China’s president appears to spice up relations with Serbia go to – Information – providencejournal.com

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) “Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Serbia this week to further strengthen relations with the friendly nation and reaffirm China’s intention to radically increase its presence in the Balkans and Europe.

Xi’s trip to Belgrade is the first visit by a Chinese president in more than 30 years and is hailed as “historic” here. During his three-day stay starting Friday, Xi will hold meetings with top officials and visit a Serbian steel mill that has been bought by a Chinese company.

The visit is “an important milestone in strengthening the traditional friendship between China and Serbia, deepening mutual political trust and promoting practical cooperation between the two countries,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Xinghai in Beijing.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that around twenty economic and other agreements will be signed during Xi’s stay. “It’s a big event for us,” said Vucic.

From Serbia, Xi is traveling to Poland where he will do business in finance, aviation, science and education. Xi will conclude the tour in Uzbekistan, where he will attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit focused on combating terrorism and crime.

China has looked for opportunities to deepen relations with the region “in recent years several meetings between Southeastern European countries and China have taken place, which have been accompanied by investment projects” and to strengthen relations with the EU.

The Asian economic powerhouse is interested in energy, infrastructure and other large projects to revitalize its economy at a time when domestic labor costs are rising and its exports, its traditional economic power, are undermining. Chinese investors have hoped to increase their presence in the region where Western companies may not be willing to take too much financial risk.

In Serbia, China built a bridge over the Danube in Belgrade, revitalized a power station and agreed to help modernize the railway line between Hungary’s capital Budapest and Belgrade. Some local financial experts have complained that the infrastructure projects were financed with Chinese loans and built with Chinese labor without much money invested in the local economy.

In April, the Chinese Hebei Iron and Steel Group signed a € 46 million contract (€ 52 million).

The deal was closely watched by the EU “Serbia is a candidate country for EU membership” amid concerns about overcapacity in the steel sector, some of which European steelmakers attribute to oversupply of cheap Chinese steel.

Foreign politician Aleksandra Joksimovic said that China was trying to “position itself economically and strategically vis-à-vis Europe” by investing in infrastructure and other projects in Southeastern Europe.

“China’s interest in Europe has increased significantly in recent years,” said Joksimovic. “The EU has nothing against Serbia’s cooperation (with China), as it is also looking for common interests with China in the economic field.”

The Chinese assistant FM Liu found that Serbia is geographically well positioned and borders on seven countries. Serbia is pushing for reindustrialization while Chinese companies have the technology and experience to cheer for a win-win future, Liu said.

Liu praised Serbia’s role in building cooperation between China and countries in Southeast Europe and in supporting China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, a comprehensive plan to deepen trade ties with neighboring countries and open up new markets.

Serbia is eager for foreign investment and has been struggling economically since the wars of the 1990s when the country was in international isolation because of its warmongering policies. Belgrade has made EU membership its strategic goal, but has also tried to maintain close ties with its traditional ally Russia and China.

China’s HBIS Group has committed to invest millions in the Zelezara Smederevo plant, which employs around 5,000 people. US Steel ran the company from 2002 to 2012 before being resold to the Serbian state for a symbolic price of US $ 1 due to losses.

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The Associated Press Writer Louise Watt contributed to this report from Beijing.

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