On the Kosovo issue, China has always respected Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We insist that the best way is for the parties concerned to have dialogue and reach a mutually acceptable political solution within the framework of the UN Security Council Resolutions ~ Chen Bo
I do not believe that stirring up the Cold War mentality is the right way, says Chinese Ambassador Chen Bo in this interview for CorD Magazine, speaking about new tensions in Ukraine, around Taiwan, but also in Kosovo, which are often mentioned in connection with the thesis about the reconstituting of geopolitical relations around the world. She adds that “respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as set out as an important principle of the UN Charter, represents the bedrock of contemporary international law and international relations”.
Your Excellency, it was announced during your recent meeting with the Serbian Prime Minister that a free trade agreement between China and Serbia should be signed by the end of this year, which will enable most products to be imported and exported without the charging of customs duties. What do you expect of that?
Over the past years, China-Serbia trade volume has kept increasing. According to data from the Serbian Statistical Office, our bilateral trade volume has increased from 1.88 billion U.S. dollars to 5.1 billion U.S. dollars between 2017 and 2021. China has become Serbia’s second largest trade partner. The volume of our mutual trade reached 3.68 billion U.S. dollars from January to July this year, with 32% year-on-year growth, fully demonstrating the strong momentum of China-Serbia economic cooperation. China’s large market, with 1.4 billion people, will continue opening-up, which will create ever more opportunities for global, high-quality products. Serbian goods, including food and agricultural products, are increasingly popular in China due to their unique advantages. For example, three Chinese enterprises joined the recent Open Balkan International Wine Expo and signed agreements worth 800,000 euros with Serbian wine suppliers. China looks forward to cooperating with Serbia in further facilitating the economic cooperation between our companies. We believe Made-in-Serbia will be more competitive in China.
The Serbian Prime Minister stated recently that China became Serbia’s second most important economic partner in 2022, with one of the most important investments being the one in the mine in Bor. This investment has prompted concern among citizens over environmental pollution and quality of life in the area around the mine. Could you say something about guarantees related to environmental protection that the Zijin company has committed itself to, which was also recently mentioned by the President of Serbia?
Since it began participating in the mineral industry here, Zijin has made Serbia the second largest copper producer in Europe and has made a great contribution to the economic development of Serbia, with 63 million U.S. dollars in taxes paid in the first half of the year. The municipality of Majdanpek recently announced that Zijin Copper provided 700 million dinars in tax revenue for the region in the first two quarters of 2022, an increase of more than 200% year-on-year. Zijin has provided strong support to enlarging local employment and solving problems of citizens, while offering a stable source of income for most local families. (Original news article)
The volume of our mutual trade reached 3.68 billion U.S. dollars from January to July this year, with 32% year-on-year growth, fully demonstrating the strong momentum of China-Serbia economic cooperation
At the same time, Zijin is also committed to addressing decades-long environmental problems. According to the company, Zijin Copper had invested a total of 165 million U.S. dollars in environmental and ecological improvement by July this year, with efforts including the adding of 1.45 million square metres of green areas, as well as improving the management of dust particles, solid waste, wastewater, flue gas and noise pollution. Since the flue gas desulphurisation system was made operational last year, the average local level of sulphur dioxide in the air has fallen significantly, which is greatly appreciated by the local people. The company emphasises that its Čukaru Peki mine is completely green, as it is in line with EU standards, with some indicators even higher than that. The Zijin smelter renovation and expansion project will be completed soon. We believe that the local environment will become increasingly better with the assistance of new technology and equipment.
This summer has been marked by new tension between China and the U.S., culminating in Washington support for Taiwan that Beijing views as a contradictory to the “One China” principle. You told media recently that “no one should underestimate China’s determination and readiness to defend its sovereignty”. Do you believe that tensions in the Taiwan Strait will de-escalate or that further escalations are set to follow?
Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. This is not only an indisputable fact in the sense of history and international law, but also on the basis of the universal consensus of the international community. The Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair. The current tension in the Taiwan Strait is entirely the result of U.S. provocation and “Taiwan independence” forces soliciting U.S. support to advance their agenda. While claiming to adhere to the One China Principle, the U.S. backs Taiwanese independence with actions including the sale of weapons to Taiwan and developing official relations with it. Recently, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and some other U.S. officials visited Taiwan, ignoring strong protests from China. This is typical provocation.
The peaceful reunification of China is the shared aspiration of all Chinese people. China is the last party that wants to see disruption of Cross-Strait stability. China has always adhered to the peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question, and will continue to do so, but it will never allow its sovereignty and territorial integrity to be violated. Everyone can see clearly that “Taiwan independence” forces and foreign interference are the biggest obstacle to the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question.
The Taiwan question, similarly to the war in Ukraine, relates to Serbia’s own struggle to preserve its sovereignty in different ways. How do you see the latest developments in Kosovo, with new armed conflicts having been mentioned as a possible scenario?
I have to stress that the Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue are fundamentally different in nature. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair. Respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as set out as an important principle of the UN Charter, is the bedrock of contemporary international law and international relations. Double standards should not be applied in this regard.
