Sino–Russian interests in Serbia: competitive, coordinated or complementary?


This report from UK think tank RUSI looks at how Serbia balances the interests of Russia and China to its own benefit.

Serbia sometimes appears to be a country caught between Russia and China, the two most powerful players in Eurasia. Yet, as this paper demonstrates, it seems Serbia is able to balance the interests of these powerful players across its political, defence and economic spheres for its own benefit. This is largely because – at least for the time being – all three countries’ interests are broadly aligned. There appears to be little scope for competition between Russia and China over the Serbian market in specific sectors, particularly as Moscow’s entrenched presence in Serbia’s energy market has made it difficult for Beijing to gain access. But Russia and China also appear to be keen to avoid confrontation over assets in Serbia, and their fundamental approaches to the country are different and rarely overlap. As part of a series of studies on Russian and Chinese strategic influence and interference in Europe, this paper examines four key areas of Russian and Chinese interests in Serbia and analyses where they converge and diverge. Ultimately, this paper seeks to disaggregate Russian and Chinese political, defence, cultural and educational interests in Serbia and challenge the assumption that these interests are always malign or not accepted by the host country.

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