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Cooperation between Bulgaria and China : Challenges, Opportunities and Some Recommendations 保加利亚与中国的合作:机遇、挑战以及一些建议


By [Bulgaria] Prof. Zahar Zahariev, President of Bulgarian National Association for the Belt and Road

文|[保加利亚]扎哈里·扎哈里埃夫(Zahar Zahariev) 保加利亚一带一路全国协会主席、教授        翻译|胡昊







This year we celebrate 75 years of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and 75 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bulgaria and China. Now Bulgaria is a country that is trying to re-industrialize, i.e. to re-attain the level of 1989 so that it can fit into the socio-economic and political realities of the 21st century. From this point of view, the Chinese example, the Chinese experience are of paramount importance to our country. Therefore, it is quite logical that if there is consensus on a foreign policy problem of Bulgaria, then this consensus can be attributed precisely to our constructive and nationally responsible attitude to the dynamic development of our relations with the PRC. This is confirmed by the frequent visits, mainly from Bulgaria to China, of the heads of state governance. This is confirmed by the constructive attitude of Bulgaria towards the format for comprehensive development of relations between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. I have repeatedly said that this format has become an experimental platform, from which the idea of the Belt and Road Initiative, formulated by Chinese President Xi Jinping, started.

In this connection, the signing of the joint document between the Presidents of Bulgaria and China on the strategic nature of the relations between the two countries was quite a logical result. However, we should not fall into unnecessary euphoria on this subject, because the signing of this important document was long overdue. We can give examples of increasing Bulgarian exports to China and Chinese imports into Bulgaria.

It is also very important to focus our attention on seeking new approaches to the problem of Chinese investments in Bulgaria. Indeed, there are some encouraging steps in this direction. They are mainly related to the provision, by the Chinese Development Bank, through our Bank for Development, of a credit line for the development of economic relations between the two countries. This opportunity made available by the Chinese state, which provides over a billion euros in resources. However, if we ask the question how much of these funds have been utilized, the answer is too pessimistic. So far, only 25-30 million euros have been used on this line. Even more frightening is that this money is directed to structures that have no significant contribution or even interest in the development of economic ties between Bulgaria and China. At the same time, projects that could actually drive forward the wheel of Bulgarian-Chinese economic relations, are blocked. This applies first and foremost for companies that have entered into some form of cooperation or partnership with Chinese economic structures. There are powerful Chinese companies who are ready to risk by investing in our country and participating in the construction of the new Bulgarian economic infrastructure. This is especially true for sectors that are extremely important for Bulgaria, such as transport infrastructure, such as high-tech production, such as the creation of modern techno parks, such as tourism development, etc.

Bilateral trade is also developing at a very timid and unsatisfactory pace. I will give another example related to the Bulgarian Development Bank, which is under the control of the Council of Ministers. China opened a US$ 100 million line of credit to stimulate foreign trade between the two countries and, in the first place, to promote Bulgarian exports to the PRC. It sounds strange, but no more than 4 percent of that money was used.

The main thing on which we differ from China and which is a guarantee of the success of their economic policy is the thesis of the need for a new development paradigm, including the so-called “dual circulation” in which domestic and foreign markets reinforce each other, but the domestic market is given priority, unlike in the recent past.

And as Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized in his speech at the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos, only by building internal circulation can China withstand rapid changes in the international arena.

In this regard, it can be said that the Chinese example is extremely important for Bulgaria, because it shows that without the creation of an effective system for stimulating domestic demand and without encouraging consumer spending, it is impossible to achieve a sustainable course of economic and social development. To this, of course, we must add that the achievement of these tasks is directly related to the development of science and the search for new technological solutions, which are the key to the new paradigm of development.

Unfortunately, we have to state that Bulgaria is still far from understanding and assimilating the Chinese experience in this direction. How can this be overcome? First of all, through a serious study and comprehensive awareness of the management elite in Bulgaria about China’s experience. But not least by using the presence in our country of such technological and economic giants as Huawei.

Unfortunately, however, we must state that despite the growth of Huawei’s investments in Bulgaria over the past five years, we are far from using the opportunities to fully absorb the experience of this transnational corporation in achieving a breakthrough in technological and economic development in the context of this new paradigm.

Huawei is present in Bulgaria primarily as a supplier of its production and technological components, but not as a trust for complex technological development. The opportunity to use Huawei’s experience in the educational process, in the raising of young and promising scientific personnel and in the constant increase in the qualification of the production potential in the field of new technologies remains unrealized. So what has been achieved so far is woefully inadequate. We must say that these findings about Huawei also apply to the overall state of Bulgarian-Chinese economic and scientific-technical relations.

This is the real picture today. On the one hand, there is a good political development and a climate of trust and mutual interest in the relations between Sofia and Beijing, and on the other hand, in the area of concrete effects and practical results, we are lagging very seriously. from our neighbors in the Balkans and from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Not to mention the countries that are crucial for the development of the EU and the European Economic Area.

