Home News In Serbia, Xi stresses close ties with allies equally wary of U.S.

In Serbia, Xi stresses close ties with allies equally wary of U.S.

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China and Serbia announced an “iron friendship” during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Belgrade on Wednesday, underscoring their close political and economic ties that are wary of the United States.

Xi Jinping arrived in Serbia late on Tuesday, the 25th anniversary of the 1999 errant U.S. air strike that destroyed the Chinese embassy in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, during the Kosovo war. Three Chinese journalists died during the strike.

“We must never forget this,” Xi Jinping said in a speech. Politika released a statement on TuesdayThe Serbian newspaper recalled that “25 years ago today, NATO openly bombed the Chinese Embassy.” He said that China-Serbia friendship was “forged with the blood of compatriots” and “will forever remain in the common memory of the people of China and Serbia.”

Cheering crowds gathered in front of the Serbian Palace after Xi briefly met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Wednesday morning. The Serbian Palace was the former headquarters of the now-defunct Yugoslav government and now houses the Serbian government offices.

When Xi Jinping last visited Eastern and Central Europe in 2016, he was met with noisy protests in the Czech Republic, but he received a unanimously friendly reception in Belgrade, with authorities mobilizing state staff to cheer him on.

China is Serbia’s largest foreign investor, and increasingly close economic relationship In the early 1990s, the two countries helped expand relations established before the collapse of Yugoslavia due to a shared wariness of Western and Soviet power. The capital of Yugoslavia is Belgrade.

On the 25th anniversary of the NATO bombing, Xi Jinping’s government is trying to stabilize relations with the United States and Western Europe. He had been expected to visit the site of the bombed embassy, ​​usually a stopover for Chinese officials visiting Belgrade, but by late afternoon he had not yet appeared there. During his last visit to Serbia in 2016, Xi Jinping visited the site, which was rebuilt as a Chinese cultural center.

Beijing’s underlying suspicion of Western intentions and NATO’s role remains – reflected in Chinese official and media commentary on the anniversary. But Mr. Xi stopped short of expressing the outrage expressed by China’s Foreign Ministry in Beijing.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said: “The Chinese people will never forget this barbaric atrocity committed by NATO, and will never accept such a painful history repeating itself.” told reporters in Beijing Tuesday.

Serbia remains deeply resentful of the defeat of Christian Serbs by the Ottoman Turks in a battle in 1389, and like China sees itself as a righteous force wronged by hostile outsiders.

Serbia and China also support each other’s territorial claims – China’s claim to Taiwan, Serbia’s claim to Kosovo. Kosovo, formerly Serbian land, declared itself an independent state after a NATO bombing campaign.

“Just as we have a clear position on China’s integrity – Taiwan is China – so they unreservedly support Serbian territory,” said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who was in power during the Kosovo war. Information Minister Vucic said. Wednesday.

Xi Jinping said that China “supports Serbia’s efforts to safeguard Kosovo’s territorial integrity.”

Public opinion of China has deteriorated sharply in much of Europe, especially in the former communist countries of the east. war in ukraine. But Serbia, which like China has close ties with Russia, remains staunchly supportive of China and still seeks billions of dollars in investment from China.

But like almost all European countries, Serbia has a widening trade deficit with China, and Vucic hopes the new free trade agreement can narrow the gap, which he said on Wednesday would allow Serbia to export goods with 95% tariffs. free. Vucic said that although Serbia has few products that China needs, Serbian farmers will benefit from China’s new plum, plum and blueberry contracts.

Vucic was one of only two European leaders, along with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, to attend a gathering in Beijing in October to celebrate Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road infrastructure plan. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and dozens of other foreign leaders also attended. Xi Jinping will next visit Hungary.

Belgrade was filled with Chinese flags and billboards paying tribute to “dear Chinese friends.” Crowds lined the streets to welcome the Chinese leader, an ebullience that opposition politicians said was artificially manufactured by authorities, who said they ordered street cleaners and other state workers to miss work to cheer Xi.

Serbian state television even interrupted its broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest, a hugely popular event watched by millions across Europe, to make way for a welcome ceremony for Xi Jinping at Belgrade Airport.

Chris Buckley Reporting from Taipei, Taiwan Alisa Dogramazyeva From Belgrade, Serbia.

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