Chinese influence in the Western Balkans is a phenomenon that attracts the attention of many scholars, analyzing it in different perspectives.
On Wednesday, October 15, researchers from Kosovo, the region and beyond, have unveiled a research, through an open conference on the platform “Zoom”, which treats exactly this thematic.
It is about the research entitled “Beyond economic considerations: The new frontiers of Chinese influence in the Western Balkans”, published by Sbunker, co-authored by Teuta Avdimetaj and Ramadan Ilazi.
Recently, specifically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase of Chinese influence in the Western Balkans.
“China’s influence and geopolitical relevance in the Western Balkans has visibly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s ‘vaccine diplomacy’ boosted its standing in the region at the expense of the credibility of the West. Support in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic is welcomed, research holds that the help with the vaccines ‘is underpinned by geopolitical motivations’ mainly as a means of securing Chinese interest, or ensuring that the countries that receive Chinese vaccines ‘will remain indebted to Beijing and will continue to support and allow Chinese infrastructure and connectivity projects on their territories.’.”
Regarding the Chinese presence in the field of technology and that of the defense industry, there are statistics that show its large presence in some countries of the region.
“Serbia’s ‘iron-clad’ relationship with China includes a deep cooperation within the DSR, especially in telecommunications, local governance systems, IT, and the security sector. Huawei’s office in Serbia serves as its regional hub and, among others, it is considered to prepare the ground for the rollout of the 5G network, including through provision of equipment, services for landline network modernization, and opening of the Innovations and Development Centre. Huawei is a commercial user of Serbia’s state-owned data center in Kragujevac and the funder of a second data center- the Kragujevac City Data center, important for big data advancements. Serbia is also implementing Huawei’s Safe City Solution – a surveillance system that includes the installation of 1,000 cameras with advanced facial and license plate recognition software at 800 locations in Belgrade with the declared purpose of better preventing and detecting crime.
In Bosnia and Hercegovina, Huawei is present through the Huawei Technologies Bosnia and there are agreements in place for technical support for ‘Smart City’ and ‘Safe City’ projects.
In Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania there is limited or no presence of Chinese tech companies, mainly due to their stronger alignment with the US and EU.
In Montenegro, the extent to which Huawei can take part in the upcoming expansion of 5G networks is viewed in the context of the county’s ability to handle its Chinese debt and maintain unyielding decision-making”
Through Chinese influence in various ways and sectors, democracy in the Western Balkans may be at stake.