Serbian expert hails 'ironclad friendship' with China

By Ren Yan, Sheng Chuyi (People's Daily) 17:15, May 06, 2024

In a recent interview with People's Daily, Zivadin Jovanovic, president of the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals and Silk Road Connectivity Research Center, discussed the profound friendship between Serbia and China, shedding light on the achievements that have shaped bilateral relations over the years.

Belt and Road Initiative: Enhancing connectivity and economic growth

Mutual trust, understanding, and respect are the key pillars of Serbia-China relations, according to Jovanovic. “Serbia and Serbian people regard China and the Chinese people as a big, strong and prosperous global power whom they trust. Mutual trust is the synonym of ‘ironclad friendship,’” he said.

Serbia has been an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since its inception in 2013, playing a pivotal role in facilitating cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) under the BRI framework. Numerous major projects have been successfully implemented through this collaboration, resulting in the modernization of infrastructure across the region.

Jovanovic cited the high-speed railway between Belgrade and Budapest as a notable example. By reducing the travel time between the capitals of Serbia and Hungary from eight hours to less than three, this transformative initiative has significantly enhanced regional connectivity. Moreover, it has spurred economic growth and development, benefiting both countries and the broader region.

“Serbia’s cooperation under BRI has helped Serbia to become one of the countries with the fastest GDP growth in Europe, even at the time of recession. Serbia’s standing as an international partner has improved significantly,” he stated.

Reflecting on the high-quality development of the BRI, Jovanovic emphasized its role in promoting global prosperity. By cultivating inclusive and mutually beneficial cooperation, the BRI has become a catalyst for economic growth, trade, and connectivity among participating countries. The principles of equality, sovereignty, and non-interference have been fundamental to the BRI's success, contributing to global stability and peace.

“Time and again, we realize that peace, security and development are indivisible. BRI and China-CEEC forums have provided opportunities to keep the global dialogue on track with development and other aspects of global stability, which are closely intertwined. The initiator of BRI, President Xi Jinping, made a strategic breakthrough in the normalization of Iran-Saudi Arabia relations,” said Jovanovic.

President Xi's state visit: A milestone in bilateral relations

Jovanovic emphasized the critical impact of President Xi Jinping's state visit to Serbia in 2016, which elevated bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership. The solid foundation established during this visit paved the way for future collaborations that yielded mutual benefits and shared prosperity.

"For example, our trade has grown 185 times; China has become the No. 1 foreign investor in Serbia and the No. 2 biggest trade partner of Serbia; three Chinese companies have become No. 1, 2 and 3 biggest exporters from Serbia (Zijin Mining, Zijin Copper and Hibis Group Serbia Iron and Steel); tourist visas have been reciprocally abolished, custom-free trade has been introduced; direct air flights established, and so on," Jovanovic mentioned.

When discussing President Xi's upcoming state visit to Serbia at the invitation of President Aleksandar Vučić, Jovanovic expressed confidence that it would provide the best opportunity to assess the extraordinary achievements in Serbia-China cooperation thus far and to initiate a new chapter of high-quality collaboration.

"It will be marked by environment-friendly economic cooperation, green energy, food and industry production as well as by new long-term strategic projects even more significant than those implemented, or underway of implementation, so far. Serbia and China should continue to be examples of a positive approach to the new challenges requiring openness and true partnership without any prejudices or constraints," he said.

A promising future: Strengthening partnerships for shared prosperity

In discussing China's strides in digitalization and innovation, Jovanovic praised China's leadership in using technology to drive societal development. The country's emphasis on education, research, and science has fueled its advancements in digitalization and artificial intelligence, establishing China as a global leader in innovation.

He also highlighted the need for countries to embrace China's success in innovation and digitalization, emphasizing the importance of open dialogue and cooperation in the face of technological advancements.

"It is striking to me that some of the most developed Western countries, renowned for almost religious belief in open markets and the liberal economic order, have adopted the way to spread fear of China and Chinese high technology products in order to protect themselves. Some have not only forbidden imports of Chinese 5G technologies, or smart mobile phones and other digital products, to their own markets, but are systematically pressuring other countries, including Serbia, to do the same," he said.

Having visited China multiple times, Jovanovic has witnessed the country's remarkable transformations. He observed the swift urban development in cities and the technological advancements in rural regions. These experiences have left a lasting impression on him, showcasing China's extensive modernization efforts.

Jovanovic expressed his belief that as Serbia and China continue to strengthen their partnership, their shared values of mutual trust, cooperation, and innovation will undoubtedly lead to a more prosperous and interconnected future.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Wu Chengliang)


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