China has intensified its economic cooperation with the Balkan countries during the recent years, RISS expert Ivetta Frolova writes in the analytical article of the journal "National Strategy Issues". Beijing has build up trade with the region, allowed credit, participated in many regional infrastructural projects. The growing Chinese presence at the South European "soft underbelly" has met a cautious response by Brussels. The EU feels uncertain about objectives and aims of China’s long-term strategy in the Balkans, including the promotion of its Belt and Road initiative.
Some Western experts believe that such a large-scale presence of the PRC in the Balkans pursues the goal of ensuring access of Chinese goods to the European Union markets, as well as to relocate a part of China's production facilities closer to EU borders. At the same time, the Balkans remain dependent on foreign investment, RISS expert points out. The long-term Chinese loans are seems to be very attractive for the Balkan peninsula, especially if we take into account the limited access of non-EU Balkan states to international financial resources and EU funds. The fact that Chinese investment doesn't require domestic reforms compares it favorably with the World Bank or IMF proposals.
Some experts tend to view Beijing's increased market interest in the Balkans as a form of neocolonialism, Ivetta Frolova outlines. According to the opinion poll on the impact on Serbia of the major powers, which was conducted by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, China took the second place (after Germany) among "credible investors". "The Balkan countries do not have clear views of the internal situation in China. In today's realities the residents of the Balkans are inclined to look at China as a friendly power that has come to invest in the economy and industrial development of the region," RISS expert concludes.