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H.E. Li Ming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Serbia

Unbreakable Friendship

It was 25 years ago (1999) that the Chinese and Serbian people stood firmly together to defend international justice with their own blood and even lives. As an old Chinese saying goes, taking history as a mirror can help learn about the future. Only by not forgetting history can we move forward in the right direction. We will never forget the three Chinese journalists who sacrificed their lives for peace and justice. We will continue to uphold the principles of the UN charter and international law. The “steel” friendship between China and Serbia has withstood the test of blood and fire over previous years and will continue growing from strength to strength in the future ~ Li Ming

The highest level of political understanding and the strengthening of economic cooperation characterise bilateral relations between Serbia and China over recent years, which should also be confirmed by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Belgrade. H.E. Li Ming, the new Chinese ambassador to Serbia, believes that it is now time for the economic cooperation that has elevated China to the very top of the list of investor countries in Serbia to be raised to a new level.

“Chinese- Serbian cooperation is entering a new era of high-quality growth in fields like biomedicine, high-tech innovation, green energy, IT etc. At the same time, Chinese companies operating in traditional industries in Serbia spare no effort in increasing investments in mining, green steel manufacturing, energy savings, and environmentally friendly and efficiency purposes,” says Ambassador Li Ming in this interview for CorD Magazine.

Your Excellency, you arrived in Serbia at the end of last year. What were your first impressions?

— Since arriving in Serbia six months ago, I have been overwhelmed by this beautiful and friendly country with three deepest impressions.

Firstly, the Serbian people are warm and hospitable. Serbia is an ancient country with a diverse culture, unique tradition and an abundance of world heritage sites, natural parks and various landscapes. Many elderly and middle- aged Chinese tourists come here with fond memories of the films and literature of the former Yugoslavia, while younger Chinese visitors fall in love with the modern and vibrant life of Serbia. The Serbian people are also interested in China’s language and splendid culture. The Chinese-Serbian “Steel” friendship has a long history and solid foundations.

We support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, respect the will of its people for independence and its own development path

Secondly, there is great potential in Chinese-Serbian economic cooperation. I have visited numerous China- Serbia cooperation projects. From HBIS Smederevo to Zijin Copper in Bor, from Linglong Tires in Zrenjanin to Minth Group in Loznica, from the Hungarian-Serbian Railway to Miloš the Great Highway, these projects have improved Serbia’s infrastructure substantially, created jobs, improved the professional skills of local people and achieved win-win outcomes for all. These projects are warmly welcomed by the people of Serbia and serve as examples for the “Belt and Road” Initiative.

Thirdly, the political trust between China and Serbia is iron-clad and unbreakable. Both countries share the same or similar historical experiences, cherish and safeguard their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and firmly support each other on issues of core interests and major concerns.

I look forward to working with Chinese and Serbian friends, and friends from all other countries, to promote understanding, deepen friendships, expand cooperation and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humankind.

You have stated that cooperation between China and Serbia should be elevated to an even higher level. What priorities have you set in that regard?

— Since China and Serbia enhanced their bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road framework more than ten years ago, there have already been tangible and fruitful outcomes, while there is more potential to be developed in the future. Chinese- Serbian cooperation is entering a new era of high-quality growth in fields like biomedicine, high-tech innovation, green energy IT etc. At the same time, Chinese companies operating in traditional industries in Serbia spare no effort in increasing investments in mining, green steel manufacturing, energy-savings and environmentally friendly and efficiency purposes.

China is ready to participate further in Serbia’s national development and many Chinese companies have expressed a strong interest in participating in preparations for the 2027 Belgrade Expo. It is believed that future cooperation between China and Serbia will create more opportunities and even brighter prospects.

Serbian President Vučić recently hinted at the possibility of a visit to Serbia by Chinese President Xi. Is there any progress on this and when could such a visit be expected?

— The leaderships of China and Serbia have always attached great importance to bilateral relations and outlined the blueprint for future development. In recent years, China and Serbia have maintained frequent high-level exchanges. President Xi Jinping and President Aleksandar Vučić have held in-person meetings and exchanged correspondences on various occasions, charting a course for the relationship from a strategic level. In 2023, President Vučić attended the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, injecting strong energy into the development of our bilateral relations. It is believed that China and Serbia will continue to maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges to further guide relations.

The construction of a highway traversing Vojvodina by a Chinese company began at the end of last year. Are you satisfied with the pace of the work?

— It was in 2019 that President Vučić announced an ambitious plan to build an expressway in northern Vojvodina. Chinese enterprises responded promptly and signed a framework agreement with their Serbian counterparts on the fringes of last year’s Third Belt and Road Forum.

