“After the Chinese group bought our Smederevo steel mill, the factory regained life. Now we are not afraid of losing jobs and hopeful of the future,” Novica Jovanovic, a 51-year old veteran told Xinhua.
In the Smederevo steel mill, which was founded in 1913 and once labeled “the pride of Serbia” for its outstanding profit, Xinhua journalists witnessed a busy and orderly scene.
In the reception hall, the national flags of Serbia and China are hung side by side on the wall while further inside the factory, machines are growling, various technical vehicles are running and workers are busy operating. The present of the steel mill is quite a contrast to the past.
It went bankrupt in 2003 before it was sold to U.S. Steel for 23 million U.S. dollars. Serbia bought it back in 2012 when the U.S. investor withdrew, but since then the company’s 5,000 workers had been sent on paid leave until April 2013 when the furnaces of the steel mill started operating again with limited capacity.
Then Chinese HeSteel Group (HBIS) bought the factory for 46 million euros (51.6 million dollars).
The natives called the smoke produced by the furnaces “the smoke of hope” because it meant the normality of production, and regular work and payment for the workers, said Nikola, a safety mechanic.
HBIS has promised to employ all workers in the factory and invest in technical improvement and market expansion.
According to data provided by the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, export of steel last year from Serbia was worth 325 million dollars, but Ljubisa Obradovic, an official of the Chamber of Commerce, believed this to improve significantly with the arrival of HeSteel.
“The arrival of HeSteel to Serbia opens huge potentials in metal-electro industry and mining in the sense that the level of production will double in comparison to the current state,” Obradovic said.
Slobodanka Susa, director of the Serbian Association of the Steel Industry, echoed by saying that HeSteel’s purchase of Smederevo steel mill is a win-win deal.
“It is very important for Serbia’s economic development that Smederevo steel mill can continue production. Meanwhile the deal makes the steel production go to the European market more easily,” Susa explained.
For regional development, this purchase is a good example within the frame of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Central and Eastern European (CEE) cooperation, which integrates Chinese capital, technology and Serbian work force and steel producing experience, Susa added.
“Chinese people are old friends of Serbian people,” said Jovanovic. The veteran with 30 years of working experience in Smederevo steel mill said he believes that the factory’s future will be as bright as the cooperative relations betweenSerbia and China. Enditem
China’s Belt and Road Initiative — from vision to reality
The Belt and Road Initiative, a daring proposal of reviving the ancient trade routes across Eurasia and beyond through open and inclusive cooperation, has now turned from vision to reality nearly three years after it was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
On June 10, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a major financing agency for the initiative, joined hands with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on financing a highway project in Pakistan, marking the first cooperation between the two regional lenders.
If one wonders in what ways the China-proposed initiative is open and inclusive, the 100-million-U.S. dollar project, which also involves Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), is a good example.
China seeks cooperation and mutual benefits instead of control — the project in Pakistan was administered by the ADB — and it welcomes the participation of a third party — in this case, Britain’s DFID.
Needless to say, there are other ways of cooperation under the umbrella of the initiative, but the same principle runs through all the projects: open and inclusive cooperation on equal footing.
And the principle works.
The ambitious initiative, comprised of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretch from China’s eastern coast to the Middle East, Africa, Western Europe and even beyond, has already achieved substantial achievements.
And its vision of open, inclusive and win-win cooperation bringing prosperity to the world’s foremost inner lands has gradually been translated into an inspiring reality.
In addition to the recent example of cooperation between the AIIB and the ADB, China has also signed agreements on production capacity cooperation with 20 countries, committing funds of 100 billion dollars. In the year of 2015, Chinese companies made 15-billion-dollar worth of direct investment in the countries along the land and sea routes.
Along the far-reaching routes, many infrastructure projects under the framework of the initiative are either under way or to be commenced soon, such as the Hungary-Serbia Railway and the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Rail.
What has been achieved so far helps boost the confidence of China and other countries involved and demonstrates China’s will and ability to carry out open, inclusive cooperation with its partners.
Serbia leads China-CEE cooperation on Belt and Road
| by Xinhua Writers Chang Yuan, Wang Huijuan
BELGRADE, June 17 (Xinhua) — It normally takes six hours to travel to Belgrade from Budapest by train. But this will soon be history: When the planned Hungary-Serbia railway is completed by the end of 2017 as scheduled, the journey will be shortened to less than three hours.
BOOSTING EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
(Source: Xinhua News Agency/ photo Xinhua News Agency)