‘Our brothers’, ‘our saviours’: The importance of Chinese investment for the Serbian government’s narrative of economic rebound

Tena Prelec / 29 Oct, 2020

The study analyses how the ruling party in Serbia has used the country’s increasing economic cooperation with non-Western powers to promote its own ‘winning’ narrative. The author brings new insights into how the Serbian leadership has used the topic of economic renaissance in relation to a narrative depicting economic salvation by foreign friends coming to the rescue to further its political power. It is shown that this role, initially played by the United Arab Emirates, was assumed by China in the second part of the 2010s.

This study traces the way the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has used the topic of economic assistance from abroad to build and consolidate its dominance on the Serbian  political scene from 2012 to 2020. Through the analysis of domestic and international media coverage, this study argues that the construction of a narrative of economic renaissance has gone hand-in-hand with a narrative depicting economic salvation in the form of foreign friends coming to the rescue. It is shown that this role, initially played by the United Arab Emirates, was later assumed by China. It is argued that the conduit of this ‘foreign’ assistance activity is, in fact, the Serbian political leadership itself (in the person of current Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić), which seeks to present itself as able to offer stability and reassurance to the population, thus preserving the ‘ontological security’ of the Serbian nation. The findings of the study provide insights into why Serbian foreign policy has been, seemingly, so erratic: narrative-wise, the Serbian leadership has picked the actor that was most useful in highlighting their own nation-saving activity at any given moment.