China has become the most prominent third actor in the Western Balkans. The Country’s activities are spread unevenly across the region, but they follow a common approach.

This approach is marked by China’s wide-ranging efforts to establish itself in key economic areas and to gradually position itself as an indispensable actor.

China is slowly transforming its interactions with Western Balkans countries in sectors such as culture, media, and politics into long-term and institutionalised relationships. 

As European and US ambivalence towards the Western Balkans persists, the region will be in increasing danger of falling into an endless spiral of competition between various foreign actors.

Western Policymakers should address the widening development gap between the region and the EU through initiatives such as targeted investment plans in energy and infrastructure, sectoral integration frameworks and the frontloading of EU law in the accession process.

Author: Vladimir Shopov, Visiting Fellow with Wider Europe Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
How China became Power in the Western Balkans (Belt & Road)