China's New Balkan Strategy
August 29, 2011
Communist China did not assume a direct role in the volatile Balkan region until the late 1970s. Despite robust cooperation with Albania, mainly built upon a shared opposition to Soviet claims of world communist leadership, it was not until the summer of 1978 that Beijing articulated a coherent policy to deal with Southeastern Europe. For a post-Mao leadership, the Balkan region had then become an important element in a broad diplomatic offensive meant to secure a foothold in the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, open up to the Third World, and forge valuable relationships with nations which could help modernize the Middle Kingdom. In effect, China severed ties with Enver Hoxha’s Albania to develop tighter economic, political, and personal bonds with Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia and Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Romania.
However, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the bloody disintegration of Yugoslavia prevented China from sustaining strong links with Southeastern Europe. As the Balkan region is returning to stability, the time has come for Beijing to invent a new strategy and spread its influence through increased trade, clean energy investments, and embryonic political alliances.