Amid escalating violence between ethnic Serbs and NATO peacekeeping troops in Kosovo, China expressed its unwavering support for Serbia’s efforts to uphold its sovereignty and territorial integrity. China, along with Russia and Serbia, maintains its stance of not recognizing Kosovo’s declaration of independence in 2008. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mao Ning, attributed the recent outbreak of violence to a failure to respect Serbian political rights.
The historical context plays a significant role in China’s position, as the ruling Communist Party has harbored criticism towards the NATO alliance, partly stemming from the bombing of Beijing’s embassy in Belgrade during the 1999 air campaign. The campaign was aimed at curbing Serbia’s harsh suppression of ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo. Tragically, three Chinese journalists lost their lives in the embassy bombing, an incident that China has frequently utilized to fuel anti-Western sentiment. While the United States later apologized, citing flawed intelligence as the cause, the aftermath of the event soured relations between China and the West, leading to a tense trajectory in recent years.
China’s alignment with Russia and Serbia further solidifies its stance on the matter. Mao Ning, during a daily news briefing, denounced unilateral actions by Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government and emphasized the necessity of respecting Serbian political rights. Mao also stressed that municipalities with Serbian majorities should grant the Serbian community control, despite their boycott of recent local elections and efforts to prevent ethnic Albanian mayors from assuming office.
The eruption of violence occurred when Serbs attempted to seize control of municipal offices in northern Kosovo, where Albanian mayors had recently taken up their positions. The clash resulted in injuries to at least 30 troops from the NATO-led peacekeeping force, known as KFOR. In light of these events, Mao called on NATO to earnestly respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of relevant countries and to actively contribute to regional peace.
In a show of support for his policies, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic planned to meet with the ambassadors of Russia and China. The Kosovo dispute remains a contentious issue in Eastern Europe, with NATO’s military intervention in 1999 compelling Serbia to withdraw from the territory. Nevertheless, the conflict continues to serve as a potential flashpoint in the region.
Notably, Serbia’s acquisition of a sophisticated Chinese anti-aircraft system last year raised concerns among Western nations about an arms buildup in the Balkans during the Ukrainian conflict, posing potential threats to regional stability. China’s solidarity with Serbia underscores its commitment to maintaining diplomatic ties and supporting its allies amidst geopolitical complexities.
The situation in Kosovo remains delicate, and efforts to de-escalate tensions and foster peace are of utmost importance.