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North Macedonia

Background

China has historically had sympathies for the Macedonian state in its quest for international recognition. During the Yugoslav–Chinese rapprochement (following decades of tense relations between Beijing and Belgrade), China’s paramount leader Hua Guofeng visited Skopje, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, in 1978. On that occasion, he gave a speech in front of a mass audience, expressing firm support for the official Yugoslav and Macedonian position in the identity struggles with Soviet-backed Bulgaria regarding the ‘Macedonian question’—that is, a set of historical disputes related to the identity, heritage, and borders of Macedonia. In 1991, in the aftermath of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, China recognised the independence of the Macedonian state under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia (which was contested by Greece)—a position China held until 2018, when the country changed its name to North Macedonia.

The cordial but rather uneventful Sino-Macedonian relationship of the 1990s faced an abrupt disruption on 27 January 1999, when, without prior announcement, representatives of the Macedonian Government travelled to Taipei to establish official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, announcing a major economic partnership. China retaliated by cutting ties with Macedonia and vetoing the extension of the UN peacekeeping mission at the Macedonian–Kosovar border in the UN Security Council. NATO forces took over border protection duties. In 2001, North Macedonia experienced an armed conflict that lasted seven months. Ethnic Albanian paramilitary units, led by veterans from Kosovo, attacked Macedonian security forces and occupied parts of the territory. The conflict ended in August 2001, with the Ohrid Framework Agreement. In the meantime, the economic partnership with Taiwan never materialised. Relations between the People’s Republic of China and North Macedonia remained suspended until the summer of 2001, when a new interim government in Skopje withdrew the recognition of Taipei and normalised bilateral relations with Mainland China. The foundations of the new relationship between North Macedonia and China included reciprocal recognition of the territorial integrity and unitary character of both states, as well as a common commitment to fighting global terrorism.

Sino-Macedonian relations have accelerated since China established a platform for relations with Central, Eastern, and southeastern Europe (the so-called 16+1; later renamed 17+1 when Greece joined) in 2011–12, and especially after the unveiling of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. The peak of relations was the period 2012–14. As of 2015, North Macedonia entered a tumultuous political crisis, which has made policymakers look inward and particularly wary of expanding relations with non-Western actors. Consequently, relations with China were marginalised until the COVID-19 pandemic, when China emerged as an important source of personal protective equipment (PPE) and a major supplier of vaccines. Recent disappointments with the lack of progress in the EU accession process have prompted the North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (in office since 2017, with a brief interruption in 2020) to publicly contemplate closer cooperation with China.

BRI Status

In 2015, North Macedonia signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and has since been ceremonially participating in BRI events. North Macedonia is actively involved in the China-led platform for relations with the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC), also known as 16(17)+1, which nominally pre-dates the BRI, but in practice has served as a regional vehicle for its advancement. North Macedonia has been the home of the China–CEEC Coordination Centre for Cultural Cooperation since 2017, and hosted the China–CEEC High-Level Think Tanks Symposium in 2018. There are two significant infrastructure projects in the country that carry the BRI stamp: the Štip–Miladinovci Highway (completed) and the Kičevo–Ohrid Highway (under construction).

The BRI in North Macedonia overlaps with other endeavours for regional connectivity. North Macedonia borders three countries that are strategic partners of China—Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece—and is part of a key BRI project in Europe, the Europe–China Land–Sea Express Route, which aims to connect Athens and Budapest.

Cooperation with China is seen as a secondary option for North Macedonia, as the country has pronounced a pro-Western orientation in global affairs. According to the official rhetoric, the BRI in North Macedonia is aimed at complementing the country’s accession to the European Union. The European Union, however, has reservations and has taken significant measures to offset China’s perceived increased influence in the country. The United States has also cited China’s economic diplomacy as a threat to the region. Yet, as North Macedonia is significantly lagging in terms of economic development and struggling to catch up with other EU economies, economic cooperation with China is still viewed with cautious optimism by the North Macedonian Government.

Economic Relations

Trade: Substantial and coordinated Sino-Macedonian commercial relations commenced only in 1995, with a bilateral agreement on trade and economic cooperation. The entrance of both countries to the World Trade Organization—China in 2001 and North Macedonia in 2003—accelerated the relationship. In the following decade, economic cooperation was further facilitated with the launch, first, of the China–CEEC platform, which created several new economic cooperation instruments, and then of the BRI.

According to the North Macedonian State Statistics Bureau, North Macedonia’s trade with China in 2019 amounted to around 710 million USD. The bilateral trade is quite unbalanced: China’s exports to North Macedonia were worth 544.9 million USD, whereas North Macedonia’s exports to China amounted to 166.1 million USD. China is still far from the largest of North Macedonia’s trading partners—a position occupied by EU countries and North Macedonia’s Balkan neighbours.

According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, North Macedonian exports to China mostly comprised raw materials, such as ferro-alloys (68.6%); marble, travertine, and alabaster (19.1%); and dolomite (2.24%). The main imports from China were electrical machinery and equipment (31.3%), machinery and appliances (17.7%), and components and materials used in the textile industry (13.4%).

Investment: For North Macedonian policymakers, China has been a long-desired source of foreign direct investment. However, their desire has never fully materialised. According to the Central and Eastern European Centre for Asian Studies (CEECAS), which combines data from China’s Ministry of Commerce and other sources, as of 2019, there had been only 27 million EUR of foreign direct investment (stock) from China to the country.

Finance: There have been two major infrastructure projects implemented through Chinese loans and contracted to Chinese companies: the 57-kilometre Kičevo–Ohrid Highway and the 47-kilometre Štip–Miladinovci Highway. These projects cost 861 million EUR, or 7% of national GDP. Similar cooperative endeavours were undertaken long before the BRI. For instance, between 1998 and 2004, the Chinese state-owned China International Water & Electric Corporation (CWE) constructed the Kozjak Hydro Power Plant near Skopje, which was financed by Chinese loans.

Aid: China has historically considered North Macedonia an important location for its overseas development endeavours and has provided an undisclosed amount of developmental aid to the country since its independence.

COVID-19: During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, China provided health-related aid as well as computer tablets for children to continue schooling online during periods of lockdown. China also enabled the sale of PPE to North Macedonia. In 2021, despite its hesitancy about dealing with non-Western countries, the North Macedonian Government purchased 200,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and ordered 500,000 doses of the SinoVac vaccine. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has additionally donated 100,000 Sinopharm doses for the North Macedonian army and police. Several top officials, including Prime Minister Zaev, have received the Sinopharm vaccine. Overall, the healthcare cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly improved the image of China in the country.

