|Croatian Prime Minister officially visited China|
|Author: Matej Balen|
|12th November 2018|
|BEIJING, SHANGHAI – Five days, November 2-6, 2018, high Croatian delegation led by Andrej Plenković spent in China visiting Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, in a working visit that summed up increasing economic cooperation between the two countries.|
Unexpected World Cup success brought Croatia worldwide popularity, but nowhere is this increase so visible as in the Middle Kingdom. Immediately after the final game in Moscow, the prices of plane tickets from China to Croatia raised 40-100%, but made no harm in yet another 40% increase in tourist arrivals from Chinese market to Croatia, as it was confirmed in the most recent report from the Croatian National Tourism Board from October.
Earlier this year, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) won a bid to conduct the first phase of the construction of Pelješac Bridge. For CRBC, 2.4km-long and 55m-high bridge is far from being the longest or the biggest construction project they have done so far, however, in China, the news of this project being conducted by a Chinese company has been celebrated for significant symbolic reasons, more than one. Pelješac Bridge is to finally achieve territorial continuity of the Republic of Croatia, and as such is not only strategically significant for Croatia but also for the EU. Second reason is that the project will mostly be financed by the EU (85%, 430 out of 510 million USD), by China somewhat seen as a reward for a winning bid amongst domestic European rivals.
In September 2018, Dubrovnik hosted 16+1 Tourism Summit, and in spring 2019, Croatia will host the next 16+1 General Summit of European leaders and PR China, when Prime Minister Li Keqiang will visit Croatia.
All of these were the main reasons why Prime Minister Andrej Plenković made a tour across China during these 5 November days, in a working visit that brought much attention by Croatian media. Croatian PM was first received by his Chinese colleague, Prime Minister Li Keqiang. During the meeting, Li said that China-Croatia relations have achieved a good momentum of development, with increasing bilateral trade volume and tourist exchanges. "The two sides should strengthen cooperation in fields including humanities, tourism and sports and facilitate personnel exchanges," Li said and emphasized the 16+1 cooperation as an important part and complement to development of China-European relations.
In Hangzhou, Croatian PM met with Che Jun, governor of Zhejiang province, and visited 36-kilometre-long Hangzhou Bay Bridge, built by CRBC and whose executives assured the PM of the serious preparations their company has to secure successful and quality construction of the Pelješac Bridge.
In Shanghai, Plenković meet with Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong, opened first Croatian Tourist Board's office in China, and attended the inaugural China International Import Expo (CIIE). As one of the speakers at the Hongqiao International Economic and Trade Forum, Croatia’s PM informally met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, General Manager of the Huawei Telecommunications Li Jian, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Alibaba founder Jack Ma.
At the Croatia-China business forum, Plenković invited Chinese companies to invest in Croatia, notably in railway infrastructure and naval ports, stressing out Croatia's favourable geographical position within Europe.
Big opportunities for further investments and development of bilateral ties still remain. Zadar Port, with the container terminal development project and related business zone, has potential to become one of the biggest cargo ports in Europe, taking into account the close proximity of all major transportation connections already available. Krapinske Toplice are already in the focus of Chinese investors, mostly for development of hotel and supporting infrastructure related to health tourism, most notable trademark of the town in the near vicinity of the capital city.
Cooperation in green and IT technology, production of electrical vehicles, development of 5G telecommunication networks, development of sports infrastructure, professional exchanges in football, academic and student exchanges. All of these projects are ready to further fulfil growing economic and bilateral cooperation between Croatia and China.