The Western Balkans are an increasingly important stop on China’s digital Silk Road
Belgrade [Serbia], Aug 5 (ANI): Over the past decade, the Western Balkans has become an increasingly important stop on China’s digital Silk Road, a crucial part of the Belt and Road Initiative ( BIS).
Stefan Vladisavljev, writing in The Frontier Post, said China came to the Western Balkans to stay there. Western efforts to limit Chinese influence and provide sustainable alternatives must continue, especially in countries like Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina which may be vulnerable to external pressures.
The Digital Silk Road is established as part of the broader Belt and Road initiative and includes the global expansion of Chinese technologies to addressable markets previously dominated by local or Western companies, or to developing countries that do not. only know about technological development.
It ranges from telecommunications networks and smart cities to e-commerce and the Chinese satellite system.
Serbia is China’s closest partner in the Western Balkans, and this is reflected in the country’s approach to Chinese technology, Vladisavljev said.
Over the past decade, China has made significant inroads among Serbia’s political and business elites. In 2016, Serbia and China signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement.
Data from 2020 shows contracts signed with Chinese banks to upgrade Serbian infrastructure topped $ 7 billion, The Frontier Post reported.
In addition, Huawei has built its regional headquarters in Belgrade and is a long-standing partner of the state-owned telecommunications company Telekom Srbija.
The Chinese digital giant was also seen as one of the main candidates for the launch of 5G in Serbia, before the Serbian government delayed the start of the process after pressure from the United States, Vladisavljev wrote.
But now China’s efforts in the region are being challenged by other geopolitical players. The United States and the European Union are pressuring countries in the Western Balkans to limit China’s presence in their digital infrastructure, The Frontier Post reported.
For the European Union, the region represents both its immediate neighborhood and the group of countries at the top of the list for future EU membership.
Therefore, China’s digital influence in the Western Balkans could also be transferred to the European Union, if and when these countries become members of the European community.
If China gains ground in the current and future development of digital infrastructure in the region, it could pose a security challenge not only for the region but also for the United States, explained Vladisavljev.
The Trump administration attempted to limit Beijing’s reach through the “Clean Network Initiative,” which the State Department defined as “a comprehensive approach to safeguarding [America]the assets of, including the privacy of citizens and the most sensitive information of companies against aggressive intrusions by malicious actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party. “
President Joe Biden – who has embraced competition with China – did not reject executive decrees in the areas of data flow and technology supplies that were signed by his predecessor. Several countries in the Western Balkans have joined the U.S. Clean Network, including Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo, The Frontier Post reported.
Under the new Biden administration, the United States is trying to (re) build a coalition with the European Union to counter China’s growing global influence.
Western Balkan countries will face direct pressure from Washington on one side, and the need to align with EU policies on the other, Vladisavljev wrote.
The European Commission itself has taken precautionary measures and has called on member countries to adopt policies that will limit the presence of “high risk suppliers”.
Simply put, if the Western Balkan countries are serious about further integrating into the European Union, they will have to follow the EU’s rules on digital technology.
Moreover, according to Vladisavljev, the West is more successful in mitigating China’s digital influence in the rest of the Western Balkans.
Incentives from the West (like Clean Network) are having an impact and have helped some countries not engage with China on 5G.
Countries that depend more on the United States for their security and are more determined to join the European Union are more inclined to limit Chinese influence, The Frontier Post reported. (ANI)