The new relations between Voislav Kostunica and Jiang Zemin

Voislav Kostunica, the President of Yugoslavia is finishing his three-day official visit to China today. The goal of the visit was the development of the long-term bilateral contacts between the states. Kostunica arrived in Beijing on January 9, accompanied by ministers and 40 businessmen. In the evening the Yugoslavian president conducted negotiations with Jiang Zemin. The Chinese prime minister, Zhu Rongji, had a meeting with the Yugoslavian delegation the next day, and then there was a meeting with the chairman of the Chinese People’s Assembly. Today Kostunica is leaving for Shanghai.

The main outcome of those negotiations, which is a very encouraging for Belgrade, is already known: Beijing is ready to give loans to Yugoslavia for the recreation of the economy in the total sum of $3.6 billion. This statement was made by the foreign ministry of China. It should be mentioned that this was offered by China, on its own initiative. Besides, China and Yugoslavia signed three international agreements. They are aimed at the expansion of the commercial and technical bilateral exchange, strengthening of cooperation in the field of struggle with criminality and international terrorism.

The Yugoslavian delegation was not heading for Beijing with a light heart, so to speak. Slobodan Milosevicv's era is over now, although China and Yugoslavia were considered to be strategic partners at that time, as distinct to the American and NATO dictatorship. The new Yugoslavian government is aiming at the integration with the West, with the countries of the European Union. The Western money is freely coming in the Balkan republic after Slobodan Milosevic's extradition, so the Asian conservative China is somehow not good to collaborate with further. Beijing had a full right to demand Belgrade should pay its debts sooner. The amount of Yugoslavia’s debt is impressive – 400 million dollars have been saved during the time, when Milosevic was at power.

However, as the vice premier of the Yugoslavian government said, China showed understanding in the new situation in Yugoslavia. The economists and bankers of both countries agreed to have a meeting in Belgrade in order to discuss all possible ways for the regulation of the Yugoslavian debt. The annual interest will be cut.

Yugoslavia’s hopes and expectations turned to be very fruitful, the meetings with the Chinese leaders were very friendly, as Kostunica said that. Time will show, if this friendly spirit continues in the future.

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

Reuters photo: Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica (L) is escorted by his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin (R) during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing January 9, 2002

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