Key Controversies in Bilateral Relations

Most of the controversies in Sino-Macedonian relations are related to the cooperation in transport infrastructure development. The Kičevo–Ohrid and Štip–Miladinovci highways are two of the largest infrastructure projects in North Macedonia since the country’s independence and a major step towards addressing the country’s significant infrastructure gaps. The tangible economic benefits of the projects notwithstanding, they have been accompanied by significant controversies.

Governance: Both projects mentioned above have been undertaken with favourable loans from the Export–Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) and contracted to Chinese companies—in this case, the Chinese state-owned Sinohydro—for the engineering and construction. Both projects have been governed by a lex specialis (special law), effectively circumventing regulation on public procurement and shielding them from public scrutiny (for more details, see the Kičevo–Ohrid Highway profile).

Corruption: In 2015, as part of a broader anti-government campaign, then opposition leader Zoran Zaev publicly broadcast leaked wiretaps that suggested corruption in the process of contracting to Sinohydro—a situation discussed in more detail in the Kičevo–Ohrid Highway profile. After the change of North Macedonia’s government in 2017, the former Special Prosecutor’s Office proceeded with an investigation into former government officials (including former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, in office from 2006 to 2016) for abuse of power in arranging the deal. The statute of limitations for the case has since expired.

Cost Overruns and Delays: Technical difficulties have complicated the construction of the two highways, with the Kičevo–Ohrid Highway particularly affected. While the Štip–Miladinovci Highway was completed in 2019 (two years behind schedule) and is fully functional as of 2021, the Kičevo–Ohrid Highway has been delayed multiple times, with the latest deadline pushed out to 2023 (from the original completion date of 2017). After long negotiations between the North Macedonian Government and Chinese representatives, in 2018, the cost of the project, originally envisaged at 411 million EUR, increased by an additional 187 million EUR.

Environmental Issues: The Kičevo–Ohrid Highway traverses the UNESCO-protected Ohrid region and the natural habitat of the endangered Balkan lynx. There have been concerns about the inadequate environmental standards in the planning and implementation of the project. It is feared that complications during construction, including landslides, will have a negative impact on the environment.

Key Sources

General news on North Macedonia in English can be found on the websites of the news agencies MIA and Meta.

Currently, there is limited debate about China within the North Macedonian academic and think tank community, and in the broader public sphere and media. Information on China mostly consists of translations of global news agency items and other content produced by global media.

Reports on various issues regarding North Macedonia’s politics, economy, society, and external affairs, as well as its relations with China, are published by the China–CEE Institute. More on Sino-Macedonian relations can be found on the website of the China Observers in Central Europe.

Literature on Sino-Macedonian relations, as well as China and the Balkans, includes the following:

  • Gjorgioska, Adela and Anastas Vangeli. 2017. A Battle of Perceptions: The Social Representations of the BRI and the ‘16+1’ in Macedonia. Budapest: China–CEE Institute. Link.
  • Krstinovska, Ana. 2020. The Place of North Macedonia in China’s Strategy for the Western Balkans. Berlin: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. Link.
  • Pavlićević, Dragan. 2019. ‘Structural Power and the China–EU–Western Balkans Triangular Relations.’ Asia Europe Journal 17(4): 453–68.
  • Tsimonis, Konstantinos, Igor Rogelja, Ioana Ciută, Anastasia Frantzeskaki, Elena Nikolovska, and Besjan Pesha. 2020. ‘A Synergy of Failures: Environmental Protection and Chinese Capital in Southeast Europe.’ Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 48(2): 171–200.
  • Tubilewicz, Czeslaw. 2004. ‘Taiwan’s “Macedonian Project”, 1999–2001.’ China Quarterly 179: 782–803.
  • Vangeli, Anastas. 2019. ‘China: A New Geo-Economic Approach to the Balkans.’ In The Western Balkans in the World, edited by Florian Bieber and Nikolaos Tzifakis. New York, NY: Routledge.
Cover Photo: North Macedonia Landscape, (CC) Dejan Krsmanovic.

Poland

Background

Poland established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Although contacts were limited due to the geographical distance between the two countries, relations were relatively advanced. The PRC, for example, occasionally supported Poland’s attempts to develop a more independent policy within the Soviet bloc, especially when relations between China and the Soviet Union became increasingly complicated in the 1950s and 1960s. According to some historical analyses, Chinese protests and diplomatic intervention were what stopped Soviet military intervention during demonstrations and party struggle in Poland in 1956.

After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the PRC and Poland grew increasingly distant due to the international embargo imposed on China in the wake of its crackdown on the 1989 democracy movement, and the different foreign policy perspectives and goals of the two governments. In the 1990s, Poland focused its international activities on rejoining the Western political architecture (namely, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO), as well as managing the transformation into a free market economy. Concurrently, China sought to improve its economic relations with Western Europe after the 1989 embargo was dropped. During those years, high-level political exchanges were also limited; in the 1990s and 2000s, the Polish president visited China only once (in 1995), while the only presidential delegation from China, led by President Hu Jintao, travelled to Poland in 2004.

Circumstances changed after the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and even more so in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, which led China to focus its attention more on Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The Chinese authorities believed the new situation represented a great opportunity not only to enhance economic relations with the region, but also to use its advantages in terms of finance and infrastructure development as leverage when dealing with the European Union as a whole. Since Poland was the biggest actor in CEE in terms of the size of the economy, gross domestic product growth, population, and so on, it became a privileged partner for China in the region.

In December 2011, Polish President Bronisław Komorowski (in office from 2010 to 2015) paid an official visit to China, during which the two countries established a strategic partnership. In 2012, Premier Wen Jiabao travelled to Warsaw for an official visit, during which he also had a meeting with the leaders of other CEE countries and announced China’s ‘12 Measures for Promoting Friendly Cooperation with Central and Eastern European Countries’. These measures were grounded in China’s ‘South–South cooperation’ approach and included forms of financial and academic cooperation like those China had adopted in parts of the Global South—in particular, Africa. The document laid the foundations for the establishment of the ‘16+1’ initiative (renamed ‘17+1’ after Greece joined in 2019)—a new Chinese foreign policy instrument specifically targeting the CEE countries, in which Poland played an active role.

