Serbia to build Xi Jinping statue, Chinese influence on EU’s doorstep

China has invested heavily in the southeastern European country of Serbia in recent years, and Beijing has reached out to the Balkan nation as the epidemic raged last year. The increasingly marginalized New Communist Party of Yugoslavia has recently proposed erecting a giant statue of Xi Jinping in the capital, Belgrade, as a tribute to the Chinese president.

Bloomberg reports that the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia recently purchased billboard space in Belgrade to garner national support for the erection of a statue of Xi in a local park. While the government has not said whether it supports the idea, there is no doubt that Serbia prefers the East to the West during the New Crown pneumonia epidemic.

When the New Crown epidemic ravaged Europe in March 2020, personal protective equipment was once in such short supply that EU leader Germany made a decision to ban exports of medical protection to Serbia, a candidate EU country. At the same time, China sent so much medical aid to Serbia that Serbian President Vucic publicly praised China as “the only country that has helped us.

In addition to its contribution to epidemic prevention, European-Chinese trade and economic relations have gained momentum in recent years. A large share of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Balkan countries comes from China. The Asia Times recently reported that Beijing’s investments in coal power in the western Balkans have tripled since 2016.

The growth of Chinese investments in the Balkans has gained special attention due to the sensitive importance of the region’s location. Some analysts say that Chinese investments in the Balkans are an extension of the “One Belt, One Road” project, which started in 2013. China’s infrastructure investment plan envisions connecting Asia with Europe and Africa via Eurasia and the sea, and the western Balkans, located at the southern tip of Europe, has become China’s gateway to Central and Western Europe.

However, the New York Times reported earlier that while the Serbian government hailed Chinese companies as saviors, the locals paid the price. The report noted that mining groups from China have a record of violating environmental regulations and that many companies have brought in workers from China rather than hiring Serbs.

The New York Times also said Chinese telecom giant Huawei has installed hundreds of surveillance cameras with facial recognition technology around Belgrade, which the government says will help reduce crime. But privacy advocates say they are being used to identify and deter protesters.