Relations between China and Serbia have been raised to a new level after the visit of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Serbia, which could be called historic, says the Chinese Ambassador Li Manchang in an interview for CorD. Speaking about the effects of the meeting, Ambassador Manchang says that an increasing number of Chinese companies are expressing an interest in doing business in Serbia. An ideal opportunity to see what they offer is for example the industrial park in Borča, for which preliminary designs are being prepared. Ambassador Manchang says that in addition to investing in infrastructure projects and the recent purchase of the steel company Železara Smederevo, Chinese partners are interested in investing in a new field – agriculture. It is imperative for the Serbian economy to join the so-called “New Silk Road”, an economic and infrastructure connection between China and Europe. Examples of already successfully realised projects in Serbia, are the construction of a motorway section, a ring road around Belgrade, bridges and power plants: these are a calling card that the Chinese will use when introducing themselves in Europe, says Ambassador Li Manchang. The Ambassador points out, however, that cooperation between the two countries will not lie only in strengthening economic ties. Bilateral agreements signed during the visit of the Chinese President have opened the door to cooperation in the fields of defence, science and culture. The two countries, adds Ambassador Li Manchang, share “deep mutual political trust”, support each other in international forums regarding issues of key importance to the other party, and help promote world peace and development.
The development of economic cooperation is now at its peak, Chinese companies are involved in numerous transport and infrastructure projects in Serbia, including the Serbian railway, several sections of the E763 motorway, the Belgrade ring road, an industrial park, a waste-power plant, a waste water processing plant etc
In your opinion, what are the effects of the recent visit of the Chinese President to Serbia, which was seen here as a historic one?
President Xi’s visit was indeed historic. The leaders of the two countries signed a joint declaration to upgrade the bilateral relations. The two parties signed over twenty agreements, laying a strong foundation for a more comprehensive development of relations between the two countries. It is my understanding that since President Xi’s visit to Serbia an increasing number of Chinese institutions and companies have expressed interest in starting cooperation with Serbia, and the scope of cooperation that the two parties are negotiating is expanding. I personally believe that the visit has not only deepened Chinese-Serbian friendship and brought the two nations closer together but it has also brought a new prospect for overall Chinese and Serbian cooperation to flourish in practice.
During the visit, as many as 20 memorandums of cooperation in various areas were signed. How are the preparations for their realisation going? In which area has the greatest progress been made?
During the visit, the two leaders signed The Joint Declaration of China and Serbia on Upgrading the Relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, marking new heights in the political exchange between the two countries and starting a new chapter of bilateral relations and practical cooperation. In addition, the two parties signed 12 intergovernmental documents concerning trade, defence, culture, education, science, media and other fields, as well as eight commercial agreements. Institutions and enterprises in the two countries work together, constantly improving the implementation of the agreements.
The development of economic cooperation is now at its peak, Chinese companies are involved in numerous transport and infrastructure projects in Serbia, including the Serbian railway, several sections of the E763 motorway, the Belgrade ring road, an industrial park, a waste-power plant, a waste water processing plant, etc. These projects are making steady progress and they will bring real benefits to the Serbian people.
Hesteel’s acquisition of Železara Smederevo is the most important project of cooperation between the two countries. The new investment will boost steel production and the company’s international competitiveness, and it will benefit local employment and the standard of living
What is the essence of the Chinese interest in the Western Balkans? How do you perceive Serbia?
Serbia is China’s comprehensive strategic partner, our bilateral relations are rich in content, friendship and cooperation, and we share many common ideals and values.
China and Serbia share “deep mutual political trust” and support each other in international forums regarding issues of key importance to the other party. China and Serbia are committed to the reconstruction of their nations and states, they support each other in the spirit of mutual benefit, they both strive to realise their own ideals while promoting world peace and development. The two countries focus on key areas and on deepening their cooperation to their mutual benefit. Hesteel’s acquisition of Železara Smederevo is the most important project of cooperation between the two countries. The new investment will boost steel production and the company’s international competitiveness, and it will benefit local employment and the standard of living. The countries’ priority is cooperation in building infrastructure. Chinese companies build bridges in Serbia, the power plant has become a new calling card for Chinese companies coming to Europe. The two countries are making headway in the construction of roads and railways. They are also committed to making agriculture the new highlight of their cooperation.
Are Chinese companies interested in building the industrial park in Borča?
Many Chinese companies are very interested in building industrial parks in Serbia. A few of these companies have already conducted feasibility studies in some Serbian towns and they keep in touch with government services. For the time being, the plan is to build an industrial park in Borča. The conditions are excellent, the construction companies and the local government are working on the plans and design. They have already established contact with companies that might be interested in setting up here and have received positive replies. Although everybody refers to it as “the Chinese industrial park”, when it opens, both Serbian and foreign companies will be welcome to enjoy its good infrastructure and services.
In November, the tourist organisations of Belgrade and Sarajevo will present a joint tourist offer inspired by the film “Walter Defends Sarajevo”, our most popular film in China. The presentation will include visits to the filming locations in Serbia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina and places to which actor Bate Živojinović, a favourite of the Chinese audience, was personally connected. Will this offer be interesting to the Chinese?
I am very happy to hear this. We in China, especially President Xi and my generation, have a special “Walter spirit”. “Walter Defends Sarajevo” and its lead actor Bata Živojinović have left a deep and beautiful impression, the audience loved it. “The Bridge” is another film that the Chinese people remember fondly. I believe that the promotion of the project “In Walter’s Footsteps” will attract many tourists from China who have that “Walter spirit”.
As regards the Belgrade-Budapest section, it was agreed between the prime ministers of China, Serbia and Hungary. However, this also an important multinational enterprise in the context of China’s cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe
What can we expect after the Chinese Prime Minister ordered the Chinese ministries to speed up procedures concerning the construction of the Vienna-Budapest railway?
As regards the Belgrade-Budapest section, it was agreed between the prime ministers of China, Serbia and Hungary. However, this also an important multinational enterprise in the context of China’s cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. All three countries are committed to the project and attach great importance to it; their services are working diligently and making steady headway. In practice, there is a big gap between the speed of progress and public expectations, but none of the parties will flinch when faced with complex problems, especially when it comes to the section in Serbia. The Chinese and Serbian teams, which cooperate closely and are making great progress, are expected to make the first breakthrough.
Transport makes travelling easier. Is the announced direct flight from Belgrade to Beijing before the end of the year realistic?
Cooperation between the two countries is constantly developing, the exchange of human resources is improving from one day to the next, the introduction of new direct flights is a general trend. We are looking forward to the new direct flight from China to Serbia as it will facilitate communication and travel between the two peoples. Institutions in the two countries are negotiating it and actively promoting it. I believe it will soon become reality.