The establishment of the strategic partnership and the ‘16+1’ initiative started an intense period of political exchanges between Poland and China both bilaterally and multilaterally (mostly within the ‘16+1’ framework). Relations peaked in 2015 and 2016, at least in terms of the number of meetings, if not in substantial results coming from the cooperation. First, in November 2015, Polish President Andrzej Duda (in office since 2015) visited China to attend a ‘16+1’ summit in Suzhou; then, in June 2016, President Xi Jinping visited Poland and announced the upgrading of bilateral relations to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership.

BRI Status

While not losing sight of its EU obligations in terms of transparency and environmental protection, Poland welcomed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) from the beginning. The BRI was introduced as another pillar of the cooperation in the ‘17+1’ initiative. During President Duda’s visit to China in November 2015, Poland signed a memorandum of understanding on the BRI, making it the second CEE country, after Hungary, to do so. In 2015, it signed up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as the only founding CEE member, ratifying its membership in 2016. These moves, however, did not result in any significant new Chinese-backed projects in the country. With a lot of political capital already invested in furthering bilateral relations, the Polish authorities decided to send a high-level delegation chaired by then Prime Minister Beata Szydło (in office from 2015 to 2017) to the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2017.

Since then, as the Chinese political scene changed significantly both domestically, with Xi Jinping’s centralisation of power, and externally, with a drop in foreign investment and state-backed project finance, bilateral relations have cooled. This downward trend was exemplified by the fact the Polish Government sent a very low-level (mostly technical, not political) delegation to the second BRI forum in 2019. According to the author’s interviews with Polish officials, Polish authorities believe that the number and quality of bilateral interactions are downgraded as a result of the ‘17+1’ initiative and the BRI, to the detriment of Poland’s national interests. This shift was also influenced by the changing attitudes of the United States and the European Union towards China at the turn of the decade.

Current Economic Relations

Trade: Although the general value of bilateral trade is not that high compared with other EU member states, the trade volume is still growing. While 2020 was a record year for bilateral trade, Poland’s trade deficit also reached record highs: Poland’s imports from China were valued at around 27 billion USD, while exports were only 4 billion USD. In 2019, the PRC was Poland’s second-largest trading partner (after Germany), accounting for slightly more than 13% of Poland’s total imports and 1% of total exports. Polish exports to the PRC include copper, food products, machinery, and electrical appliances, while Poland imports machinery, electrical appliances, textiles, and manufactured goods from the PRC.

Investment: According to data collected by the Rhodium Group,Poland was one of the leading destinations for Chinese investment in the European Union (closely following Germany and France) in 2020, even though the European Union in that year recorded the lowest inflow of investment from China since 2013. Inflows in that year increased dramatically in terms of total value (by about 1 billion USD), but not in terms of the number of transactions. Poland’s official statistics record foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from China of 90 million USD in 2019, with FDI stock reaching 1.2 billion USD. However, Chinese official statistics show FDI stock of just 556 million USD by 2019. In 2020, there were two major Chinese-invested logistics projects in Poland: an investment of more than 1 billion USD by GLP, a Chinese-controlled investment company, in Goodman Group, with 800 million USD allocated in Poland; and investment company CGL’s acquisition of two Amazon logistics centres in Poland. Most Chinese FDI in Poland has taken the form of mergers and acquisitions, while greenfield investments are relatively few, including Guotai-Huarong’s 45-million-USD investment to build an electric car battery factory and another recently announced investment of 30 million EUR by Tuopu, a producer of electric car components. Poland and China signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty in 1988, which will remain valid until the ratification of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) between China and the European Union that is awaiting ratification by the European Parliament. Poland, however, remains openly critical of the deal negotiated by the European Commission, saying it was finalised too early, without serious commitments from the Chinese side, and is harmful to EU–US cooperation on China.

Source: Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Aid: China does not provide Poland with any formal aid and there is no cooperation on aid projects. In 2020, however, China provided Poland with medical supplies during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been further cooperation around the COVID-19 response, although this was commercial and not aid. However, no official statistics are available on the value of this cooperation. A request made by President Duda to President Xi during a phone call on 1 March 2021 prompted discussions between the Polish and Chinese authorities about Poland’s possible purchase of Chinese vaccines. The transaction, however, did not materialise due to doubts on the Polish side about the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines.

Key Controversies

Economically,Poland’s huge trade deficit with China and the lack of reciprocity in terms of market access for Polish companies and products are major controversies. However, the problem of the trade deficit is often exaggerated or oversimplified due to a lack of understanding of global value and production chains. In Poland’s case, many companies in the production chains serve as subcontractors and suppliers for foreign companies which then export to China. For instance, they may be supplying German companies, whose exports are classified as coming from Germany rather than Poland.

Politically, Poland shares the concerns of the European Union on matters related to cybersecurity and technology transfers, as well as the US perception of China’s attempts to modify the current international governance system to its benefit. Although the Polish Government has not been very vocal, it also perceives China’s policy towards the Uyghurs, its actions in Hong Kong, and its human rights regime in general as incompatible with Western values and often in violation of international laws and regulations. Poland has joined all the European Union’s initiatives on human rights issues in China as well as most of the United Nations’ statements related to Xinjiang. Therefore, while it does not seem that Poland wants to be at the forefront of the critique of China, the country has demonstrated a willingness to support multilateral efforts within the European Union and the international community.

For historical and geopolitical reasons, the advanced cooperation between China and Russia—symbolised by joint maritime drills on the Baltic Sea in 2017—has prompted concern both in government circles and in public debate. This is mainly because China is perceived to be a supporter of Russian policy towards Belarus, Ukraine, and Baltic states. This perception was recently strengthened by the derogatory and aggressive tone of coverage by nationalistic Chinese media of Lithuania’s decision to withdraw from the 17+1 initiative, as well as of the hijacking of a Ryanair plane by Belarusian authorities.

Key Sources

Institutions:

Poland has a growing community of experts researching China and its politics and international relations, based at institutions such as the Centre for Eastern Studies, the Polish Institute of International Affairs, and the War Studies University and Centre for Asian Affairs at Lodz University.

Reports and Articles:

Jakóbowski, Jakub. 2020. ‘Chinese Medical Equipment Supplies to Europe.’ Centre for Eastern Studies website, 20 March. Link.

Przychodniak, Marcin. 2021. A strategic partner of China or United States accomplice? Poland in the view of Chinese authorities and experts. Policy Paper. Warsaw: Polish Institute of International Affairs. Link.

Skorupska, Adriana and Justyna Szczudlik (eds). 2019. The Subnational Dimension of EU–China Relations. Warsaw: Polish Institute of International Affairs. Link.

Cover Photo: Wolin, Zachodniopomorskie, Polska, by Mal B (CC).

Serbia

Historical Background

The Republic of Serbia is China’s closest ally in Southeast Europe. Serbia has continued to build on the diplomatic work of former Yugoslavia and China considers it to be the principal successor state of the defunct federation. The two sides therefore date the establishment of diplomatic relations between Serbia and China to 1955, when Stalin’s death opened the ideological space for China to relax its anti-Yugoslav line. More than ideology however, it was pragmatic interests that defined their relationship following the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991. Although China did not veto the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Serbia after 1992 (it abstained), their relationship significantly improved following the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Beijing in 1999. Serbia has been a vocal supporter of the One China policy, while Beijing reciprocated by opposing Kosovo’s independence and still does not recognise it as a sovereign state. In 2009, the two countries signed a strategic partnership agreement, which was upgraded in 2016 to a comprehensive strategic partnership—one of China’s highest-ranking bilateral agreements. Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Serbia in 2016 on a three-day tour, during which the Smederevo steel mill was formally reopened under Chinese ownership.

BRI Status

Serbia formally joined the list of BRI countries in 2015, when it signed a memorandum of understanding with China on the Initiative. However, Serbia can be considered a key ‘proto-BRI’ location, where infrastructural projects predating Xi’s grand initiative were rebranded with the BRI label. Sino–Serbian infrastructural cooperation is based on an agreement signed in 2009, which has since been amended to exempt Chinese companies from public procurement rules.

Serbia’s cooperation with the BRI is formally overseen by the National Council for the Coordination of Cooperation with Russia and China, headed by former president Tomislav Nikolić. Practically, however, most BRI projects first appear on the agenda during meetings of the joint Sino–Serbian intergovernmental commission.The Serbian half of the commission was headed by infrastructure minister Zorana Mihajlović, and her ministry and staff lead on matters such as negotiating, contracting, and financing BRI projects in the country. In November 2020, finance minister Siniša Mali took over the post, signalling a shift of emphasis towards supporting Chinese FDI. Serbia is also a member of the 17+1 China–Central and Eastern European Countries forum, and hosted the group’s summit in 2014. While the multilateral arena has served Serbia well, only the Belgrade–Budapest high speed rail can truly be considered a concrete result of the multilateral forum, with all other Sino–Serbian projects agreed bilaterally.

Current Economic Relations

Trade: Bilateral trade between China and Serbia is marked by a remarkable imbalance. According to the Serbian government, Serbia imported over 2.5 billion USD worth of goods from China in 2019, and exported only $330 million. Although Serbian exports to China have been steadily increasing, China is not even among the top ten export destinations. 

Investment: More than trade, investment and loans are the main driver of Sino–Serbian economic relations. China accounted for 7% of cumulative foreign direct investment into Serbia from 2010 to 2019, although its share has risen steeply in the past few years to around 20% of total FDI value in 2019. In comparison, the European Union accounts for a staggering 71% of FDI. Yet, Chinese investors receive more political attention and support, having acquired nationally important (though often dysfunctional) companies with great fanfare, such as the acquisitions of the Smederevo steel mill by HeSteel, inaugurated by Xi Jinping himself, or of the Bor copper mining and smelting complex by Zijin. Serbian politicians furthermore often use the term ‘investment’ to describe Chinese state bank loans for infrastructure projects, which could exceed 7.6 billion EUR if all planned projects go ahead (data collated by author from Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of Serbia estimates, current October 2020). Chinese lenders have also been receptive to funding roads that have a high political value and low economic feasibility, such as the Belgrade-Bar highway connecting Serbia and Montenegro. 

Source: Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Aid: A 2020 poll revealed nearly 40% of Serbians believe China gives the most aid to Serbia, ahead of 17.6% who believe the EU to be the greatest source of aid. Yet China is estimated to have pledged only 56 million EUR  between 2010 and 2020, of which only 6.6 million EUR have been delivered. While data on Chinese aid is not widely accessible or reliable, the figure quoted above can be corroborated with the total amount of official intergovernmental assistance registered in Serbia’s Official Gazette, which comes up to 25 million EUR in grants and a further 26 million EUR in concessional loans between 2013 and 2017. In contrast, the European Union has provided Serbia with over 2.1 billion EUR in grants since 2007 through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance alone. Much like with investment and loans, this perception gap can be ascribed to a high degree of political support for China’s activities in Serbia. During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic in Serbia for example, prime minister Vučić scolded the European Union for banning the export of medical equipment, adding that only China could help Serbia and calling Xi Jinping his ‘brother’. Soon after, giant billboards declaring ‘Thank you, brother Xi!’  sprang up in Belgrade.

Key Controversies

Transparency: Many of the controversies surrounding Chinese-led projects in Serbia reflect the high risks that infrastructural projects carry in countries with weak institutions and strong, sometimes predatory, special interest groups. Yet specific requirements introduced by Chinese state actors to exempt its bidders from public procurement rules significantly raise risks for corruption and waste. Subcontractors on Chinese-run sites were also selected without public tenders, leading to lucrative deals awarded to politically connected companies with no previous construction experience. Furthermore, these exemptions insulate Chinese contractors from the need to adopt and/or understand European legal standards in areas such as transparency, environmental protection, or labour rights. Serbian politicians have however publicly extolled the advantages of circumventing public tendering, favourably comparing efficient Chinese-backed projects against delays on a road section financed by the World Bank.

Environment: Environmental compliance has been the bane of many Chinese projects in Serbia. The Kostolac coal power plant expansion was successfully challenged domestically over its environment impact assessment. It was investigated as a breach of state aid by the Energy Community, an EU-led treaty mechanism charged with extending the EU’s internal energy market beyond its borders. Lastly, the Kostolac project was also investigated for transboundary effects under the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, also known as the Espoo convention. The Bor copper mine has meanwhile found itself in court after the Ministry of Environmental Protection found it regularly exceeded SO2 emission limits. Environmental non-governmental organisations have successfully organised both legal and protest action in both cases. In a bizarre turn of events, they have been attacked by pro-government media as ‘George Soros mercenaries’ and accused of using lies to undermine valuable Chinese investment in the country. 

