Xi's Trip to Europe Mostly Centers on Strategic Partners

After France, Chinese leader goes to Hungary and Serbia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 6, 2024 6:37 PM CDT
Xi's Trip to Europe Mostly Centers on Strategic Partners
Chinese and Serbian flags fly on lampposts, days before the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Belgrade, Serbia, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping will spend most of his five-day tour in Europe this week in two small countries in the continent's eastern half, a region that Beijing has used as a foothold for its expanding economic ambitions in Europe. Following his stop in Paris on Monday to kick off his first European trip in five years, Xi will travel to Hungary and Serbia, two nations with autocratic leaders considered friendly to China and close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the AP reports. As other European leaders have pursued protectionist policies to limit Beijing and Moscow's reach, nationalist conservative leaders Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia have courted economic ties with China, inviting major investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, energy, and technology.

Hungary: As the first European Union country to participate in Xi's Belt and Road Initiative, Hungary has straddled a middle ground with its membership in the EU and NATO and an openness to diplomatic and trade relationships with eastern autocracies. Tamás Matura, a China expert at Corvinus University in Budapest, said Hungary's hosting of major Chinese investments and production sites—and its agnosticism on doing business with countries with spotty democratic and human rights records—has opened a door to China within the EU. "The Hungarian government is the last true friend of China in the whole EU," Matura said. "It is very important now to the Chinese to settle down in a country that is within the boundaries of the EU ... and is friendly to the Chinese political system."

Serbia: To Hungary's south, China runs mines and factories across the Balkan country, where billions in infrastructure loans has funded roads, bridges, and new facilities. Vucic has said he is "honored" that Xi—whom he often describes as a "friend"—is visiting on Tuesday. He has said that Serbia would seek further Chinese investment, particularly involving advanced technologies. Like Hungary and even France, Serbia considers China as welcome counterweight to US influence, per the New York Times, and wants to increase economic ties. International relations scholar Shen Dingli said Xi's visit will be a reminder that Serbia wants closer cooperation "to overcome the security threats from the US and NATO."

(More Xi Jinping stories.)

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