On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held last year in Beijing, a Serbian expert has numerated to Xinhua a number of tangible benefits the China-proposed initiative has brought to his country.
According to Neven Cveticanin, a senior research assistant at the Institute of Social Sciences, the most visible fruit borne so far is the Zemun-Borca Bridge, newly-named Pupin Bridge, built and funded by Chinese companies. The bridge has become the second across the Danube River in Belgrade after 79 years.
"It's a very useful bridge between two parts of Belgrade, and we see travel on the bridge every day in our ordinary life," Cveticanin explained.
If the bridge serving over 1 million Belgraders grabs the top in the eyes of Cveticanin, the steel mill in Smederevo that helped save some 5,000 jobs after it was purchased by a Chinese company has to be the next.
Similar achievements are being done or to be done in projects discussed and advanced at last year's forum in Beijing, including modernization of the Belgrade-Stara Pazova railway, construction of a joint industrial park as well as deals on how to boost agricultural cooperation.
But Cveticanin believes the true benefits are far more reaching than what the several landmark projects created.
The results are just on the street, said the expert. "We can notice that many Chinese citizens came to Serbia for business and tourism, and some small Chinese companies such as restaurants and small markets are popular among Serbian customers."
China has come into the daily life of Serbians, said Cveticanin.
For the scholars like Cveticanin, some benefits brought by the growing Serbia-China cooperation may not be as visible as those seen in businesses but still tangible.
He gave himself as an example, saying the closer bilateral ties brought closer the scholars of the two sides including him.
Last December he participated in Beijing at a meeting of think-tanks from 16 countries of Central and East Europe and China, and had a chance to "exchange some notes and some thoughts" with his counterparts.
Cveticanin believes increased cooperation in science and education will bring in the development and cooperation in overall ties.
Therefore he suggested that Serbia and China should encourage the exchanges between universities and experts of the two countries.
By numerating the bilateral achievements, Cveticanin sees opportunities beyond the two countries. He believes that China-Serbia cooperation can set an example to CEE countries, and thus boost China-CEE cooperation.
"This initiative, the Belt and Road, is useful for cooperation between the two countries... China established a win-win strategy in which it invests in infrastructure and projects which can be useful not only for Serbia but for Europe as well," he said.
He continued the initiative is wise, impressive and one of the biggest in the world in terms of money and projects.
"If China shows results in Serbia, and if this cooperation proves useful for the country, its economy and citizens, it could be a good example for other countries," Cveticanin said.
"Despite Serbia's candidacy to the European Union and what it needs to fulfill to join EU, at this moment, Serbia is still open and still in a position to implement bilateral cooperation between Serbia and China, which is a trend not only in Serbia, not only in Central and Eastern Europe, but in Europe as a whole," he further explained.
Cveticanin estimates that China will remain a credible partner of both West and the East thanks to its wise strategy.
"I think that all CEE countries are in a position to seek cooperation in various parts of the world. We know that we are under Western umbrella in terms of the global spheres of interest, but after all I think that it will be no problem to cooperate with China as well," he concluded.
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