Labour practices: In 2017, HeSteel pressured the Serbian government to review sick leave rules that the company claimed were being abused by its employees at the Smederevo steel mill. The labour ministry in turn announced a ‘pilot project’ to review and monitor potential sick leave abuses despite having no legal competency to do so. Apart from labour issues, the takeover of the Smederevo steel mill by HeSteel has raised concerns the plant will be used to dump Chinese steel onto the European market, though Serbia has not been singled out and its EU import quota allocation remains similar to South Korea and Turkey.  

Illiberal politics: China’s role in Serbia’s democratic backsliding is another topic of concern. The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), a right-wing populist party in power since 2012, is no stranger to clientelist and authoritarian rule, but the availability of Chinese loans and politically mediated investment has the side-effect of reducing the reliance of the Serbian government on Western lenders,  thus removing some of their leverage. Recent attacks on NGOs critical of Chinese-backed projects by pro-government tabloids illustrate that defending Chinese interests is a matter of defending the government’s own record, which emphasises (or exaggerates) the economic benefits of Chinese investment, disregarding any irregularities and risks.

Key Sources

English-language Local Media:

Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia

Radio Free Europe (ex-Yugoslavia)

Balkan Investigative Reporter Network

Reports and Scholarly Articles:

  • CEE Bankwatch. 2019. Chinese-financed Coal Projects in Southeast Europe. CEE Bankwatch Network website, April. Link
  • Kratz, Agatha and Dragan Pavlićević. 2016. ‘Belgrade-Budapest via Beijing: A Case Study of Chinese Investment in Europe.’ ECFR Commentary, 21 November. Link
  • Pavlićević, Dragan. 2016. ‘China in Central and Eastern Europe: 4 Myths.’ The Diplomat, 16 June. Link.
  • Pavlićević, Dragan. 2018. ‘China Threat’ and ‘China Opportunity’: Politics of Dreams and Fears in China–Central and Eastern European Relations.’ Journal of Contemporary China 27, no. 113: 688–702.
  • Rogelja, Igor. 2020. ‘Concrete and Coal: China’s Infrastructural Assemblages in the Balkans.’ Political Geography 81, 102220.
  • Tsimonis, Konstantinos, Igor Rogelja , Ioana Ciută, Anastasia Frantzeskaki, Elena Nikolovska, and Besjan Pesha. 2019. ‘A Synergy of Failures: Environmental Protection and Chinese Capital in Southeast Europe.’ Journal of Current Chinese Affairs 48, no. 2: 171–200.

Cover Photo: Belgrade, Serbia. Credit (CC): Luca Sartoni, on Flickr.com.

Slovakia

Historical Background

Slovakia became independent only in 1993, when Czechoslovakia split into two separate countries. As a legal successor of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949, one of the earliest countries to do so. The 1950s can be considered a ‘golden age’, during which bilateral political, economic, and social relations flourished between the two countries. However, after the Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960s, relations froze and remained almost non-existent for the next two decades. Although the 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev was in power in the Soviet Union, saw a thaw in the relationship, the Velvet Revolution of 1989 in Czechoslovakia led to the establishment of a new anti-communist government that had very different strategic priorities than developing relations with China.

During most of the 1990s and 2000s, Slovakia focussed on entering the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)—which was achieved in 2004—and developing relations with partners in the West. At that time, Slovak leaders mostly kept a low profile when dealing with China, in an attempt to avoid controversies. Yet, in 2013, the Slovak government decided to accept the remaining Uyghur prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay Camp, incurring China’s wrath. In 2016, the Slovak President met the visiting Dalai Lama, which resulted in another public rebuke from the Chinese authorities. In both cases, however, there was no evidence of any Chinese retaliation, at least in terms of economic measures, besides symbolic diplomatic steps.

BRI Status

Slovakia is a member of the so-called 17+1 Platform, which includes China and 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The first summit at the level of prime ministers took place in 2012, and in 2015 the platform was ‘officially’ included as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during a summit in Suzhou, China. At that same summit, Slovakia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) related to the BRI. However, this MoU was not followed by any concrete action plan, and to this day no BRI-related project has been realised in the country. 

Perhaps the only noticeable development in relation to Slovakia and the BRI or the 17+1 Platform (besides the annual leaders’ summits) is in the area of technology. Since the summit in Suzhou in 2015, Slovakia has been mentioned in the 2017 Budapest Guidelines for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries as the ‘coordinator for the area of innovation, research, development and technology transfer’. As a result, a Virtual Technology Transfer Centre was established in the country. However, in the years since its establishment, the centre does not seem to have conducted any considerable activity besides organising a few seminars and a conference on innovation. Subsequently, the guidelines adopted at the 2019 17+1 Summit in Dubrovnik mentioned the establishment of a blockchain centre of excellence, which was also established in Slovakia and went on to organise the first China-CEE blockchain summit in Bratislava in the same year.

Overall, Slovakia can be counted as one of the least active countries within the 17+1 Platform when it comes to engaging China. While many of the country’s neighbours—such as Hungary, and previously also Poland and the Czech Republic—put significant effort into enticing China to invest in various projects, the Slovak approach has remained lukewarm.

Current Economic Relations 

According to data from the Slovak Embassy in Beijing, Slovak economic exposure to China is relatively limited, especially when compared to most other countries around the world. In terms of trade, as of 2019, only about 2% of Slovak exports went to China, making China the twelfth largest export destination for Slovak products, the vast majority of which were cars and auto components produced by multinational companies. On the other hand, China was the third largest source of imports to Slovakia behind Germany and the Czech Republic, accounting for 6% of all imports in the country.

When it comes to investment, various sources show different figures, but they all agree on the basic fact that China is not a major foreign direct investment (FDI) provider in Slovakia. According to official figures from the Slovak Central Bank, the Chinese FDI stock in the country in 2019 was only worth about 30 million EUR. Data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce for the same year shows around 83 million USD (68 million EUR). The Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentions about 245 million EUR of Chinese investments (including those ‘in the process’) in 2019, while the Chinese Ambassador mentioned in an interview with a Slovak journalist 400 million EUR without adding any further detail. The only large-scale Chinese investment in Slovakia is a logistics centre near Galanta, which is worth 140 million EUR and the Chinese state-owned investment company CNIC acquired from the previous owner Prologis in 2017.

