The 'Belt and Road' initiative has given wind in the backs of large Chinese companies to enter global markets in search of investment opportunities.
The view of China from the Balkans, and therefore from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is still characterized by various stereotypes related to ancient, past time and a world that no longer exists. Bosnians and Herzegovinians who have had the opportunity to visit Beijing, Shanghai and other multimillion inhabitants cities in previous years, cities where the Slavic language is claimed while trying to pronounce their names correctly, testify that China has stepped strongly into the 21st century.
After a century of European domination, the pendulum is moving to the East again, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. It is estimated that by 2030, along with the United States and Russia, of the six countries with the largest gross domestic product, four of them could be from Asia, namely China, India, Japan and Indonesia.
The People's Republic of China will celebrate its 70th anniversary this year. The establishment of the new China was preceded by a century of disasters, territorial conquests and the exploitation of natural resources, which ended in a national liberation and anti-fascist struggle,similar to that waged by the South Slavic peoples.
Last year, the People's Republic of China marked 40 years since the beginning of reforms and opening, in the modern history of the unprecedented development of a country. By 2025, China will replace the European Union as the world's largest gas importer. This year China sent a space crew to the dark side of the Moon.
A 55-kilometer bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai in Guangdong Province was built. China's GDP in 2018 was 91.928 trillion yuan, and the total value of imports and exports exceeded 30 trillion yuan.
"Chinese" numbers cause dizziness. Only Beijing has as many inhabitants as eight "Bosnia and Herzegovina". But the image of China from the 1970s still seems to be wrongly prevalent for many Europeans.
3,000 years ago, the Old World, made up of three continents, was connected by the Silk Road. Along the same routes, Marco Polo from China brought numerous blessings to Europe, including a compass, paper and ice cream. Last year marked five years since the establishment of the "Belt and Road" initiative.
It is a foreign policy initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which has brought new freshness to the old engines of globalization. The idea is essentially to re-establish the same or similar paths, only now through five connections: politics, resources, trade, finance, and people.
The "Belt and Road" has developed in several directions, from the New Eurasian Land Bridge (NELB), which goes to Rotterdam and Antwerp, to the Silk Sea Road, which starts from Chinese port cities and ends (or begins!) in the Mediterranean. One of the Mediterranean branches also touches Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small country of great potential.
Opening and cooperation are based on the philosophy advocated by President Xi, "community with shared future for mankind", which is a new paradigm in international relations, opposite to the Cold War mentality, what is largely ruled 20th century. At a time of growing economic protectionism and political xenophobia, the chief architect of the Belt and Road has offered the world Chinese solutions that seek further opening.
In less than two months, the second "Belt and Road Forum" will be held in Beijing, which will be one of the most important multilateral gatherings of world leaders this year. The Belt and Road Initiative documents have been signed by more than 140 countries and international organizations, including Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Five years after its establishment, the Initiative has entered a new phase of stable progress and sustainable growth. The countries of that initiative recorded a significant increase in imports and exports with China by 13.3 percent, compared to an increase of 7.9 percent with the countries of the European Union, and 5.7 percent with the United States. Last year, Chinese companies made a non-financial direct investment of 15.64 billion dollars in 56 countries along the "Belt and Road", which is an increase of 8.9 percent or 13 percent of the total Chinese indirect financial investments.
The rapid increase in Chinese investment along the "Belt and Road" can, to some extent, offset the effects of Western capital withdrawals. However, it is common knowledge that many of these countries are not the most attractive investment opportunity, and growing trade protectionism and unilateralism further limit access to finance for developing countries.
"Belt and Road" has its critics, as well as open enemies. The common concern goes in the direction of the quality of Chinese industry products or financial arrangements through Chinese banks, as dangers threatening debt bondage in the event that certain projects prove unprofitable.
According to published data, Chinese loans to Africa from 2000 to 2016 accounted for only 1.8 percent of Africa's total debt and were mostly concentrated in infrastructure. (By the way, Chinese investments along the "Belt and Road" are concentrated in this area and because developed Western countries are reluctant to invest in infrastructure that is, we know in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as those in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Montenegro or in the Philippines, necessary for development).
Without infrastructure and energy independence, there is no industrial development and these projects require the support of large banks, from the East or from the the West. The fact is that Chinese banks do not condition credit lines on structural reforms in society, as is the fact that the political elites of one country must be able, with the help of experts, to make decisions with all the carried consequences.
The "Belt and Road" initiative has given wind in the back to large Chinese companies to enter global markets in search of investment opportunities. Companies like Huawei, Xiaomi or Hisense are already known to the broad masses from Triglav (Slovenia) to Gevgelija (Macedonia) who use devices, mobile phones, TV sets.
"Dongfang Electric", which built the "Stanari" Thermal Power Plant near Doboj and is the chosen partner for the construction of TPP Banovići, is the brightest example of cooperation within the "Belt and Road" Initiative. "Gezhouba", a company that will soon build Block 7 of the Thermal Power Plant in Tuzla with American and European partners, the largest post-war investment project, will only show its skills, and after the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina gives its final consent to credit indebtedness. finally breathe, the miners relying on the thermal power plant will be provided with a livelihood).
"Shandong" received a concession for the construction of the Banja Luka - Prijedor highway, with which the Chinese officially entered the road construction sector. Some more companies with an impressive portfolio are also present in the region and show very interested in investing.
Infrastructure projects are accompanied by unimagined opportunities for the development of cooperation in tourism. Every year, the number of Chinese people leaving China in search of world destinations grows. Their number in 2018 was 150 million. The share of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the same year with the abolition of the visa regime increased significantly and exceeded 50,000, which is not a single per mille of the total number. But it also shows how much room for improvement there is.
Through "16 + 1", a forum in which the Government of the People's Republic of China has gathered 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina has already become active in the realization of projects of mutual importance. Every year, in one of the countries from the Baltics to the Adriatic, prime ministers and ministers gather and adopt strategic documents and start implementing new projects in specific areas in which individual countries express interest, from agriculture through infrastructure to innovation.
All in the interest of win-win cooperation, in which there are no winners and losers, as in the geopolitical game of power, which is so deeply rooted in the Eurocentric mentality that it is difficult for us to think "outside the box" and the victory-defeat dichotomy.
Senior officials of the People's Republic of China have so far expressed their support for the path chosen by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is membership in the European Union, which is, it should be emphasized, China's largest trading partner and whose leaders at the state and EU level meet regularly with Chinese leaders.
The volume of mutual exchange between China and the EU in 2012 reached 546 billion dollars. The EU invested $ 89.93 billion in China in the same year. The value of goods transported between China and Europe in 2013 reached 393 billion euros. In 2014, China became the world leader in terms of trade volume - four trillion dollars, and the volume of trade with the EU is growing with the expectation that in 2020 it will reach one trillion US dollars.
The new ambassador of the People's Republic of China to that country, Ji Ping, recently came to Bosnia and Herzegovina and said that he would focus on establishing three bridges in the relations between China and Bosnia and Herzegovina: bridges of friendship, practical cooperation and human and cultural exchange. He stressed that the development of China cannot be separated from the world, just as the development of the world cannot be separated from China. It may be pretentious to say that the future development of Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot be imagined without China, but domestic political elites should not miss the chance to enable a better and better life for all their citizens through joint cooperation with a sincerely and unconditionally friendly state.