After 25 years, a building of the Chinese Culture Centre was established on the ashes of the bombed old Chinese embassy. This centre provides diverse programmes of Chinese culture, the Chinese language, Chinese Tai Chi and Chinese traditional music

That project is now in the initial stage of construction and relevant commercial framework contracts are expected to be signed. The Chinese companies involved are well known for their rich experience in infrastructure and we look forward to the expressway that could be completed according to plan and with high quality.

According to data from last year, China is becoming the largest individual investor in Serbia. Chinese companies have to date been most heavily involved in Serbian construction, particularly in infrastructure projects. Do you see other areas where economic cooperation could develop?

— Chinese investors are attracted to Serbia by its reputation as the transport hub of the Balkan region, its labour and resource advantages, and the preferential policies provided by the Serbian government. In recent years, Chinese companies have invested and established factories in Serbia in the areas of auto parts and steel manufacturing, mining and infrastructure. Chinese investments help promote the country’s economic and social development and improve people’s living standards.

I believe that there will be more Chinese enterprises seeking investment opportunities in Serbia following the enacting of the China-Serbia Free Trade Agreement. Possible new areas of cooperation include wind and solar energy, the photovoltaic industry, biotech, the digital economy, science and innovation etc. The Chinese government will continue encouraging cooperation between the two countries on the basis of respect and mutual benefit.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the NATO aggression against Serbia. How would you comment on the fact that only China, Russia and Algeria supported the UN Security Council proposal to discuss that event?

— Twenty-five years ago, without the approval of the UN Security Council, NATO unashamedly launched a 78- day bombing campaign against a sovereign state, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The bombing caused serious humanitarian disasters in the country and the region beyond. Thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives, including children and women, and millions of households were forcibly displaced. The serious negative impact of that war can be felt even today, when the situation in Kosovo is still intense and the trauma lingers on.

Today, 25 years on, the world has entered a new period of turmoil and transformation. China supports the UN Security Council in convening meetings to reflect on history with the spirit of remembrance and safeguarding peace. Its purpose is to uphold the principles of the UN Charter, advocate genuine multilateralism and maintain global peace and security, as well as preventing tragedy from reoccurring.

On the other hand, there is the possibility to adopt a resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, through the UN General Assembly. What is China’s stance on this initiative, which Belgrade says could lead to demands for the abolition of Republika Srpska and new tensions in the region?

— The issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina is highly sensitive and complex, and serious disputes remain among the parties concerned to this day.

Many elderly and middle-aged Chinese tourists come here with fond memories of the films and literature of the former Yugoslavia, while younger Chinese visitors fall in love with the modern and vibrant life of Serbia

China’s position on relevant issues has been clear and consistent. We support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, respect the will of its people for independence and its own development path. When dealing with related issues, the international community should always prioritise the peace and stability of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, and should genuinely promote dialogue, reconciliation and the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic groups. It is hoped that parties within Bosnia and Herzegovina could address disputes through discreet and friendly consultations, for the purpose of maintaining unity and avoiding any escalation of tension.

The Chinese Embassy was targeted during the 1999 bombing of Serbia, which was unprecedented in international relations at the time. How does the Chinese Culture Centre that was built on the site of the destroyed embassy function today?

— Twenty-five years ago, the Chinese and Serbian people stood firmly together to defend international justice with their own blood and even lives. As an old Chinese saying goes, taking history as a mirror can help learn about the future. Only by not forgetting history can we move forward in the right direction. We will never forget the three Chinese journalists who sacrificed their lives for peace and justice. We will continue to uphold the principles of the UN charter and international laws. The “steel” friendship between China and Serbia has withstood the test of blood and fire over previous years and will continue growing from strength to strength in the future.

Martyrs are immortal because of their nobility and their spirit shines from generation to generation. After 25 years, a building of the Chinese Culture Centre was established on the ashes of the bombed old Chinese embassy. This centre provides diverse programmes of Chinese culture, the Chinese language, Chinese Tai Chi and Chinese traditional music, and has become a new landmark of the Chinese-Serbian steel friendship. By standing in front of the Chinese Culture Centre and paying tribute to the three martyrs, the people of China and Serbia will continue to honour their heroic tradition and unite as one for a shared future.

PROSPECTS

It is believed that future cooperation between China and Serbia will create more opportunities and even brighter prospects

UN

China supports the UN Security Council in convening meetings to reflect on history with the spirit of remembrance and safeguarding peace

COOPERATION

Possible new areas of cooperation include wind and solar energy, the photovoltaic industry, biotech, the digital economy, science and innovation etc

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