Source: Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

As a member of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Slovakia is not a recipient of development aid. During the COVID-19 pandemic, China provided significant amounts of medical supplies. Most of  them were sold commercially, but some were donated, for instance under the scope of sister-city/region links with Shanghai and Cangzhou, or by the Sino-Czech-Slovak Friendship Farm.

Key Controversies

Due to the limited scope of the bilateral engagements, there are few controversies. One issue worth noting is that Slovak officials have long attempted to get permission to export agricultural products to China and have complained of the prolonged and cumbersome process. For instance, it took five years for Slovakia to get the approval (announced in 2019) to export milk to China, and at the time of writing it remains unclear when—if ever—any Slovak milk products will start being exported to China. In addition, various projects under discussion with Chinese government officials and companies have not materialised, such as the construction of a hydropower plant on the Ipel river and a wide-gauge railway through the entire territory of the country to the Austrian border, the acquisition of the Bratislava airport and of the Slovenske Elektrarne Company, and the opening of direct flight connections.

Key Sources

The main English-language media outlet in Slovakia is The Slovak Spectator. The main source of information on Slovak-China relations is the Central European Institute of Asian Studies, an independent think tank. Among other activities, CEIAS publishes a monthly CEEasia newsletter. Some of the most recent and relevant publications of CEIAS on the topic of Slovakia-China relations include:

  • ‘Slovakia and China: Challenges to the Future of the Relationship.’ Link
  • ‘Security Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative for Slovakia.’ Link
  • ‘Slovak Public Opinion on China in the Age of COVID-19: Caught Between Values and Conspiracies.’ Link.
  • ‘Slovak Policy Towards China in the Age of Belt and Road Initiative and 16+1 Format.’ Link

Cover Photo: Luca Sartoni (CC).

Switzerland

Background

Switzerland, which is not part of the European Union, has generally had closer ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) than other Western European countries. The Swiss foreign policy approach, which is based on the principle of neutrality and is predominantly economy-oriented, has facilitated this.

In January 1950, Switzerland was one of the first countries to officially recognise the PRC—a fact that Chinese diplomats continue to appreciate and stress today. During the Cold War, Switzerland, as the base of many international organisations, served as a hub for Chinese intelligence networks, propaganda, and soft power in Europe. The PRC’s first diplomatic mission in central Western Europe was in Switzerland and, until the mid 1960s, Chinese scientific, commercial, and political interests in Europe were handled by the Chinese Embassy in Bern. During the Cold War, other Western European and North American countries placed an embargo on the PRC. Switzerland, however, continued trading with China—until the pressure from the United States became too great.

From the mid 1970s, economic ties grew closer again. In December 1974, during the Cultural Revolution in China, Switzerland signed a trade agreement with the PRC and established a Joint Economic Commission. In the decades after the beginning of economic reforms in China in 1978, bilateral and economic ties deepened further. In the early 1980s, it was a Swiss company, the elevator producer Schindler, that established the first Western joint venture in China. It became a model for Euro-American knowledge and technology transfers to the PRC. In 2014, a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Switzerland and China came into force—the only Chinese FTA in continental Europe. In 2015, direct trading between the Chinese renminbi and Swiss franc was launched, making Switzerland one of the few clearing and trading centres in Europe for the Chinese currency. In 2016, Switzerland became a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a Chinese initiative.

Alongside the economy, research, innovation, and education are essential components of both countries’ foreign policies. In 1989, China and Switzerland launched a bilateral agreement on science and technology cooperation, followed by numerous bilateral research, innovation, and education agreements and dialogues in the 2000s and 2010s. These include a 2007 Memorandum of Understanding on Promoting Dialogue and Cooperation, as well as the 2016 Innovative Strategic Partnership. To date, there are 30 bilateral dialogues, on areas including human rights, science, intellectual property, finance, and tax matters. Some 15 of these are ongoing at the time of writing.

Overall, in line with Switzerland’s ‘economic pragmatism’, the Chinese Government considers Switzerland more pragmatic and less confrontational than other European countries and their relationship as a model for other European countries. However, this has been tempered somewhat by the publication of the more critical Swiss China Strategy 2021–24. This strategy builds on the Swiss Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 and outlines a range of challenges related to Sino-Swiss collaborations (see Key Controversies).

BRI Status

In April 2019, Switzerland was one of the first Western European countries to sign a Belt and Road Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). In contrast to other Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries that serve as sites for Chinese infrastructure construction, no official BRI infrastructure projects have been established in Switzerland to date. This is related to the type of MoU and its focus on third countries.

The MoU aims, first, ‘to further deepen the innovative strategic partnership between Switzerland and China’ and, second, ‘to expand areas of collaboration in trade, investment and finance for projects in third countries along the Belt and Road Initiative’. The emphasis is on supporting Swiss and Chinese companies to jointly explore ‘opportunities … in third-party markets’. Swiss and Chinese enterprises, industry associations, financial institutions, and insurers are mentioned as the main actors. According to the MoU, collaboration should comply with international practices and norms like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as principles of social and environmental sustainability. Moreover, the MoU includes facilitating a ‘BRI Competence-Building Platform’ in Switzerland for Chinese and third-country BRI stakeholders.

The BRI has been taken up in the Swiss Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23, which assigns the PRC the status of a priority country. It highlights, on the one hand, the objective of improving the general conditions for Swiss companies to participate in BRI projects while ‘making the most of the opportunities of the BRI for Swiss interests and the economy’. On the other hand, it calls for ‘compliance with universal values and rules to ensure that the BRI can be implemented in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner for the benefit of target countries’.

In practice, Switzerland’s participation in BRI projects remains modest. Only some big Swiss companies like ABB or the banks Credit Suisse (now part of UBS) and Vontobel, which have close relationships with China, have reportedly participated in such projects—both before and after the BRI’s 2013 launch. As a result, the MoU has aroused relatively little criticism from the Swiss public, many of whom seem unaware of Switzerland’s status as a BRI country.

