Will China challenge the United States on the Kosovo issue? – The Diplomat
People wave Chinese and Serbian flags during a concert at Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, February 22, 2020.
Credit: AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
On May 7, 1999, during NATO’s Operation Allied Force mission, which ended Serbian bloodshed in Kosovo, an air missile accidentally hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese journalists. beijing seen the bombing setting the stage for “gunboat diplomacy”, which could threaten China’s immediate security environment, and a potential precedent for US interference in the Taiwan issue. Twenty-three years later, this unfortunate event continues to fuel China anti-american sentiment and its unequivocal support for Serbia.
China position on the issue of Kosovo has been consistent over the years. It reflects key principles underpinning Beijing’s foreign policy based on China’s interpretation of international law: protection of state sovereignty, inviolability of territorial integrity, and self-determination based on restrictive law. interpretation (only in the context of colonial domination or foreign occupation), thus excluding this right for the people of Kosovo. Therefore, for China, the Kosovo issue is very similar to the Taiwan issue.
Today, with the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Serbia may be losing its main ally on the question of Kosovo: Russia. Moscow, which was directly involved in Serbia’s recent campaign of derecognition against Kosovo, will undoubtedly have less time and resources to devote to the protection of Serbia’s national interests. Moreover, recent scenarios in which Russia could potentially “swap” Kosovo for Crimea also sounded the alarm in Belgrade.
While China and Serbia have developed an increasingly close partnership in recent years, Serbia has become increasingly vocal in his requests for China to play a bigger role on the Kosovo issue. Moreover, according to Serbian diplomatsChina’s behavior clearly demonstrates its growing willingness to engage in issues that cannot be resolved by the United States alone, such as protecting Serbia’s territorial integrity.
President Aleksander Vucic in his recent statement regarding Kosovo’s potential bid for NATO membership further advanced the narrative that it is not Kosovo itself, but the United States that is planning and pushing this agenda forward. Such a narrative exploits China’s heightened desire to stand up to the United States and “protect international law and the Charter of the United Nations,” especially in light of the accusations that NATO and the United States are the main culprits in the war in Ukraine.
Calls for Beijing to be more active on the Kosovo issue resonate well in China. There are also national voices advocating for a more proactive approach attitude, beyond China’s role in the UN Security Council, to target countries that would have recognized Kosovo because of US lobbying but received nothing from Washington in return. Some analysts recommend a new approachwith derecognition as the ultimate goal, which would be based on the attractiveness of the Chinese market and China’s potential to help these countries’ post-pandemic economic recovery.
China undoubtedly has the wherewithal to convince other countries to do as it is told; he has extensive experience in using such tactics. His “transactional diplomacy” helped Beijing take over Taipei’s seat as China’s official representative at the UN and, more recently, the success of the derecognition campaign against Taiwan. Since 2016, eight countries have changed allegiance from Taiwan to China. In addition to outright “checkbook diplomacy”, the “carrotsused by Beijing to encourage recognition of Taiwan include development assistance in the form of preferential loans and grants, infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, direct investment and market access . Moreover, for many of these countries, it also made sense to establish closer ties with Beijing as a more powerful political and economic partner.
In addition to “carrots”, China did not hesitate to use “sticks”, although this happens more rarely. This sometimes involves using China’s veto in the UN Security Council. For example, China vetoed the extension of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Mission in Macedonia in February 1999, a month after the latter established diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Similarly, in 1997, China vetoed a proposed UN observer mission in Guatemala, one of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies. More recently, following the opening of a representative office under the name of Taiwan (instead of Taipei, as is usual practice) in Vilnius, Lithuania has faced a wide range of economic measures punitive measures imposed by Beijing.
Most of the countries that have been susceptible to China’s tactics regarding the derecognition of Taiwan exhibit similar characteristics to those that have revoked their recognition of Kosovo since 2013. These are all African, Pacific, Latin American or Caribbean countries with very limited trade or other interests in cooperation with Kosovo or Taiwan. Most of them are poor, need development and investment capital, and have little chance of accessing open market financing. Many of them display autocratic tendencies and are governed by authoritarian rulers. Some of them were sanctioned by the West and are looking for new partners and economic opportunities.
In such a context, it is likely that there are other countries that could be easily convinced to de-recognize Kosovo if it meant pleasing China. Kosovo has no other means of preventing such a scenario than the lobbying of its Western partners, first and foremost the United States. The question is whether and to what extent China is ready to (further) worsen relations with Washington to please Serbia and, in return, whether the United States is ready to defend its “investment” in the state. of Kosovo.