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China’s Expands Influence In The Balkans Through Higher Education

May 17th, 2021 14:17

US media is report­ing that Chi­na is expand­ing its influ­ence in East­ern Europe using Hun­gar­i­an and Ser­bian uni­ver­si­ties. Accord­ing to an RFE/RL report:

May 11, 2021 With a Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ty project in Hun­gary draw­ing con­tro­ver­sy over a lack of trans­paren­cy and con­cerns about aca­d­e­m­ic free­dom, Bei­jing’s influ­ence in high­er edu­ca­tion in neigh­bor­ing Ser­bia con­tin­ues to grow.  A strate­gic agree­ment signed between Hun­gary and Shang­hai’s pres­ti­gious Fudan Uni­ver­si­ty in April made inter­na­tion­al head­lines and sparked a back­lash at home.  The deci­sion to build a Budapest cam­pus by 2024 using a $1.5 bil­lion loan from a Chi­nese bank put a spot­light on Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban’s close ties to Bei­jing and raised con­cerns about the long-term impact of such a project on the coun­try’s high­er-edu­ca­tion system.

But in Ser­bia — where Bei­jing enjoys a close rela­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Alek­san­dar Vucic and has been steadi­ly deep­en­ing its ties over the last two decades — grow­ing coop­er­a­tion with Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties and schools con­tin­ues unabat­ed.  Cur­rent­ly, three Ser­bian uni­ver­si­ties — the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bel­grade, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Novi Sad, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nis — have signed a coop­er­a­tion agree­ment with Shang­hai’s Jiao Tong Uni­ver­si­ty, open­ing the door to deep­en­ing edu­ca­tion­al and cul­tur­al bonds between Ser­bia and Chi­na.  The agree­ments, which were signed in 2018, set up broad terms for coop­er­a­tion that can grow deep­er over time. They include new stu­dent and staff exchanges and schol­ar­ships, as well as grow­ing Chi­nese finan­cial sup­port and Chi­nese-lan­guage classes.

Read the rest here.

In April, we report­ed that even though most of Europe has blocked Huawei’s abil­i­ty to build 5G infra­struc­ture, China’s influ­ence in Europe is still increas­ing through aca­d­e­m­ic part­ner­ships. Oth­er recent GIOR report­ing on China’s influ­ence oper­a­tions in East­ern Europe has included:

  • In May, we rec­om­mend­ed a study assess­ing China’s soft pow­er in 17 Euro­pean coun­tries, includ­ing Hun­gary, the Czech Repub­lic, Slo­va­kia, and Romania.
  • In May, we report­ed that the direc­tor of a Con­fu­cius Insti­tute in Slo­va­kia tried to intim­i­date a local Chi­na expert short­ly after he had pub­lished a sur­vey expos­ing the Chi­nese pres­ence at Slo­vak universities.
  • In May, we report­ed that Chi­na is laun­der­ing its pro­pa­gan­da in the Czech Repub­lic through local ‘alter­na­tive media’ dis­in­for­ma­tion outlets.