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  • Serbia.

  • It hopes to join the European Union,

  • so it can enjoy the economic benefits.

  • But is also needs money now.

  • So it's turned to China.

  • And that might not be the wisest choice.

  • Welcome back to China Uncensored.

  • I'm Chris Chappell.

  • Serbia.

  • You may not know where it is on a map,

  • but the Chinese Communist Party sure does.

  • It's here, by the way.

  • In the Balkans.

  • Ok, that's not super helpful.

  • It's here.

  • You might sort of vaguely remember from the '90s

  • that Serbia was part of the former Yugoslavia,

  • and then there was a war,

  • and NATO bombed everyone,

  • and something something.

  • Unless you weren't born yet in the '90s,

  • in which case,

  • don't tell me,

  • because then I'll feel old.

  • Anyway, Serbia is a country in Eastern Europe

  • with a complicated history.

  • And things are still complicated.

  • Some Serbians want to join the European Union

  • to enjoy all the financial benefits,

  • but the standards to get in are really high,

  • and other Serbians aren't sure

  • whether they can even meet those standards.

  • In fact, there are so many forces pulling every which way

  • that even the two-headed eagle on the Serbian flag

  • seems unsure which way to go.

  • And that's when China showed up with billions of dollars.

  • The Chinese Communist Party has offered to make Serbia

  • the European heart of its massive Belt and Road Initiative,

  • also known as One Belt, One Road.

  • That's the plan to spread Chinese investment around the world.

  • And this offer has put Serbia at a difficult crossroads.

  • It's like, it's Rush Week at your college.

  • One option is to try to join the honor society frat.

  • Sure it's really hard to get into,

  • but girls really like going to their parties,

  • because all the guys are actually nice.

  • But there's a curfew,

  • they won't let you drink too much,

  • and they kick you out if you get bad grades.

  • And then there's thepartyfrat

  • where there's no rules,

  • no standards,

  • and the beer flows freely

  • but everyone warned you to stay away

  • because things can get a little crazy

  • and you heard rumors about the time that Sri Lanka

  • woke up in a bathtub with a kidney and a port missing.

  • Anyway, Serbia is a long way from even

  • qualifying for the European Union frat.

  • For example,

  • they have massive environmental problems,

  • like a “trash mountain and toxic canals.”

  • Serbia's two biggest cities

  • dump raw sewage directly into the Danube and Sava rivers,”

  • the country hascountless unregulated landfills,”

  • and itrecycles only around 3 percent of its municipal waste.”

  • This is a far cry from EU standards,

  • which are to recycle 50 percent of municipal waste.

  • And according to this European Commision report card

  • on how close Serbia is to meeting the standards

  • for being allowed into the EU...

  • Let's just say,

  • they're not going to get on the honor roll yet.

  • There are plenty of areas for improvement,

  • including respect for fundamental rights,

  • rule of law,

  • transparency in government,

  • and market reform.

  • Serbia has officially been a *candidate* for EU membership

  • since 2012.

  • But its bad report card means that

  • the earliest it could get in to the EU is 2025—

  • and maybe not at all if it doesn't shape up.

  • Still, there are benefits to being even just a candidate.

  • Thanks to the EU's several

  • pre-accession financial assistance programs,

  • Serbia has already received over 4.2 billion dollars

  • in European grants

  • money they never have to pay back.

  • The EU is also the biggest lender to Serbia,

  • with over 4.9 billion dollars in loans.

  • The trouble is,

  • the EU has conditions for their loans.

  • And it's been pressuring Serbian politicians

  • to be transparent and play by the rules.

  • The Chinese Communist Party frat, meanwhile,

  • doesn't care whether Serbia reforms!

  • And the cash has been rolling in.

  • Investment in Serbia has reached

  • between 2.2 billion and 2.5 billion euros.”

  • That's just under 3 billion US dollars.

  • Anyway, please continue.

  • Direct investments to Serbia show that Serbia

  • is the center of cooperation between China

  • and Central and Eastern European countries.”

  • And the feeling is mutual.

  • The distance cannot separate us,

  • so we can have more understanding.

  • China and Serbia will have a very profound relationship

  • and a very special brotherly bond.”

  • Xi Jinping gave that speech at the site of

  • Serbia's only steel mill

  • which a Chinese state-owned company

  • bought in 2016 for 52 million dollars.

  • Xi Jinping said he would make Serbia

  • the European hub of the Belt and Road infrastructure plan.

