Serbian party wants to thank China with ‘Comrade Xi’ statue
First, billions of dollars of investment, then millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Now, there is a campaign for Serbia to thank China in a way reminiscent of a bygone era: by building a statue to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), called “Comrade Xi” by campaign supporters.
The proposal comes from the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which paid for billboards in Belgrade to rally support for the Xi tribute to be built in a local park.
Although the Serbian government has not said whether it supports the idea, there is no doubt that Serbia has turned more east than west during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Serbia, along with EU member Hungary, took a head start on much of the continent by vaccinating its populations after purchasing vaccines directly from China as the program orchestrated by Brussels was in the process of being rolled out. collapse.
It was also while the rulers in Belgrade and Budapest continued to court Chinese soft power.
In Belgrade, a new $ 55 million Chinese cultural center is being finished on the site of the former Chinese embassy destroyed by NATO missiles in 1999 when the military alliance intervened to stop the crackdown on Serbia in Kosovo.
The sprawling facility will include conference rooms and exhibition halls.
Hungary is considering donating land for a Chinese university campus in Budapest, despite objections from the city’s mayor and criticism within the EU over closer ties with Beijing.
Budapest and Belgrade are also to be connected by a new rail link financed by Chinese loans and built by Chinese companies.
The friendship particularly worked for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
The world’s most populous nation has invested in Serbia’s only steelmaker, bought by Chinese group HBIS, and the world’s largest copper and gold miner, now controlled by Zijin Mining.
With contracts awarded to Chinese manufacturers for the redevelopment of Serbian infrastructure, investments exceed 8 billion US dollars.
The government praised Xi a year ago when China first sent critical medical aid, including hospital ventilators.
Serbia then imported 3.7 million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, nearly 70% of the doses it has acquired so far.
Serbia has fully vaccinated around 27% of its population, compared to an average of 15% in the EU, according to Bloomberg data.
The question is what it means to get closer to China for Serbia’s road to EU membership, which Vucic is pursuing.
Along with Russia, China has supported Serbia’s continued claim to Kosovo, which Belgrade must drop if it is to join the bloc.
EU investment in Serbia also eclipses that of China.
For others, it can only be a good thing.
“Serbs value true friends,” said Aleksandar Banjanac, the 38-year-old secretary general of the New Communist Party and the driving force behind the statue’s plan. “It would be a symbolic but important gesture to show our gratitude for all the help.”
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