An handout picture taken and released by the Serbia’s presidential press office on March 21 shows Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (left) welcoming a group of Chinese doctors at Belgrade’s airport. Photo: AFP

After the Serbian president’s son was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, Chinese netizens have flooded Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s social media accounts with blessings and goodwill. 

One net user wrote, “He will surely get well, I will pray for him” in Chinese. Another said, “Believe you, believe your children, believe Serbia.”

The messages were another sign of warmer ties between China and Serbia. Since mid of March, China has been assisting Serbia in its fight against COVID-19. 

On Wednesday, the Serbian government signed a deal with Shenzhen-based BGI Genomics, a Chinese genome sequencing company, to build two laboratories for coronavirus testing in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and the southern city of Nis. A BGI press release said the two labs can conduct 3,000 tests a day. 

The first batch of medical assistance from China to Serbia, including 1,000 rapid test kits manufactured by BGI, donated by Chinese humanitarian organization Mammoth Foundation, landed in Belgrade on March 15, the day the Serbian government declared a state of emergency.

On March 21, a six-member medical expert team with experience in fighting COVID-19 arrived in Serbia with ventilators, medical masks, test kits, and other medical supplies among 16 tons of donations, Xinhua News Agency reported. 

China’s aid to Serbia has caught some Western media’s attention. Foreign Policy published an article Monday entitled “China Has Its Eyes on Serbia,” claiming “Beijing is using the coronavirus pandemic to expand its influence in the EU’s backyard.”

Yet, Foreign Policy failed to mention an export ban for certain medical protective equipment was imposed by the EU on March 15 in a bid to keep sufficient medical supplies within the bloc. Serbia, which is not an EU member, did not have many options left in terms of importing medical supplies, but to seek help from non-EU nations. 

“As of today… we cannot import medical equipment from EU countries,” Vucic said at a press conference on March 15, adding he had appealed for help from China.

The imaginary theory that China is fighting for geopolitical influence in EU’s backyard is a long-term, deep-rooted mentality in the West, Chinese observers noted.

In fact, China has donated to not only Serbia, but also the EU and many of its member states during the pandemic, Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said. 

“Brussels shares the same stance with Beijing over globalization and multilateralism, and China wishes to see a strong and united EU,” he added.

Newspaper headline: China’s aid meant for ‘strong, united EU’