Belgrade rolls out red carpet for Chinese president

Paterno Esmaquel II
Belgrade rolls out red carpet for Chinese president
‘It’s a meeting of a brother to a brother,’ MNLF chairman Abul Khayr Alonto tells reporters

BELGRADE, Serbia – Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to sign some 20 bilateral deals with Serbia during a visit that began Friday, June 17, as Belgrade aims to make China one of its main economic partners.

The 3-day visit is the first by a Chinese president since the breakup of the former communist Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Beijing and Belgrade in 2009 signed a “strategic partnership” aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation on economic, cultural, educational and other matters.

In 2015 bilateral trade was worth $1.56 billion (1.38 billion euros), more than 90% of which was in favor of China.

Serbia hopes to become a gateway for Chinese moves into the Balkans and beyond.

China wants to facilitate transport of its products into Europe by participating in infrastructure projects in southeastern Europe.

Xi Jinping arrived in Belgrade two months after HBIS, the world’s third-biggest steel producer, bought Serbia’s sole steel mill and largest exporter Zelezara Smederevo for 46 million euros ($52 million). He is to visit the plant on Sunday.

Some 20 bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during the visit, including one reinforcing the 2009 strategic partnership, according to Serbian media.

China does not recognise Kosovo, the former Serbian province that unilaterally declared independence in 2008 despite Belgrade’s opposition.

Upon his arrival Xi Jinping attended a ceremony marking the start of construction of a Chinese cultural center at the site of the former Chinese embassy hit by US-led NATO aircraft during the 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia over its war with ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Three people were killed in the incident that seriously strained relations between Washington and Bejing at the time.

The Chinese president will also attend the inauguration of a monument to Chinese philosopher Confucius.

The visit to Serbia is part of a 3-nation tour that will also take him Poland and Uzbekistan. –


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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at