#CCPinCEE | Chinese influence in Albania

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China has inserted itself into the Albanian economy and politics through major investments in air transport, energy, agriculture and mining, creating new opportunities for influence. Beijing’s economic influence in Albania derives from loans, investments and trade, involving collaborations with key economic actors and networks. These relationships in turn create dependencies through which China gains systematic influence. According to the Bank of Albania, Chinese FDI represents 2.27% of all FDI in Albania, compared to Serbia, where Chinese FDI is 15.7%, and North Macedonia, 3 .37%. Moreover, in 2020, China became Albania’s third largest importer. It exported $47.5 million and imported $13.1 million worth of goods and services from Albania in November 2021, for a trade surplus of $34.4 million, according to the Albanian statistical agency.

Beijing is also conducting a granular cultural strategy via language-focused classes at the Confucius Institute at the University of Tirana and a planned Chinese cultural center in the Albanian capital. The center will offer a much wider range of activities and focus on cultural interaction, making it an excellent tool for Chinese authorities to establish links with cultural and civil society groups. China also organizes study tours, academic exchanges and cultural events to cultivate relationships with specific individuals and institutions.

China has gradually established a framework for media interaction and cooperation to spread Beijing’s stories through traditional and social media. In 2019, the Chinese and Albanian public radio and television companies reached an agreement allowing the Albanian public television to broadcast certain Chinese programs for free. More informal cooperation involves Chinese-funded trips, training, exchange programs and donations to Albanian media professionals.

As part of Beijing’s multi-tiered approach to Albania, Chinese state actors are also expanding their formal and informal cooperation with municipalities across the country, primarily through a twinning project. Tirana and Beijing have been “twinned” since 2016, with five other cities in Albania developing such ties. As part of this policy, Beijing uses the links between sister cities and local authorities to influence the central government.

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