CHINA’S DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE TO THE WESTERN BALKANS AND ITS IMPACT ON DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND DECISION-MAKING

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Ana Krstinovska

Abstract

China’s development assistance to the Western Balkans has been little researched and aid-funded projects are often mistermed as Chinese investments. This article aimed to shed light on specific ‘China Aid’ disbursement and management procedures by examining the signed agreements and contracted projects in five countries - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, and Serbia during the period 2000-2020. The objective was to determine the impact of China’s development assistance on democratic governance and decision-making. Attride-Stirling’s thematic networks tool was used to analyze the procedures in each project cycle phase and their compliance with the principles of good governance and aid effectiveness. The findings suggest that the assistance, shaped by Chinese rules in combination with Western Balkans domestic agency, is marked by the opacity of the procedures, lack of accountability, disregard for rules in public finance management, and public procurement. Moreover, China could use its grant and loan agreements to influence sovereign decision-making on issues that affect China’s interests. To conclude, although China’s development assistance to the Western Balkans could benefit the recipients’ economic development, it also constrains their democratic governance and decision-making and serves China’s foreign policy interests. 

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How to Cite
Krstinovska, A. . (2022). CHINA’S DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE TO THE WESTERN BALKANS AND ITS IMPACT ON DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND DECISION-MAKING. Journal of Liberty and International Affairs, 8(1), 229-242. https://doi.org/10.47305/JLIA2281229k
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Author Biography

Ana Krstinovska, ESTIMA, North Macedonia

Ana Krstinovska is the President of ESTIMA, North Macedonia-based think tank and consultancy focusing on China, the EU and the Western Balkans. Formerly State Secretary for EU Affairs in the Government of North Macedonia, First Secretary in the Macedonian Mission to the EU in Brussels and Advisor for international cooperation to the Prime Minister, she has extensive experience in public policy, diplomacy, European and international affairs both from the perspective of government and civil society. She is also a member of the Permanent Strategic Foreign Policy Council in North Macedonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Alumna from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium and Beijing Foreign Studies University - China, at present she is finishing her PhD studies in Political Science - International Relations at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, North Macedonia. Her doctoral dissertation focuses on China’s economic engagement in the Western Balkans, focusing particularly on official development assistance as a foreign policy instrument. Krstinovska’s specific research interests revolve around China’s foreign policy, especially China’s relations with the EU and the Western Balkans. Her scholarship includes over a dozen China-related publications, some of which brought her international acknowledgments and awards, including the Kosovo Research and Analysis Fellowship (2021/2022) for her pioneer work on China’s influence over Kosovo’s statehood, the Civil Society Scholar Award 2021 by the Open Society Foundations for China’s presence in the Western Balkans and the In Bev-Baillet Latour Foundation’s Award for best Master thesis on China-EU relations in 2013. Krstinovska is a native Macedonian, fluent in English, French and Chinese. She is a member of the CHOICE platform – China Observers in Central and Eastern Europe and the 16+1 Think Tank Network of scholars.