H.E. LI MANCHANG, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China: We Have Built a More Solid Foundation of Cooperation

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The exceptional results that China and Serbia have accomplished under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative reflect a great potential for the future cooperation, and further solidify our friendship, political trust and more advanced networking. China has a great interest in cooperating with Europe and the region of Central and Eastern Europe, as it also has great experiences in cooperating with Serbia – says the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Serbia, H.E. Mr. Li Manchang in an interview for D&C.

How important is the Belt and Road project for the Chinese-Serbian relations?

The Belt and Road is an important cooperation initiative that was launched in accordance with the development requirements of the countries that are located on this road and the countries in the region, while adhering to the principles of mutual agreements, upbuilding and sharing. Its focus is on economic cooperation, and especially on mutual networking and construction of infrastructure. At such, this initiative has become an important platform for promoting globalization and stepping up international cooperation. In the last four years, the development of the Belt and Road initiative has progressed a lot, and yielded results beyond our expectations. All of the interested parties have reacted positively to it and have been very supportive of it. China and Serbia have accomplished exceptionally good results in cooperation in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Several projects are currently being successfully implemented including the ironworks, construction of roads and railways, etc. This fully reflects the volume of the existing cooperation between the two countries and a huge potential for the future cooperation which, for the two countries, means further solidifying the traditionally good friendship, boosting the mutual political trust, expanding the practical cooperation, and creating a more solid foundation for that cooperation.

What areas of cooperation between the two countries does this project open?

Under the auspices of the Belt and Road initiative, China and Serbia have accomplished bountiful results in practical cooperation in the areas of transportation, energy, construction of infrastructure, interconnectivity, production capacities and in many other segments. Thanks to this cooperation, advanced technology and equipment, as well as a wealth of Chinese experience in management, have entered the market of the Central and Eastern Europe, while the Serbian side received capital and resources which were invested in construction of infrastructure and other projects that are of exceptional importance for the social and economic development of the country and for improving the quality of life of its citizens. In this way, both sides have reaped mutual benefits and have triumphed together. Stepping up communication and deepening of mutual understanding are also an important part of the Belt and Road initiative. Our goal is to increase exchange and interconnectivity between all nations and different cultures and civilizations through boosting cooperation. The visa abolition treaty concluded by China and Serbia officially came into force in January this year, while the contacts between the peoples of the two countries are becoming more frequent on a daily basis. The Chinese airliner, Hainan Airlines will fly directly from Beijing to Belgrade, and I believe that this will create important prerequisites for further deepening of the exchange between the peoples and boost tourism cooperation between China and Serbia.

President Vučić was at the helm of the Serbian delegation participating in the international forum in May. What impressions do you have of the Forum, particularly in terms of expanding cooperation?

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is an international forum of the highest rank within the framework of the eponymous initiative, and is an important multilateral diplomatic event of the highest level and the highest volume that China has hosted and initiated since its inception. This forum took place during the crucial phase of the global economic development, China’s development and the development of the Belt and Road initiative, and is of great importance for China and the entire world because it sends a positive signal which will, through joining forces, further improve international cooperation within the Belt and Road initiative, and positively contribute to humankind’s destiny. The forum had many participants who had a strong presence and were more than willing to come. There were over 1,500 participants from more than 130 countries and 70 international organizations, including the presidents of the states and prime ministers from 29 countries, who came from almost all of the biggest regions on five continents. This high-level forum brought multiple results and had many great moments. First and foremost, more light was shed on the direction of the future cooperation under the Belt and Road initiative. Secondly, a concrete road map of development of the Belt and Road was drawn up, and thirdly, we have identified a group of important projects that will be implemented. The forum participants reached several important consensuses about cooperation in all segments, and especially in construction of infrastructure, transport, energy and telecommunications, with over 270 individual results accomplished. President Xi Jinping announced a new investment in the Silk Road Fund in the amount of 100 billion Chinese Yuans, and encouraged Chinese financial institutions to launch Chinese Yuan into

oversea business funds while providing even stronger support to the Belt and Road in terms of investing and funding. All of this will bring benefits to three continents with almost 6 billion people. The Serbian side sent a strong and large team to the forum. Following the invitation from President Xi Jinping, the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić attended the forum while several Serbian ministers participated in the high-level dialogue that took place at the forum. During his visit to China, President Vučić had separate bilateral meetings with President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The leaders of the two countries had meaningful talks and achieved a wide consensus on further developing the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Serbia and Serbia’s participation in the development of the Belt and Road which all indicated a direction of the further development of bilateral relations and created an important plan.

You have announced recently that China would make up to $10-billion-worth of investments in the Serbian economy. Why is Serbia so appealing to China?

The first thing is the traditionally good friendship between the two countries. This friendship between China and Serbia has been long-standing and the two nations have special feelings towards each other. Back in the 1970s, when the reforms and opening to the world were in their infancy, China learned many valuable lessons from its Serbian friends. In the last few years, the Chinese-Serbian friendship has been continuously developing, whether we are talking about the friendship between the leaders of the two countries. or the friendship between ordinary people who have started to communicate more. The Chinese people, especially entrepreneurs, are very knowledgeable and understanding of Serbia as a country and a market, so the two sides have built a strong foundation through expanding the cooperation in practice. Secondly, there is the mutual complementarity. Serbia is now committed to developing its economy and improving the living standard of its citizens. Construction of infrastructure and other projects are directly related to the quality of people’s lives, and are being implemented one after the other. China has gone through a development period that has lasted over 30 years. We have gathered an extensive business experience, bountiful financial resources and advanced technology. China is willing and ready to improve the international cooperation especially with Europe and the region of Central and Eastern Europe. The two sides complement each other wonderfully in many areas which is why Chinese companies want to invest in Serbia to mutual benefit and triumph.

How does Serbia fit into the Chinese plans in the framework of the cooperation with the EU?

In the last few years, the relations between China and Europe have matured and achieved stable progress especially when we know that the Belt and Road initiative complements the European investment plan which is a new positive development in the cooperation between China and Europe. The 16+1 cooperation, as an important supplement, has been continuously boosting the Chinese-European cooperation. Serbia has been actively participating in developing the Belt and Road and the 16+1 cooperation. Together with the Chinese-European cooperation and its future, we share the same focus. Serbia is also committed to the European integration process and we are pleased to see how the Chinese-Serbian relations also play an important role in advancing the cooperation between China and Europe. As a good friend and partner of Serbia, China supports the Serbian people in choosing their own development path with sincere wishes for Serbia to enjoy perpetual success on that road.

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Developing the Belt and Road is of great importance for China and the entire world, and it sends a good signal that we can contribute to better destiny of humankind through joining forces.

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