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China's Gateway to Europe, Part 2

January 4, 2021

The "New Silk Road" is an enormous Chinese international development project. It's a trade network that involves Asia, Africa, and Europe -- and more than 70 countries are already involved.

China  Xi'an Frachtzug Neue Seidenstraße
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Imaginechina/L. Qiang

China is investing in bridges, port facilities, railroads, and roads around the world. Beijing is spending several hundred billion euros on what it calls the "Silk Road Economic Belt." 

Eastern European and the Balkan countries in particular are interested in Chinese loans and investments, as they look beyond the EU for sources of capital. In turn, the region is attractive to China because of its strategic position as a gateway to the West.

The construction site of the coal-fired power plant "Tuzla 7"
The construction site of the coal-fired power plant Tuzla 7Image: DW

A new coal-fired power plant is being built in Tuzla, Bosnia, with the help from China. But not everyone is in favor of the project. While the new plant will emit fewer emissions which will have a positive effect on air-quality, some question the country’s decision to commit to using coal for decades to come.

Bosnien-Herzegowina Luftverschmutzung in Tuzla
Air Pollution in TuzlaImage: DW/E. Sofic

Serbia has received the most Chinese funding of any country in the region. The Chinese have invested in an old steel factory and mine, built a bridge over the Danube and a highway. The EU, however, is wary of Serbia's cooperation with Huawei. As part of China’s "Safe City Project", Huawei face recognition cameras have been installed in 800 spots around the city of Belgrade.

Engineer Yu Hui works for China Railway in Belgrade
Engineer Yu Hui works for China Railway in BelgradeImage: DW

But the most important project for Serbia: a railway line between Belgrade and Budapest. China sees it as an opportunity to demonstrate its ability to meet EU standards. The line is meant to end in neighboring Hungary, but so far no work has begun in the EU member state. Nevertheless, Hungarian President Victor Orban takes every opportunity to stress just how important China is as a partner and the benefits the Belt and Road Initiative will have for Hungary.

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