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.
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.
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.
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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