Bojan is three months unemployed, and his wife earns just 120 euros a month—not nearly enough to feed a family of four. He blames Serbia’s increasingly authoritarianpresident, Aleksandar Vucic, for his troubles. He also blames the European Union, which he says is Vucic’s ultimate master. He describes Brussels as a vaguely imperialist entity that demands too much of Serbia while delivering little. “And China?” I ask. “China is good. China is here to help,” he says.
That story is surprisingly common among Serbians, who largely view China as a reliable business partner and the country’s billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a wonderful economic opportunity. English-language coverage of Belt and Road largely targets the flaws of the initiative—principally that it lacks transparency, promotes poor standards, and deals in “debt trap diplomacy.”