The Outer

President Xi Jinping Holds Talks with President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia

By Manal Abdel Fattah

President Xi Jinping held talks with Serbian President Alexandar Vučić at the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade. The two Presidents announced the decision to deepen and elevate China-Serbia comprehensive strategic partnership and build a China-Serbia community with a shared future in the new era.

The sun shines brightly in Belgrade in May. In front of the Palace of Serbia, the national flags of China and Serbia flutter in the wind, and the guard of honor lined up for the occasion. As President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan arrived, they were warmly received by President Aleksandar Vučić and Madame Tamara Vučić.

President Vučić held a grand welcoming ceremony for President Xi. After the two Presidents came to the viewing stand together, the military band played the national anthems of the two countries, and a 10-gun salute was fired. President Xi, accompanied by President Vučić, reviewed the guard of honor. The two Presidents greeted and shook hands with the delegation members of the other side.

Accompanied by President Vučić, President Xi stepped out onto the platform of the Palace of Serbia. On the square in front of the Palace, 15,000 Serbian people were waving national flags of China and Serbia to express the warmest welcome to President Xi. President Xi waved to the crowd, which burst into jubilant, prolonged applause and cheers.

After the welcoming ceremony, the two Presidents had a restricted session followed by a plenary meeting.

President Xi expressed his delight to pay another visit to the beautiful country of Serbia in a span of eight years after the many invitations extended by President Vučić. President Xi said that he was deeply touched when he was greeted at the airport by President Vučić together with many senior government officials who held a grand welcoming ceremony for his visit. He was deeply moved by the genuine friendliness toward China from the Serbian people who are good friends of the Chinese people.

President Xi stressed that the ironclad friendship between China and Serbia has stood the test of the changing international landscape. Such friendship is characterized by profound historical roots, solid political foundation, extensive common interests and strong popular support. Over the past few years, under the leadership of the two Presidents, the bilateral relationship has leapfrogged with historic progress. Since the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016, in particular, the bilateral relationship has been enriched in substance and expanded in scope. It has become an example for China’s friendly relations with other European countries. Actions speak louder than words. China will stand shoulder to shoulder with Serbia, share weal and woe like passengers in the same boat, carry forward the spirit of the ironclad friendship, maintain and grow their friendship, and jointly safeguard fundamental and long-term interests of the two countries. As the two sides pursue their respective national development and revitalization, China will join hands with Serbia to advance the building of a community with a shared future in the new era.

President Xi stressed that Serbia is China’s first comprehensive strategic partner in Central and Eastern Europe. Their bilateral cooperation has injected strong impetus into their respective development and rejuvenation, and brought tangible benefits to the two peoples. Under the new circumstances, Serbia has become the first European country to build with China a community with a shared future. This speaks volumes about the strategic, special and high-level China-Serbia relations. The China-Serbia community with a shared future in the new era is an upgrade of the ironclad friendship between China and Serbia. It also represents their common values and objectives, namely, joint pursuit of development, win-win corporation and mutual success. These are the common aspirations of China, Serbia, and all countries that are committed to independence, peace and development. By building a China-Serbia community with a shared future in the new era, the two sides should keep deepening and expanding high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and collaboration between China and Central and Eastern European countries, thus contributing to their respective modernization.

First, highlighting the strategic nature of the bilateral relationship and keeping to its general direction. China supports Serbia in upholding independence and pursuing a development path suited to its national conditions, and supports its efforts in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The two sides should continue to offer each other firm support, deepen strategic cooperation, and safeguard their respective political security and fundamental interests.

Second, staying committed to practical cooperation and delivering for the two peoples. High-quality Belt and Road cooperation between China and Serbia has achieved remarkable results. The two sides should steadily advance cooperation in traditional areas such as transportation and energy infrastructure, make sure the entire Serbian section of the Belgrade-Budapest railway go into operation as scheduled, jointly operate well their major cooperation projects, create more small and beautiful livelihood projects, and continue to generate positive economic and social impacts. With the China-Serbia Free Trade Agreement set to take effect on July 1 this year, the high-standard mutual opening up between China and Serbia will surely enter a new stage. China will continue to import more high-quality agricultural specialties from Serbia. It will invite 300 young Serbians to China on study and exchange programs in the next three years. China welcomes the opening of direct flights from Belgrade to Shanghai by Serbia so as to comprehensively deepen people-to-people exchanges.

Third, opening up new prospects of cooperation with a focus on the innovation dimension in bilateral relations and making innovation cooperation a new growth driver in the relationship. China will support 50 young Serbian scientists in taking part in scientific research exchanges in China in the next three years. It is ready to work with Serbia to strengthen cooperation on artificial intelligence (AI) and endeavor to ensure humanity properly develop and utilize AI. It is important for China and Serbia to jointly reject hegemonism and power politics, and oppose bloc politics or bloc confrontation. The two sides should join hands to uphold the purposes and principles of the U.N. Charter, practice true multilateralism, and promote international fairness and justice.

President Vučić extended the warmest welcome to President Xi and noted that China is Serbia’s most sincere friend. Although Serbia is a small country, China always fully respects its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and provides valuable support for its economic and social development. President Xi is a great world leader. Under his strong leadership, China has made remarkable achievements. It has become a beacon of development and progress of the world and is playing an increasingly important leading role in international affairs. The Communist Party of China seeks to enhance the well-being of not only the Chinese people, but also people across the world. The Serbian people are full of gratitude and respect for China, especially for President Xi, and feel truly proud to be an ironclad friend to such a great nation. Serbia firmly supports China’s legitimate position on issues concerning its core interests including on Taiwan. There is but one China in the world. Serbia will, without hesitation, continue to unswervingly provide China with firm support.

President Vučić noted that China’s investment in and cooperation with Serbia have greatly facilitated the latter’s economic and social development and improved Serbian people’s living standards. Since 2016, in particular, thanks to the personal commitment and support by President Xi, the HBIS Smederevo steel plant has had immensely positive socioeconomic impacts. The transformative changes that had taken place in the steel plant’s development prospects have also boosted the confidence and raised the hope of the people. Serbia’s future is closely linked with China. Serbia looks forward to intensifying exchanges with China in all areas and at all levels, and to strengthening cooperation with China in various fields including infrastructure, new energy, innovation, artificial intelligence and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Serbia will actively advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation with China, and work to ensure that the Serbian sector of the Belgrade-Budapest railway will be completed as planned. Serbia welcomes investment cooperation from more Chinese businesses and looks forward to opening more direct flights. Building on the entry-into-force of the bilateral Free Trade Agreement, Serbia is ready to expand economic and trade cooperation with China. The announcement on deepening and elevating the comprehensive strategic partnership and building a China-Serbia community with a shared future in the new era marks a new milestone in the history of this bilateral relationship. Serbia firmly supports and will actively participate in the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative put forth by President Xi. Serbia will stay in close strategic coordination with China in multilateral fora, jointly oppose hegemonism and power politics, uphold the purposes of the U.N. Charter, and defend international fairness and justice.

After the talks, the two Presidents signed the Joint Statement on Deepening and Elevating the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and Building a China-Serbia Community with a Shared Future in the New Era. The two Presidents also witnessed the exchange of multiple cooperation documents including on Belt and Road cooperation, green development, digital economy, e-commerce, infrastructure, economic and technical cooperation, information and communication, agri-food, and the media.

The two Presidents had a joint meeting with the press.

At noon, President Vučić and Madame Tamara Vučić hosted a grand welcoming banquet in honor of President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan at the Palace of Serbia.

Cai Qi and Wang Yi, among others, were present at these events.

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