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Bulgaria open to closer cooperation with China

Editor: Tong Xinxin 丨CCTV.com

12-10-2015 17:37 BJT

By Miroslav Atanasov, PhD, Renmin University of China

Bulgaria Prime Minister Boyko Borisov came to China in November with a big delegation from the government, parliament, business and the media. The visit seemed to set a new course in the long and historic China-Bulgaria friendship.

The Republic of Bulgaria is a small country in the corner of Eastern Europe at the center of the Balkan Peninsula. With mountains, valleys and the Black Sea coast, it’s a beautiful country with a hospitable people and a wealth of cultural traditions. Famous Bulgarian products include yogurt, wine and rose oil. Bulgaria has had a tumultuous history for over 13 centuries. The country experienced almost five centuries of Ottoman rule (1396-1878) and 45 years of Soviet influence (1944-1989). More recently it joined NATO and the European Union.

Bulgaria’s relations with China date back to October 4, 1949. Bulgaria was the second nation to officially recognize the People’s Republic of China. In fact it wanted to be first, but conceded that privilege to the former Soviet Union. In gratitude the Chinese government allocated a large slice of property on Xiushui Beijie next to the Silk Market to establish its diplomatic mission.

Even though Bulgaria was the most loyal Soviet satellite during the Soviet-Union period, relations with China remained strong. Shortly before the end of the Cold War, General Secretary Todor Zhivkov visited China and was greatly impressed by Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, while acknowledging the deteriorating economic system in Eastern Europe.

Last month’s visit was Premier Borisov’s first trip to China. He and the Bulgarian delegation, which included seven cabinet ministers, attended the fourth Leader’s Meeting of China and Central and Eastern Europe in Suzhou.

Opportunities were discussed at the summit and economic forum for deepening cooperation between China and Eastern Europe. China announced a credit line of US$10 billion to co-finance projects in infrastructure, green economics and technology in the region. The full list of participating countries was Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. The format was dubbed “16 + 1.”

Daniel Mitov, Bulgaria’s foreign minister, said the two sides agreed to boost trade exchange between Sofia and Beijing, setting a goal of US$ 2 billion a year. The meeting also served to rationalize economic relations among participating countries according to mutual interests.

The Bulgaria State Agency for Investment Promotion organized an “Invest in Bulgaria – Expand in Europe” conference on the sidelines in Shanghai to facilitate connections between Chinese and Bulgarian business.

China is especially interested in Bulgarian agriculture, tourism, light industry and automobile production: Great Wall vehicles have been produced near Lovech, Bulgaria since 2011. A European-Chinese economic zone will be set up in the Plovdiv region. Chinese business people are also taking note of the Bulgarian IT sector. One of the largest Chinese cyber security companies is investigating opportunities for cooperating with Bulgarian partners.

Borisov met Yang Xiong, mayor of Shanghai. They decided on establishing a sister-city relationship between Sofia and Shanghai. Yang was invited to visit Bulgaria’s capital to finalize the agreement. He expressed hopes for good cooperation using a Chinese proverb: “All is ready except an east wind.” Closer relations will be sought in trade, culture, science and innovation. Yang noted he drinks the Bulgarian yogurt “Momchilovtsi” every morning, a popular brand in Shanghai.

At a November 25 evening reception organized at the Bulgarian Embassy, Borisov shared his impressions of China and his hopes for a promising partnership to aid Bulgaria’s development. A group of young Chinese studying Bulgarian at the Beijing Foreign Studies University performed a famous Bulgarian song.

The next morning the delegation was received by Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People. Borisov later met President Xi Jinping before departing back to Bulgaria.

It was announced that Bulgaria will be a beneficiary of China’s Belt & Road Initiative. The following Bulgarian projects, in need of investors for a long time, will likely be undertaken by China:

1. A bullet train that helps restore the ancient Silk Road will pass through Bulgaria. The delegates were impressed with their comfortable ride on the fast train from Suzhou to Shanghai. 

2.  A tunnel under the Shipka Pass could be financed by China. This would be a major infrastructure investment connecting North and South Bulgaria, divided by the Balkan mountain range.

3. China might become a strategic investor needed to build the Kozlodui nuclear power station. 
The delegation was pleased and considered the visit a success. Their eyes were opened to the endless possibilities that such a closer partnership would offer.

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


 

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