  • He suggested China would pour money into roads and railways

  • to connect China and Western Europe with a transport corridor

  • running through the heart of Serbia.

  • According to Vladimir Krulj,

  • former economic advisor to the Serbian government,

  • Chinese companies have snapped up

  • critical industries in Serbia

  • such as a copper mine,

  • a steelmaker

  • and a thermal power plant,

  • along with high-speed rail lines,

  • roads and ports.”

  • But all that Chinese money pouring into Serbia

  • has European officials worried.

  • One concern is that quick and easy Chinese money

  • has caused a lot of Serbian leaders

  • to give up on making all those political and social reforms

  • they'd need to join the EU.

  • So it essentially undermines efforts

  • to make the country better for its citizens.

  • Another concern is that all this Chinese investment

  • could put Serbia into deep debt

  • what's calleddebt trap diplomacy.”

  • We've seen it before in Sri Lanka,

  • Pakistan, and Djibouti.

  • Chinese loans come in,

  • but the country can't repay them.

  • So then Chinese state-run companies

  • or the Chinese military

  • take over important strategic assets

  • in exchange for forgiving the debt.

  • As one overseas investment expert says,

  • “[China is] not in it to help countries out,

  • they're in it to grab their assets.”

  • If that sounds dirty...it is.

  • He says China is purposefully

  • plunging recipient countries into debt,

  • then going after what's in their dirt,

  • like minerals and rare earth metals.

  • Also there's the danger that China's investment

  • might target critical technologies

  • and strategic industries.

  • That's a serious problem throughout Europe, actually.

  • So much so,

  • that this week the European Parliament adopted

  • an EU-wide mechanism to screen foreign investments,

  • most importantly from China.

  • The aim is to protect critical European industries

  • like aerospace, health, and nano-technology

  • from getting taken over by Chinese companies

  • and undermining European security.

  • Vladimir Krulj

  • the former Serbian economic advisor

  • saysit would be daft not to support

  • [this new foreign investment policy],”

  • The problem is,

  • if Serbia were to adapt that,

  • it would disrupt some of China's

  • current development projects there.

  • Which some people don't want to do.

  • So Serbia is at a crossroads.

  • It needs money,

  • but it's stuck between making reforms to join the EU,

  • or a Faustian bargain with China

  • a bargain it has already begun to make.

  • AndBy dithering over Serbia's accession,” says Krulj,

  • the EU is actually forcing Serbia into the arms of China.”

  • So maybe it's time EU authorities consider

  • whether their frat's Rush Week

  • that's lasted since 2012

  • and pushes most students away

  • is really the best way

  • to build a strong fraternity.

  • So what do you think about Serbia

  • being stuck between a rock and a hard place?

  • Leave your comments below.

  • And while you're here,

  • it's time for me to answer another question

  • from a fan who supports China Uncensored

  • through the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • Casey asks:

  • “[Why have] american coin collectors

  • loved gold and silver pandas

  • seemingly more than any other foreign mint

  • since the late 90's?

  • They always trade at a slightly higher price

  • than the going rate for an ounce.

  • Could this be an example of a successful

  • soft power strategy by the CCP?”

  • Well, Casey, I assume you're referring to

  • these Chinese panda coins.

  • Why do people like them?

  • I don't know!

  • Why does anybody like pandas?!

  • Oh, they're so cute and cuddy.”

  • No they're not!

  • They're giant racoons that'll rip your arms off

  • if they had the chance.

  • Or at least your jacket.

  • Anyway, all gold coins go for

  • a higher price than the metal itself.

  • Which is why physical coins

  • aren't the best gold investment anyway.

  • They're just a collectors' item.

  • Are they Chinese Communist Party propaganda?

  • Yes, but only in the sense that pandas in general

  • are a propaganda symbol.

  • The Party uses them to make itself

  • look cute and cuddy,

  • but in the end,

  • they'll rip your arms off.

  • Thanks for your question, Casey.

  • And I hope all of you can be like Casey

  • and support China Uncensored

  • through the crowdfunding website Patreon.

  • Casey supports this show by pledging

  • a certain amount per episode

  • and you can, too.

  • Help us keep covering the kind of episodes

  • that expose China's pandas

  • for what they really are.

  • Once again, I'm Chris Chris Chappell.

  • Thanks for watching China Uncensored.

Serbia.

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Chinese Investment and Trade Leaves Serbia in a Bind | China Uncensored

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    zijun su posted on 2021/05/25
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