China’s Huawei has opened its Innovations and Development Center in Belgrade on Monday, just ten days after Serbia signed a pledge in the White House, which appeared to aim at keeping Chinese companies away.
The center was opened in the presence of Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and the Chinese ambassador to Belgrade. President Aleksandar Vucic, who signed the pledge in the Oval Office, was not present.
The center will focus on accelerating Serbia’s digital transformation, and help the economy grow.
Brnabic praised the collaboration with Huawei, and denied it violates Serbia’s pledge, made in Washington, not to buy 5G network equipment from unreliable vendors. She added that projects with Huawei will be more visible within a year in the country.
Serbia has projects worth hundreds of millions with Huawei. They include the 5G network, artificial intelligence, digitalization of education and smart cities, Brnabic said.
One of the items in pledges signed by Serbia and Kosovo was the following:
“Both parties will prohibit the use of 5G equipment supplied by untrusted vendors in their mobile communication networks. Where such equipment is already present, both parties commit to removal and other mediation efforts in a timely fashion.”
The United States have long been concerned about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government, in particular under the Trump administration. In 2018, the US requested the arrest and extradition from Canada of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, on charges of violating American sanctions on Iran. In 2019, it put the company on a trade blacklist to limit its uses of American technologies. In may 2020, it restricted manufacturers from around the world from providing Huawei with products containing American parts.