• Annika Dhana Claassen
As the most significant diplomatic project of the twenty-first century and largest coordinated infrastructure investment plan in human history, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will connect the world’s largest populations in a constellation of commerce and cultural exchange in the coming decade. Although, the BRI is promoted as being beneficial to all countries, the interna-tional community is divided in their opinion about the initiative and China’s intentions behind its economic expansion. The Chinese government has recognised the obstacles it has to over-come in order to gain support in the international world by shifting its foreign policy towards a more proactive approach, resulting in a change of its public diplomacy strategy combined with huge soft power packages. Although the BRI is an economic project, it also serves the purpose of positively influencing China’s perception by the international world and it is therefore nec-essary to understand the soft power motives and public diplomacy strategies behind the imple-mentation of the initiative.
Based on the case of Serbia, this paper is examining the attitude towards and the perception of China and how this is influenced by the projects, investments and particularly the soft power strategy embedded in the BRI. Due to the economic character of the initiative, the research is not solely based on the constructivist way of thinking but also takes the influence of economic factors on perception into account. By investigating the Sino-Serbian relationship under the initiative and the results from public opinion polls, this research shows the effectiveness of the public diplomacy strategy behind the Belt and Road in improving its image and influencing the perception of China among the Serbian public. The combined analysis on the way China con-ducts its public diplomacy strategy in Serbia, the media coverage on China and the BRI and finally, the economic interdependence between both countries reveals that China’s attractive-ness among the Serbian public is derived from the generation and distribution of norms and values through the BRI rather than the economic benefits brought by the initiative.
SpecialisationChina and International Relations
Publication date15 May 2020
Number of pages57
ID: 332383269