This is somewhat different in industry circles, especially regarding digital infrastructure. Here, both Swiss and Chinese company representatives and Chinese diplomats in Switzerland repeatedly foster the narrative of a Digital Silk Road (DSR), the BRI’s digital component. Existing fibre-optic cable connections and data centres that link the two countries and transmit data faster and with lower latency are readily linked to the DSR narrative—albeit collaboration in this field pre-dates the BRI. Chinese enterprises in Switzerland and Swiss multinational enterprises with premises in China feel especially strongly the difference that improved fibre-optic connections make. These enterprises, such as the multinational Swiss Bühler Group and China Construction Bank’s Zurich branch, are also the main target group for Chinese telecommunication companies in Switzerland.

Current Economic Relations

Trade: Over recent decades, trade between the PRC and Switzerland has been growing. The 2014 bilateral FTA includes provisions on trade in goods and services, non-tariff barriers to trade, intellectual property protection, and sustainable trade and development.

For Switzerland, the PRC is an important trading partner. Since 2010, China has been Switzerland’s biggest trading partner in Asia. Moreover, it is Switzerland’s third-largest trading partner globally, after the European Union and the United States. However, for the PRC, trade with Switzerland plays a rather marginal role. In 2021, exports to Switzerland constituted only 0.2 per cent of total Chinese exports. Meanwhile, Swiss imports to China made up only 1.5 per cent of all Chinese imports.

In 2021, gold, pharmaceutical products, and watches were the most important goods being exported from Switzerland to China. Mainly due to the gold trade, Switzerland usually has a trade surplus with the PRC, which is rare among Western countries. Yet, the gold trade is highly volatile and trade numbers fluctuate accordingly. In 2021, the most important goods imported to Switzerland from the PRC were computers, mobile phones, and watch parts containing precious metals. Moreover, trade in services in both directions is of growing importance.

Investment: Generally, Chinese investments in Switzerland are rather modest, although the 2010s saw strong growth. Between 2016 and 2019, Chinese investments in Switzerland increased sharply. In 2016, the state-owned ChemChina acquired the Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta for 43 billion USD. This not only marked a peak in Chinese investments in Switzerland but also was the biggest acquisition ever made by a Chinese company. It raised public and political awareness as well as controversy about Chinese investments (see Key Controversies). In the years since, Chinese investments in Switzerland have slowed and maintained a steadier pace. In 2021, investments amounted to about 17.7 billion CHF (about 20 billion USD). In view of the total Chinese outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2021, this constituted only a minimal share—close to 1 per cent. In comparison, Swiss FDI in the PRC is higher. By the end of 2021, total Swiss FDI in China was about 26 billion CHF (about 29 billion USD). Yet this, too, was low from a monetary standpoint, accounting for only about 1 per cent of inward FDI in the PRC. From the perspective of technology and knowledge transfers, these Swiss investments nevertheless play a role in the Chinese industrial context. At the same time, while China is a pivotal market for Swiss exporters, Switzerland significantly relies on Chinese imports, particularly in the field of machinery.

Notably, to date, there are no general foreign investment controls in Switzerland, although this could soon change. Partly sparked by Chinese investments, the draft of a new law controlling foreign investment has been debated since at least 2018 and is expected to be proposed by the end of 2023. Accordingly, the number of Chinese companies is currently difficult to ascertain. In 2021, there were reportedly 133 companies in Switzerland owned by Chinese multinationals, meaning that Switzerland had the sixth-highest number of Chinese company transactions in Europe. Yet, most FDI capital in Switzerland still stems from the United States and the European Union. In 2019, Chinese FDI made up only 1.1 per cent of the total FDI Switzerland received that year.

Other Finance: Amid growing Sino-US tensions and increasing hurdles for Chinese company listings on US stock exchanges, Switzerland has emerged as a new favoured place for Chinese listings in Europe, alongside Frankfurt and London (which has also recently raised its barriers to Chinese listings). In July 2022, the SIX Swiss Exchange and stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen launched the ‘China–Switzerland Stock Connect’ program, which allows Chinese companies listed on the two Chinese exchanges to access the Swiss capital market by listing Global Depositary Receipts on the SIX. As of September 2023, 15 Chinese companies had done this. These are large, often domestically leading companies that operate in diverse sectors related to recycling, batteries, medical products, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, carbon, machinery, and tool production. Another 30 or so Chinese companies have reportedly announced their intention to follow suit.

Key Controversies

Switzerland has generally been less confrontational towards the PRC than other Western European and North American countries. In dealing with the PRC, the country has been facing an ongoing dilemma of how to balance economic interests with human and democratic values. In practice, Swiss foreign policy approaches have often given priority to economic interests. Accordingly, debates about China have been less heated than in other countries in Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Nevertheless, in recent years, more critical stances have come to the fore, especially with the publication of the Swiss China Strategy 2021–24. While the Chinese Ambassador in Switzerland promptly condemned the strategy, it remains unclear how the Swiss Government intends to implement it. Key controversies revolve around the following issues, most of which are mentioned in the China Strategy.

Free-Trade Agreement: Therehas been a debate among Swiss politicians and company representatives about the ‘modernisation’ of the FTA with China. The China Strategy 2021–24 mentions the objective to update the FTA to facilitate Swiss companies’ access to the Chinese market. In addition, a group of politicians from the Swiss Foreign Affairs Committees have suggested including in the FTA a binding chapter on compliance with human and labour rights. However, in September 2021, the Swiss National Council refused to add such a chapter, stating that the FTA and the Supplementary Agreement on Labour and Employment Issues already contained the elements needed to engage in dialogue with China on the issue of compliance with labour standards and human rights in the context of trade. In terms of human rights, in 2019, Beijing suspended a related dialogue with the Swiss Government that had existed since 1991. After a four-year break, in July 2023, the dialogue is about to be relaunched. Swiss politicians from various parties hold differing opinions on the usefulness of this dialogue.

BRI: There have been debates about the effects of the BRI for both Switzerland and third countries linked to the initiative. These were manifest in two parliamentary interpellations (requests for information) to the Federal Council on potential Swiss dependencies related to the BRI (in May 2019) and on the impact of the BRI on sustainable procurement (December 2020). The Swiss Federal Council concluded these with two official statements, in August 2019 and February 2021, respectively, confirming continued Swiss participation in the BRI.

