China deepens Balkans ties using Serbian universities

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 neighbouring Serbia continues to grow, write Reid Standish, Ljudmila Cvetkovic and Maja Zivanovic for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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 US$1.5 billion loan from a Chinese bank put a spotlight on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’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 Jiao Tong University, opening the door to deepening educational and cultural bonds between Serbia and China.
Full report on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty site