regional relations alike should be resolved in international organizations, through negotiations and agreements, and not by imposing solutions and provoking wars. China’s intensified activity in international politics goes hand in hand with stronger chances for a peaceful settlement of outstanding issues. This is of utmost importance for smaller countries, such as Serbia, as they can only defend their interests by relying on international law. In what other ways could we protect our interests? By way of its actions in the United Nations, China has demonstrated its unwavering adherence to sovereignty of all UN Member States, while insisting on the observance of the Charter of the United Nations.

Hence, we pursue a different policy. For us, China was, is and will be a friendly country. Let me paraphrase an old Chinese saying: “He who has a lot of money, but has no friends, isn’t rich. He who has many friends, but has no money, isn’t poor”. The work of the National Council clearly demonstrates the commitment on the part of Serbia to maintain friendly relations with China. We have friends; hence, we are not poor.

It was in August 2013 that I first visited the People’s Republic of China in my capacity as President of Serbia, and it was on this occasion that President Xi Jinping and I signed a Joint Declaration on the Deepening of the Strategic Partnership. Our relations were upgraded to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership only three years later, when President Xi visited Serbia.

The overall value of all Sino-Serbian projects is in the region of EUR 10 billion. China has shown its appreciation for the efforts that Serbia has put in its own development and its readiness to work together on the fulfilment of our developmental goals – competitive economy, reduced unemployment, export and investment potential promotion.

The Bilateral Cooperation Plan between the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China was signed in Beijing in April 2019. The Plan reaffirms our commitment to continue a mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas ranging from infrastructure, energy, industry, agriculture, health system, trade, tourism, finance, environmental protection to culture, education and technology.

Allow me to briefly touch upon a number of successful Chinese investments in Serbia: in addition to Huawei, which has been operating in Serbia for more than 12 years, with its main offices for the Western Balkans situated in Belgrade, I would like to mention the 2013 Johnson Electric investment in Niš; Health Care, a mattress production company, has been present in Ruma since 2015; MEITA, an automobile spare parts company, opened its Obrenovac factory in 2015; the first direct Chinese investment in Serbia is the purchase of the Smederevo Steel Mill by China’s Hesteel in 2016. Today Hesteel owns plants in Smederevo, Šabac and Kučevo. In 2018, the company was the second largest exporter in Serbia, its exports amounting to almost EUR 700 million. Last year, Zijin Mining took over 63% of ownership in the Mining and Smelting Combine Bor, an investment which totals EUR 1,260,000,000.

We are also proud to announce that this year started off well. Shandong Linglong is building a new tire factory in Zrenjanin. This EUR 800 million investment created 1,200 jobs. I would like to emphasize that the Republic of Serbia gave this Chinese company 97 hectares of development land in the Zrenjanin Free Zone at no cost, in order for the company to build a factory. Furthermore, Minth, an auto parts company, invested EUR 100 million and created 1,000 jobs in Loznica. China’s manufacturer of automobiles and buses Lanzhou Guangdong New Energy Automobile (LGNEA) has recently acquired a slightly more than a 50% stake in Serbia’s Belgrade-based bus factory Ikarbus. Borča is the construction site for the largest Chinese industrial park in Europe, and this investment stands at EUR 300 million. We expect the industrial park to host more than 1,000 companies and to employ more than 10,000 people. Moreover, the Bank of China opened its offices in Belgrade in 2017. In my recent talks with the Bank’s representatives, I was told that the Belgrade seat is to become the hub for the entire Balkans, and that they have already had talks with the National Bank of Serbia about the ways of expanding their operations to include Serbian companies.

Finally, allow me to add that since the 2017 abolition of visas for Chinese tourists, the number of Chinese nationals visiting Serbia has increased by leaps and bounds. I believe that a direct contact between our peoples is the best way to get to know each other and to build trust.

Kang Youwei was one of the first Chinese to visit Serbia in 1908 and to document this experience. He came to Belgrade as a refugee and a leader of the Reform Movement, advocating country modernization and a rebellion against the Western powers that reduced China to a semi-colony in the wake of the Opium Wars. Back in 1908, Kang Youwei was impressed to learn that the University of Belgrade was bigger than the one in Beijing, even though Serbia’s population numbered one million only, in comparison to China’s 400 million. It is for this reason that he believed in Serbia’s future. Today, I believe that Serbia will have a future if it steps up its academic exchange with China, if the number of common scientific projects increases, thus ensuring transfer of technology and know-how, having in mind that the modern-day Chinese universities are the generator of ideas and patents in the entire world.

The Serbs cherish strong beliefs. We are an ancient nation that has suffered a lot throughout its long struggles for freedom and independence, including the 1999 NATO bombing. The friendship with China is another element cementing out faith in the future”, Council President Nikolić concluded in his address to the Chinese delegation representing the Beijing-based Wanli Think Tank Institute.