China and Serbia Embrace Stronger Ironclad Friendship

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and President Xi have upgraded ties to build a community with a shared future in the new era together.

Chinese President Xi Jinping embarked on a state visit to three European nations – France, Serbia and Hungary – on May 5-10, while much international media attention has been given to France and Hungary. Nevertheless, President Xi’s tour of the Republic of Serbia deserves notable recognition.

Beijing and Belgrade have enjoyed remarkably close bilateral relations since President Xi last visited Serbia in 2016 when the two countries had agreed to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” But for this time around, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and President Xi have upgraded ties to “build a community with a shared future in the new era” together.

President Xi described China’s relations with Serbia as an “ironclad friendship”. The terminology connotes bilateral ties, which are forged as steel to signify the bonds that can stand the test of time. Steel is sturdy and capable of enduring tough conditions. It’s like having a loyal friend, who remains your partner in good times and bad.

Serbia is also part of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), while Hungary holds a formidable leadership position in the bloc. Meanwhile, Serbia enjoys close relations with Budapest. President Vucic has also highly valued his nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Serbians don’t seek membership in the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) club.

The Chinese government has reiterated its endorsement of Belgrade to protect its territorial integrity. At the moment, the European Union (EU) Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has taken a harder line against China but Belgrade prefers closer diplomatic and trade relations with Beijing.

Accordingly, the China-Serbia Free Trade Agreement will go into effect, starting on July 1 this year and this will boost Serbian agriculture exports to China. Hence, Serbian wine will have no import duties for the next five years in China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic sign a joint statement on the building of a China-Serbia community with a shared future in the new era, after their talks in Belgrade, Serbia, on May 8, 2024. (Photo/Xinhua)

Serbia is one of the first European countries to sign on to the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and it’s believed that the Chinese government, private enterprises and investors have invested over $20 billion into Serbia to build more highways, power plants, high-speed railways, science & hi-tech projects and so much more, including the Belgrade-Budapest Railway, among others.

Serbia serves as China’s gateway to Eastern Europe and emerging as a crucial player to cement Beijing’s efforts to establish more robust relations with European countries overall. President Vucic has delivered a warm welcome to President Xi Jinping as tens of thousands of Serbians lined the streets to demonstrate their endearing support for the Chinese leader.

EU won’t shatter Chinese-Serbian ties

Apparently, Brussels has drawn closer to the United States seeking to strengthen NATO’s presence on the world stage. But Belgrade won’t budge even if Brussels offers to sweeten deals by pledging support for Serbia to gain formal membership into the EU.

Serbians don’t trust such pledges since it was 25 years ago when NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during its air war over Kosovo. At the time, Brussels and Washington claimed the bombing was accidental due to poor intelligence.

Well, that sounds suspicious since one would expect the U.S. government, especially the Pentagon, to have familiarity with the exact locations and addresses of all embassies and consulates across the globe.

President Vucic first greeted President Xi at the Nicola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, while hundreds of Serbian troops stood guard. The Chinese leader received the full red-carpet treatment from the Serbians. The two state leaders met warm crowds amid a festive atmosphere. Vucic hosted Xi at a banquet and state dinner that will not soon be forgotten by the locals.

We are witnessing the transition from a uni-polar world to a multi-polar one. The U.S. is not as strong as it claims to be. U.S. President Joe Biden looks frail with his public appearances. The U.S. Armed Forces got wiped out in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over Kabul.

A drone photo taken on Apr. 29, 2024 shows a train running on a railroad bridge spanning the Sava river along a section of the Belgrade-Budapest railway in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo/Xinhua)

Brighter future for more independent nations

Serbia is a nation deserving of greater recognition from the world. Belgrade has formed robust relations with Beijing. They are moving forward on completing the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed rail line.

Yet, the country is also beautiful with grand natural scenery. The nation has pristine freshwater lakes and rivers, mountains and forests. Many Chinese have become more adventurous as globe-trotting travelers. They have shown a greater appreciation for taking vacation trips to more exotic locations.

Serbia is a great place for tourists, particularly if they love mountain climbing, camping and hiking in the woods. They can get back to nature, breathing fresh air at scenic sites.

Serbians are happy to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, because they know that there will be a huge surge of Chinese tourists, who will arrive this summer to follow Xi’s footsteps.

The Republic of Serbia will also capture more curiosity from Chinese citizens. They might choose to buy imported wines from Serbia just because President Xi had a glorious banquet with President Vucic.

The Serbians are also well known for being friendly hosts to foreign visitors. They believe that it’s their patriotic duty to show a kind face to them. Therefore, the Chinese planning to visit Serbia anytime soon will discover that this nation really is a special place worth visiting.


The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.