Chinese Investments: Chinese investments in Switzerland have sparked some controversy, including the abovementioned 43 billion USD takeover of Syngenta in 2016. Another controversial case was the takeover of the Swiss flight catering company Gategroup through the state-affiliated Chinese conglomerate HNA in the same year. Additionally, HNA acquired the aircraft maintenance company SR Technics, aircraft and airport service provider Swissport, and more. In 2021, HNA made global headlines because of its disproportionate number of global acquisitions and subsequent insolvency. Moreover, several smaller takeovers have sparked emotional debates among the Swiss public and media, including takeovers of Zurich’s football club GCZ and several so-called traditional Swiss companies like the bottle producer Sigg and watch producers. Moreover, at the time of writing, debate continues about a planned Chinese takeover of the rights to the Mühlackern source—one of the largest sources of drinking water in Switzerland. Taken together, these controversies around Chinese investments fed into the adoption of the Parliamentary Motion 18.3021 Rieder, ‘Protection of the Swiss Economy through Investment Controls’, in March 2020, and the current creation of a legal basis to control foreign investments.

Digital Infrastructure: Cybersecurity debates involving Chinese information and communication technology (ICT) equipment have taken place in Switzerland, too. In addition, questions have been raised about how Switzerland should position itself in the context of the Sino-US trade war and growing US pressure to not rely on Chinese technologies. Nevertheless, to date, Switzerland has not banned Chinese digital infrastructure equipment providers. All major telecom operators in Switzerland continue to collaborate with Huawei Technologies. Moreover, in mid 2021, the Federal Government reportedly outsourced state data to the Chinese Alibaba Group, which caused some controversy. Meanwhile, the presence of the headquarters of international organisations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Switzerland makes the country attractive to the Chinese Government and to technology companies that aim to set global technological standards. Partly related to this, in 2019 and 2020, Huawei opened research centres in Zurich and Lausanne, respectively.

Science and Technology Collaboration: Given that Switzerland scores particularly highly in global science and innovation rankings, there are growing concerns about science and technology collaborations with Chinese companies and scientists. Numerous Swiss universities, including universities of applied science, collaborate with Huawei Technologies. Moreover, companies like Huawei and Alibaba fund universities and research projects and equip universities’ telecommunication networks. Collaborations with Chinese companies and scientists and public incidents at universities in St Gallen and Zurich (for instance, at the Federal Institute of Technology and the Zurich University of the Arts) have sparked controversy in the public, media, and politics, raising questions about unwanted knowledge and technology flows to the PRC as well as Chinese influence on academic freedom in Switzerland. Swiss universities have responded by devising their own China strategies. Some have produced compliance guides and established export controls.

Key Sources

Scholarly Publications and In-Depth Reports:

China Macro Group. 2023. ‘Sino-Swiss: From Honing a “Special Relationship” to Balancing New Geopolitical Complexities—Understanding Swiss Discourse, Policy and Outlook of Sino-Swiss Relations.’ CMG Primer. Zurich: China Macro Group. Link.

Coduri, Michele, Hans Keller, and Eleonore Baumberger. 2009. ‘China.’ In Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz [Historical Dictionary of Switzerland], edited by HLS, a company of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences. Bern: HLS. Link.

Cordoba, Cyril. 2022. China–Swiss Relations during the Cold War, 1949–89: Between Soft Power and Propaganda. London: Routledge. Link.

Dümmler, Patrick, Teresa Hug Alonso, and Mario Bonato. 2022. Navigating Troubled Waters: Three Options for Switzerland in Its Dealings with China. Strategy Report. Zurich: Avenir Suisse. Link.

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation. 2021. China Strategy 2021–24. Bern: Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Link.

Fischer, Sophie-Charlotte. 2022. ‘US–China “Tech Decoupling”: A Swiss Perspective.’ CSS Policy Perspectives 10(10). Link.

Grano, Simona A., and Ralph Weber. 2023. ‘Strategic Choices for Switzerland in the US–China Competition.’ In China–US Competition: Impact on Small and Middle Powers’ Strategic Choices, edited by Simona A. Grano and David Wei Feng Huang, 85–112. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. Link.

Herrmann, Markus, Patrick Renz, Michael Settelen, and Swiss Forum of Foreign Policy. 2020. ‘Switzerland: Covid-19 Has Not Altered Limited China Policy Debate.’ In COVID19 and Europe–China Relations: A Country-Level Analysis, edited by John Seaman, 71–73. European Think-Tank Network on China Special Report. Paris: French Institute of International Relations. Link.

Kaufmann, Lena. 2020. ‘Altdorf–Shanghai–Shenzhen–Liebefeld: Swiss–Chinese Entanglements in Digital Infrastructures.’ In Data Centers: Edges of a Digital Nation, edited by Monika Dommann, Hannes Rickli, and Max Stadler, 262–89. Zurich: Lars Müller Publishers. Link.

Kaufmann, Lena. 2021. ‘Prefiguring China’s Digital Silk Road to Europe: Connecting Switzerland.’ Transformations: Downstream Effects of the BRI, [Blog], Belt and Road in Global Perspective at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto. Link.

Kaufmann, Lena, and Niklaus Remund. Forthcoming (2024). ‘Sino-Swiss Entanglements: Historical and Ethnographic Perspectives on Swiss–Chinese Economic Collaborations.’ Studies in Contemporary History.

Knüsel, Ariane. 2022. China’s European Headquarters: Switzerland and China during the Cold War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Link.

Knüsel, Ariane, Cyril Cordoba, and Matthieu Gillabert (eds). 2020. Schweiz und Ostasien/Suisse et Asie de l’Est: Vernetzungen und Verflechtungen/Réseaux et interconnexions [Switzerland and East Asia: Networks and Connections]. Traverse. Zeitschrift für Geschichte/Revue d’Histoire 1/2020. Zürich: Chronos. Link.

Wang, Shichen. 2017. ‘Sino-Swiss Strategic Partnership: A Model for China–Europe Relations.’ China Quarterly of International Strategic Studies 3(2): 267–82. Link.

Weber, Ralph. 2020. ‘Unified Message, Rhizomatic Delivery: A Preliminary Analysis of PRC/CCP Influence and the United Front in Switzerland.’ Sinopsis: China in Context and Perspective. Prague: AcaMedia and Charles University, Prague. Link.

Zhang, Zhan. 2022. ‘The Mediated Engagement of Switzerland with BRI: A Transnational Comparative Framing Analysis.’ Journal of Transcultural Communication 2(1): 1–23. Link.

Cover Photo: Grimselpass, Switzerland, by @gatogatogato, Flickr.com (CC).
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