This report, the third in a series on Chinese economic activities in the Western Balkans, provides recommendations for U.S. and partner responses to China’s growing economic and political influence in the region and a “red flags” checklist to help identify activities that warrant further scrutiny.
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Serbia is a hub for a wide range of Chinese economic activity in the Western Balkans, as previous CSIS research has indicated. This report, the second in a series, examines Serbia in greater detail to shed more light on China’s political and economic objectives, its mechanisms for influence, and the implications of its activities, including a second wave of digital infrastructure projects.
As China’s funding for infrastructure and other investments expands along its Belt and Road Initiative, its economic and political influence is growing in the Western Balkans, a strategically contested area on the EU’s periphery. This report, part of a two-year effort to track Chinese economic influence in the region, draws from a new CSIS dataset to identify key trends, including China’s geographic and sectoral priorities, low project completion rates, and an emerging second wave of digital investments.
While the core focus of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is on traditional infrastructure deployments, it is evident that the Digital Silk Road is a key part of the overall BRI strategy, and China will leverage technology to increase its influence along the route.
China’s economic footprint and political avenues of influence in the Western Balkans have deepened and widened through its 17+1 format and the Belt and Road Initiative with profound implications for the region’s economic development and long-term dependency.