Statue of “Comrade Xi”? Serbia wants to thank its friends in China
First there were billions of dollars in investment, then millions of doses of vaccine. Now there is a campaign for Serbia to thank China in a way reminiscent of a bygone era: by building a statue to “Comrade Xi”.
The proposal comes from the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which paid for billboards in Belgrade to rally support for the tribute to the Chinese president in a local park. Although the government has not said whether it supports the idea, there is no doubt that Serbia has turned more east than west during the coronavirus pandemic.
Serbia, along with European Union member Hungary, has taken a step ahead of much of the continent by vaccinating its populations after purchasing vaccines directly from China as the program orchestrated by Brussels retreated . It was also then that the leaders of Belgrade and Budapest continued to woo the soft power of China.
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, meanwhile, plans to give land to a Chinese Budapest university campus despite objections from the city’s mayor and criticism within the EU over closer ties with Beijing. Budapest and Belgrade will now also be connected by a new rail link financed by Chinese loans and built by Chinese companies.
The friendship has worked especially for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic so far.
The world’s most populous nation has invested in Serbia’s only steelmaker, bought by Chinese group HBIS, and in the world’s largest copper and gold miner, now controlled by Zijin Mining. With contracts awarded to Chinese manufacturers for the redevelopment of infrastructure in Serbia, investments exceed $ 8 billion.
The government effusively congratulated Xi a year ago when China first sent critical medical aid, including hospital ventilators. Serbia then imported 3.7 million Sinopharm vaccines, nearly 70% of the doses to date. Serbia has fully vaccinated around 27% of its population compared to an average of 15% in the EU, according to Bloomberg. Vaccine Tracker.
The question is, what does China look like? means 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 Communist Party general secretary 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.”
– With the help of Zoltan Simon