According to the company, Zijin Copper had invested a total of 165 million U.S. dollars in environmental and ecological improvement by July this year, with efforts including the adding of 1.45 million square metres of green areas, as well as improving the management of dust particles, solid waste, wastewater, flue gas and noise pollution
On the Kosovo issue, China has always respected Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We insist that the best way is for the parties concerned to have dialogue and reach a mutually acceptable political solution within the framework of the UN Security Council Resolutions. We noted recently that unilateral actions taken by a certain party have led to the escalation of tension. At a time when Europe is facing enormous security challenges, maintaining stability in Kosovo is of even greater significance. That is why joint efforts should be exerted to avoid heightened tensions. We commend Serbia for its efforts to seek a solution through dialogue.
You have spoken on multiple occasions about China’s stance with regard to Serbia’s sovereignty and the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo. Does this position mean that a Chinese veto would also prevent any possible new attempt to see Kosovo admitted into the UN?
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always been committed to upholding international fairness and justice, opposing hegemonism and power politics, and safeguarding the overall interests of developing countries. Our position on the Kosovo issue is consistent and clear. We will continue to insist on this position.
There has been discussion of the possible restructuring of international relations, and perhaps even new alliances among states, since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. How would you define China’s position; is it possible to talk about China aligning with one of the sides in that conflict?
We call on the parties concerned to achieve a ceasefire through dialogue and negotiation, and to find a way to accommodate the legitimate security concerns of all parties concerned as soon as possible. It has been proven that supplying arms and sanctions will not solve the problem. I do not believe that stirring up the Cold War mentality, playing up bloc confrontation, creating a “new Cold War” and undermining the environment for international cooperation are the right way. The spill-over effects of the Ukraine crisis are becoming more pronounced. In the face of complex and grave challenges, the world needs solidarity rather than division, and dialogue rather than confrontation. China will always stand on the side of promoting peace talks and contributing to world peace and development.
Chinese companies are rebuilding the Novi Sad – Subotica section of the highspeed railway in Serbia, with the aim of linking Belgrade and Budapest. That project initially formed part of China’s global “Belt and Road” initiative, which included 16 countries of Central and Southeast Europe. To what extent do current political circumstances impact on economic cooperation between China and EU member states?
With the opening of the Belgrade-Novi Sad high-speed railway, the Serbian people have already felt the convenience of the Belgrade-Budapest railway, which is a tangible benefit of mutually beneficial cooperation. China and Europe are important partners in trade and economic cooperation, as well as key forces for building an open world economy. Despite COVID-19 and other complex factors, China-Europe trade and economic cooperation has shown strong resilience and dynamism. Bilateral trade hit a record high of 820 billion U.S. dollar in 2021. The latest data from Eurostat shows that, in the first half of 2022, trade between the 27 EU member stated and China reached 413.9 billion euros, up 28.3% year-on-year. These figures are evidence of the close economic ties and vast potential for cooperation between China and Europe.
The China-Europe Railway Express service made its 10,000th trip this year, which is indeed inspiring. The Express currently runs on 82 routes and reaches 200 cities in 24 European countries. It has not only served as an accelerator for China-Europe trade and the socioeconomic development of countries and regions along the routes, but also played an important role in stabilising global industrial and supply chains, and promoting the world’s post-COVID economic recovery.
In the face of an increasingly complex international landscape, China-EU relations should not be misled by the “Cold War mentality”. Developing China-EU relations with the principle of win-win cooperation serves the interests of both China and the EU and meets the needs of maintaining world peace and development.
The Sinopharm factory for Covid-19 vaccines has been constructed in the Belgrade industrial zone as a joint Chinese, Serbian and UAE project. Is it known when operations will be launched at this factory and what its production plans are like?
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Serbia have been supporting each other in epidemic prevention and control, and carrying out cooperation in various fields including vaccines, which creates a model for building a Community of Common Health for Mankind.
The current tension in the Taiwan Strait is entirely the result of U.S. provocation and “Taiwan independence” forces soliciting U.S. support to advance their agenda
China, Serbia and UAE are working collectively to push forward the construction of the vaccine factory. I look forward to the factory being completed and becoming operational as soon as possible.
One of the huge Chinese investments in Serbia is the one in Zrenjanjin, where the Linglong business complex is under construction. The investment attracted criticism over poor working conditions and the unclear status of foreign workers engaged on the spot. Did you have a chance to visit the site and do you believe there is space for improvement there?
The Linglong Tire project is an important greenfield investment of Chinese enterprises in Serbia and will create more than 1,000 jobs upon completion. Its progress has therefore received attention from all parties. Not long ago, some media reported that Linglong violates the human rights of workers with actions including “illegal immigration” and “forced labour”. The competent Serbian authorities have investigated and concluded that they didn’t find any such problems. However, some forces still used the mentioned reports to smear Chinese enterprises, China-Serbia relations and China’s international cooperation. The Chinese government always requires Chinese enterprises operating overseas to comply fully with local laws and regulations. Social supervision is conducive to encouraging enterprises to continuously improve and enhance the level of compliance of their business operations, but groundless defaming is unacceptable.
According to data from the Serbian Statistical Office, our bilateral trade volume increased from 1.88 billion U.S. dollars to 5.1 billion U.S. dollars between 2017 and 2021
Everyone can see clearly that “Taiwan independence” forces and foreign interference are the biggest obstacle to the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question
The Chinese government always requires Chinese enterprises operating overseas to comply fully with local laws and regulations