Investing in the Balkans, China Sidesteps Kosovo

China’s controversial investment push into the Balkans has notably sidestepped Kosovo, a state it does not recognise.

From Montenegro’s ‘road to ruin’ to Serbia’s Smederevo steel mill, China is all over the Balkans these days. Except in Kosovo.

“In Kosovo you can find many goods from China, but no investment at all,” said Safet Gërxhaliu, an expert on economics and until recently head of Kosovo’s Chamber of Commerce.

For better or worse, China’s economic footprint in the Balkans has grown significantly over the past decade.

But when it comes to Kosovo, there’s one major obstacle – Beijing does not recognise the former Serbian province as independent, and is unlikely to do so given its own ‘breakaway’ issues with Taiwan and while Chinese relations remain so warm with Serbia.

Kosovo, too, views China alongside Russia as a firm ally of former master Serbia, standing in the way of the young state’s membership of the United Nations thanks to its Security Council veto. That makes any eventual Chinese investment a political risk.

Vuk Vuksanovic, a PhD candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics, said that while Serbia and Kosovo remain at odds over the latter’s statehood, China is unlikely to set aside the question of Kosovo’s political status and pursue purely economic collaboration. Serbia has vowed never to recognise Kosovo as independent.

“China sees Serbia as its most important partner in the region at this point,” Vuksanovic told BIRN. “Unless there is some agreement with Belgrade, it is hard to envision China venturing economically into Kosovo in any serious way. It is also dubious how enthusiastic Kosovo would be about the Chinese factor, given the strong pro-American proclivity among the Kosovo Albanians.”

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