China exercises its soft power in Serbia through vaccines

Judging by the statements from the top Serbian officials, particularly those from President Aleksandar Vučić, China is one of the greatest friends of Serbia, especially since the beginning of the pandemic.

On the other hand, EU assistance is often mentioned timidly, even though the EU member states are Serbia’s main trade partners. Experts claim that there is an explanation for such an attitude – the EU conditions its assistance to Serbia by demanding that laws and the rule of law be respected, while, on the other hand, China is not interested in this. That is why it is easier for the Serbian authorities to conclude agreements with the Chinese and present China as Serbia’s most important partner.

In the previous period, more than one and a half million vaccines arrived in Serbia from China, which is why the Asian country has become No 1 cooperation partner of Serbia during the coronavirus pandemic. Similar situation could be seen at the beginning of the outbreak, when Serbia’s head of state, Aleksandar Vučić, had said, in March last year, that no-one could help Serbia except for “brother Xi.”

“I sent a special letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, because we have high hopes in China. I called him not only a dear friend but also a brother not only of mine personally, but also of our country and our people, and I asked him, assuring him of a centuries-old solid friendship with little Serbia, to send us doctors to help us,” Vučić said back then.

A short time ago, the Serbian president has made an identical statement, although a more diplomatic one, to Euronews, stating that Serbia has received all the vaccines after signing relevant agreements – Pfizer vaccines from the U.S., as well as vaccines from Russia and China, but not the European Union.

“I am not criticizing anyone and we do hope to get vaccines from the EU as well, but we have to take care of ourselves,” Vučić said.

Director of the Institute for European Affairs, Naim Leo Besiri, says that the President of Serbia wants to show to people in Serbia how enterprising he is and that their interests come first.

“At the same time, the interests of citizens are not really protected, because we do not know how much the vaccines that Serbia buys cost. It is true that China helped our country by providing it with a certain number of vaccines, but they were not given for free. Furthermore, the problem is the great lack of transparency in the procurement process, and this is worrying for a democratic society,” he underlines.

He adds that China has a geopolitical interest in influencing the processes in the European Union, because it wants to secure good trade agreements, and Serbia is just one of the weapons used by Chinese diplomacy.

(, 11.02.2021)



This post is also available in: Italiano

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