Sieren’s China: On the map


In China, the first Croatian tourism has opened up the office. Beijing and Zagreb and roll each other on the red carpet. The Balkan country is to be developed far more than just a tourist, says Frank Sieren.

In the Chinese TV Croatia is already a Hit, with nearly 300 million Chinese followed in December 2017, an episode of the popular Chinese Infotainment series Tian Tian Xiang Shang, dedicated this Time to the Croats, their country, their food and their culture. Was produced the 90-minute documentary by state broadcaster Hunan TV. The capital city of Zagreb and the historic Dubrovnik, where much of the footage was created, have been shown from its most beautiful side. How civilized is in there, also proved to be a visit to the first Chinese Restaurant in the country, the eighth in the early 90s, up. By the way, the audience got important questions answered, such as whether Croatia for holiday makers is safe to use and how easy it comes out as Chinese on a visa. In the end, there were even to win something else: a trip to Croatia. Who would have thought?

From Asia to the Adriatic

In the relations between China and the Balkan country is currently, nothing is left to chance. Last week welcomed China’s Premier Li Keqiang and his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković in the Great hall of the people in Beijing to strengthen economic and political ties between the two countries. Subsequently, the Croatian Prime traveled to Shanghai, where he initiated on the outskirts of the “China International Import Expo”, the first Croatian tourism office in China. An “Opening to China” called Plenković, the new office in the premises of the Croatian chamber of Commerce. Since the Chinese middle class has discovered their desire to travel, China is in the global mass tourism has become a decisive economic factor. Also for Croatia.

A Chinese policeman helps Chinese tourists in the Croatian Plitvice national Park

China’s tourists spent last year about 261 billion dollars for trips abroad. Croatia is becoming more and more popular. 2017 travelled around 200,000 Chinese tourists in the Eastern European country. In the first ten months of this year, the Torismusamt already recorded a rise of over 40 percent compared to the previous year. Even now, the Chinese make up the fourth largest group of Croatia, visitors, and the trend is rising. A particular advantage: The Chinese travel holiday due to like anti-cyclically to the traditional Western high-season in the summer. This shortens the tourist times of Drought. It let the visitors from China, nothing missing, have been turned off police officers this year, especially Chinese and Chinese-speaking guides on the spot.

In the case of the mutual charm offensive, it’s not about Beijing and Zagreb, but only to explore Croatia for tourists. With just four million inhabitants, the country is since 2013 part of the European Union, economically, has not improved since then, but not too much. The trade with China is growing it is continuous. In 2017, the volume of trade increased by 22,75% year-on-year to 807 million euros. The more enticing it sounds to Zagreb, if Beijing of Croatia, as a strategically important Partner of the “Belt and Road”Initiative talks, China’s huge infrastructure project, which is also known as the New silk road. Because it means that Beijing wants to continue to invest in the small country. In Zadar, on the Dalmatian coast, and Beijing plans a new industrial zone with the port and airport to be a major gateway for Chinese Goods to Europe. A direct access via Zadar shortened the sea route in the EU. Also high-speed train networks, and a solar power-powered football stadium are in the conversation.

Worried faces in Brussels

For the EU, the Chinese involvement in Eastern Europe is a sensitive topic. In its annual 16+1 Meeting – the next one will take place in April 2019 in Croatia – Beijing with the countries from Central and Eastern Europe to a table of common infrastructure, technology, agriculture and tourism projects to bring on the way, often at the expense of Chinese banks. Brussels is not afraid to be wrong, that Beijing wins by economic dependencies, more and more influence in the EU. Greece, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia, for example, three years ago, a common EU opinion on the Chinese territorial claims in the South China sea undermined. Unity looks different.

Together on patrol: Chinese and Croatian policemen in the old town of Zagreb

At the same time, Eastern European countries continue to support billions from the EU-pots. One of the most emblematic funding projects 2374-Meter-long bridge in southern Croatia, which started already ten years ago, but due to financial difficulties, long time, no further progress could be brought is currently. With a total of around 350 million out of a total of 420 million Euro construction costs, Brussels wants to build proverbial bridges: Whoever wanted to drive from Split to Dubrovnik, and had to leave the EU, a short piece of Coast in Bosnia-happen-Herzegovina, including time-consuming border controls. With the 55-metre-high Pelješac bridge is the latest in 2022 will be over, what comes before all the tourism on the popular southern Croatian coast. The contract to build the bridge actually got in the end, however, a Chinese construction company – a first for an 85 percent with EU funds financed project. The state-run China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) had kicked off the European competition with a much cheaper offer and a promise to be six months earlier, out of the race. The Austrian company Strabag and a consortium of the Italian Astaldi and Turkey’s Ictas filed a complaint against unfair competition and price Dumping. The Chinese Embassy in Zagreb, spoke of a “positive Signal” to Chinese investors.

Work At The End Of Aliens?

Brussels will now look closely, the extent to which Croatian workers during construction will be employed, or whether the majority of the guest workers come as often from China. The Chinese construction company has already been granted permission, the wages of the Chinese workers themselves to set, according to EU standards actually an unfair competitive advantage. For weeks the concern is that hundreds of Chinese workers will flood the picturesque fishing village of Komarna, where a bulk of the construction takes place. “It is almost as if a group of Aliens wanted to land here,” says Smiljan Mustapic, the mayor of the municipality, about the Concerns that have been raised from the population. You have to get used to Chinese visitors – whether tourists or workers – seems to be part of a larger Plan. Croatia crashes as other countries in debt and then one day, with the money must pay off that will bring more Chinese tourists to the country, could also be part of a larger “Win-Win”Plan – a “Win-Win” in the sense of a dual profit for China.

Our columnist Frank Sieren has lived for more than 20 years in Beijing.