Serbia and China are successfully working toward better bilateral ties despite external pressures, said Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin on Tuesday during his stay in the Chinese capital for this year’s Beijing Xiangshan Forum.

The Serbian Official sees the relationship between Serbian & China as an equal partnership, even though the latter has a larger territorial and military presence de facto.

“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is rightfully a super force, because it respects the international law. Serbia is a small country, our population is less than 7 million. But in our dialog and cooperation with the PRC, we never feel the difference in size or power.

The volume of military power is not important, the important thing is who controls it. The People’s Republic of China has shown that it is a peace-loving country, that it doesn’t have any territorial pretensions, that it doesn’t want anything from anyone, and strongly advocates the international law,” said Vulin.

He added that his country will not cave to any external pressure to reduce the presence of China, because forging cooperation with China serves the interests of Serbia and other Balkan countries.

“The People’s Republic of China treats Serbia as its equal partner, and the presence of the PRC in Serbia and in the Balkan region is of great interest to us. Of course, there are strong pressures on the Republic of Serbia to reduce the presence of China, not to allow Chinese investments, not to participate together in international forums, and even to impose sanctions.

The Republic of Serbia would simply never do that, our friendship is as firm as steel, and we believe that the presence of the People’s Republic of China in the Balkan region is calming and good, and that it will contribute to our economic and political stability,” he said.

China and Serbia lifted bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016. The two countries have a broad spectrum of collaboration under the Belt & Road Initiative China proposed in 2013.

Initiated in 2006, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum has been dedicated to promoting exchanges and cooperation among defence authorities, armed forces, international organisations and scholars.

This year’s event attracted a record number of more than 1,300 participants in 76 delegations from 68 countries, including 23 National Defence Ministers, Six Army Chiefs of Staff, 20 Vice Minister level Officials, more than 100 Scholars and 20 Observers.