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China-Serbia Relations in the Context of Kosovo and Taiwan Crises

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After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, a process began in which the world was shaped through the chaos. It is noteworthy that the Kosovo and Taiwan crises coincided with this period, and the relations between the countries leading the events.

The crisis between Kosovo and Serbia broke out after Pristina announced that as of August 1, 2022, Serbs living in the north of the country must have plates issued by Kosovo. After the decision, the Serb minority living in the north of Kosovo organized protests and blocked some city roads, and the tension between Belgrade and Pristina increased. However, the Kosovo Government postponed its decision for one month after the meetings with the European Union (EU) and the Ambassadors of the United States of America (US).[1]

The statement of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) that the situation in the north of the country is tense and that it is “ready to intervene if stability is threatened”[2] is very important in terms of showing the level of the crisis.

The Taiwan Crisis between the USA and China emerged due to the visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan. Thus, the tension on the Beijing-Washington line has reached its highest point in recent years.

It is seen that both Serbia and China have been following consistent policies in the context of Taiwan and Kosovo issues for a long time. While Serbia supports China on the Taiwan issue, the Beijing administration also supports Belgrade on Kosovo. It is seen that the two countries implemented their policies in these crises as well.

Hua Chunying, Spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made a statement on the license plate issue between Kosovo and Serbia on August 3, 2022, stating that the best way for the parties to establish a dialogue and reach a mutually acceptable political solution within the framework of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. It was also stated that Serbia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity should be fully respected.[3] China’s emphasis on Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity about this crisis, which directly concerns the territory of Kosovo, reveals that Beijing sided with Belgrade in the dispute.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic also commented on the issue during the escalation of Taiwan tension between the US and China and said that Belgrade supports the One China Principle. According to Brnabic, Taiwan is an integral part of China.[4]

China does not recognize Kosovo, which gained its independence from Serbia in 2008. The reason for this is the One China Principle advocated by Beijing. This principle adopted by China is a policy that benefits Serbia because the Belgrade administration sees Kosovo as its territory and does not recognize this country.

Beijing pays attention to the implementation of its stance, shaped by the “One China Principle” in foreign policy and domestic politics. Therefore, China’s approach to Taiwan is similar to Serbia’s approach to Kosovo. This situation encourages the two countries to develop cooperation between them.

In addition, both states use their power in the United Nations (UN) in the face of the problems they experience. Since China is a permanent member of the UNSC, it prevents decisions from being taken against it regarding Taiwan. Similarly, it is seen that Serbia has prevented decisions from being taken against it, thanks to Russia, another permanent member of the UNSC and its biggest ally. Therefore, both Kosovo and Taiwan cannot join the UN. This is another similar aspect of the two problems.

China is one of the largest trading partners of Serbia and its most significant economic partner in Asia. The relations between the parties are progressing in the military and the financial field. This adds a strategic nature to the relations.

In April 2022, China delivered the FK3 air defense missile system to Serbia. Allegedly, Serbia preferred to purchase an air defense system from China instead of the Russian S-300 air defense system.[5] Belgrade chose China over its traditional ally, Moscow, which demonstrates the importance Belgrade attaches to its relations with Beijing. In addition, it can be said that Serbia is trying to balance its relations with Russia, which is struggling with Western sanctions, by choosing China. Therefore, it is possible to say that the relations between China and Serbia have entered a new phase.

The strategic relations Serbia established with China may also enable Belgrade to increase its power in the UN in the future. Considering that the five permanent members of the UNSC, the USA, China, France, England, and Russia, have veto rights, the partnership with China is essential for Serbia.

In addition to all these, it can be said that China’s influence in this country is ignored because Russia is a traditional ally of Serbia. Although Serbia is a candidate state for EU membership, prolonging the membership process is another issue that increases Beijing’s influence over Belgrade. Because the delay in Serbia’s EU membership also hinders the economic aid, it will receive from the bloc. In other words, Serbia cannot become an EU member to facilitate China’s penetration into the country.

China’s investments in Serbia also relieve Moscow, Belgrade’s closest ally. Because Russia is stuck in the region after the operation launched against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, even Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could not make his planned visit to Belgrade, his closest ally in the region, because European countries closed their airspaces to Russia.

In addition, Beijing sees Belgrade as an essential part of the Belt-Road Project. In this respect, the Hungary-Serbia Railway Project made by China is vital. Because the railway is considered the bridgehead of the Belt-Road Project in Europe.[6] Central and Eastern European regions and Greece are the gateways to Europe for China. In addition, it is thought that the Balkan geography will be an important center for the Maritime Silk Road. For this reason, the Balkans, in general, and Serbia are an extension of the Belt-Road Project in Europe. This makes Serbia a country that China is very interested in.[7]

As a result, due to the similarity of Kosovo and Taiwan problems, Beijing prefers to pursue a policy that sided with Belgrade. Therefore, this similarity encourages cooperation between the parties. Moreover, when the Kosovo and Taiwan crises are evaluated together with the process that started with Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, it can be said that these three events symbolize the struggle for influence between the Transatlantic and Eurasian powers. In addition to all these, China considers Serbia an important component of the Belt-Road Project. For Serbia, China is a partner that has evolved from an economic partner to a strategic partner, especially in recent years due to its military cooperation.


[1]“Kosovo Government Postpones Number Plate Plan Following Serb Protests”, Euronews, https://www.euronews.com/2022/08/01/kosovo-government-postpones-number-plate-plan-following-serb-protests , (Date of Accession: 21.08.2022).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on August 3, 2022”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/202208/t20220804_10733756.html, (Date of Accession: 22.08.2022).

[4] “Int’l Community Affirms Support for One-China Principle”, Xinhuanet, https://english.news.cn/20220807/15f93b66e6ae454ab9e3da4e5cd52a63/c.html , (Date of Accession: 22.08.2022).

[5] “Serbia at the Crossroads between the Chinese Dragon and the Russian Bear: New Tensions in the Balkans?”, Special Eurasia, https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/05/13/serbia-china-russia-balkans/, (Date of Accession: 22.08.2022).

[6] Andreea Brînză, “China and the Budapest-Belgrade Railway Saga”, The Diplomat, https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/china-and-the-budapest-belgrade-railway-saga/, (Date of Accession: 23.08.2022).

[7] Ljiljana Grubic, “Serbia’s Increasing Importance for China’s BRI”, Emerging Europe, https://emerging-europe.com/voices/serbias-increasing-importance-for-chinas-bri/, (Date of Accession: 23.08.2022).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.