I think we should not, however, fall into unnecessary pessimism, but work to maximize the potential of Bulgarian-Chinese relations. I would like to point out that the discrepancy, which was discussed, gave rise to the creation of a number of non-governmental structures, which work in the field of Bulgarian-Chinese relations and represent the interests of certain professional groups of Bulgarian economic life.

Five years ago, we created the Bulgaria National Association for the Belt and Road and embarked on the path of uniting the forces of civil society. Along with this, we set ourselves the task of using the extremely powerful resource possessed by various private economic entities, as well as the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Bulgarian Industrial Association. In the scientific field we have included BAS and leading universities. The interest in culture and spiritual life has led us to include in our national Association the leaders of all major creative unions in the country.

It seems to me that the way out of the problems in the Bulgarian-Chinese relations, or figuratively speaking, the “bottlenecks” in this respect, is in the first place in the harmonization of the relations between the civil sector and the government bodies. Only in this way will we be able to become constructive, positive and maximizing our potential, partners of the PRC.

The cooperation between China and Bulgaria is a field of wide and untapped opportunities that has yet to be plowed to bear rich fruits. The geographical location and natural features of Bulgaria combined with the traditionally good attitude of the people of both countries to each other are a good basis on which to build strong ties with a long-term perspective. These links could already be a fact if it were not for some mistakes in the approaches. And since the definition of errors is half the solution, this definition cannot be wishful thinking. It is mandatory.
Weaknesses of Chinese-Bulgarian cooperation over the past 10 years:

1. Trade imbalance: Bulgaria heavily depends on exports of low value-added goods to China, and there is limited two-way trade in high-tech products.

2. Potential impact on sovereignty and security: There have been concerns about the potential impact of Chinese investment on Bulgaria's sovereignty and security.

3. Uneven distribution of benefits: Some stakeholders have raised concerns about the uneven distribution of benefits from Chinese investment and trade, with some communities and industries potentially being left behind.

However, there are also challenges in the Chinese-Bulgarian relationship:

Trade imbalance: Bulgaria heavily relies on exports of low value-added goods to China, with a limited number of high-tech products being imported from China.

Sovereignty and security concerns: Some people have raised concerns about the potential impact of Chinese investment on Bulgaria‘s sovereignty and security.

Overall, the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese-Bulgarian cooperation over the past 10 years highlight both the opportunities and challenges of the relationship, and it will be important for both

countries to address these challenges in order to continue to strengthen and develop their cooperation.

First and foremost, it is necessary to get out of the narrow framework of official interstate relations, because:

1. These frameworks are too narrow for the relations of friendship between our peoples.

2. Bulgaria is a member of political, economic and military structures that, over time, are becoming more and more hostile to the People’s Republic of China, to Chinese citizens and to more and more Chinese initiatives in particular. This trend shows signs of deepening and should neither be ignored nor underestimated.

3. There are suitable people for the sincere and conscientious development of bilateral relations, but they are rarely found and even more rarely are they used according to their talents, abilities and, last but not least, opportunities.

4. Legal but non-standard methods, approaches and solutions in the development of bilateral relations are poorly sought and poorly applied, that is, methods, approaches and solutions that allow overcoming the artificially created administrative barriers and obstacles to the deployment of a much wider , a much deeper and much more mutually beneficial cooperation for both peoples.

In the sense of the above, for the development of bilateral relations, one must rely on a wide range of people from the circles of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, researchers, students, ordinary workers, bright representatives of the artistic and creative intelligentsia and the most honest and principled journalists from the media. These people should be outside the circle of typical interstate relations that develop between the state administrations of our two countries. And these people must be engaged in specific programs related to the realization of their aspirations, dreams and interests. That is, things should not develop only in terms of information and mutual acquaintance, but through joint programs for those participating in them to connect their daily lifestyles and the existence of their families with China – professionally, through hobbies, scientific developments, creative projects, innovations and etc. etc. Of course, at the base of the projects from the Bulgarian side, first of all, not formal, but informal leaders should be engaged, enjoying the unreserved trust of all the Bulgarian community participating in a given joint project.

Secondly, after the principle decision to develop bilateral relations beyond the narrow state-bureaucratic framework is taken, it is necessary to define not just the plain priorities, but the mutually beneficial priorities for our peoples, in connection with the implementation of which and around which they will be built both the relationships and the structures that will develop them. These priorities should be programmatically formulated in the way that the Bulgarian National Association “One Belt One Road” does today. With the only difference that the priorities must be accompanied by specific persons responsible for the implementation, by specific deadlines for the implementation and by sufficient resources for the implementation of the resulting tasks.

Thirdly, one must always keep in mind the fact that in the near future the conditions for direct cooperation will inevitably deteriorate, due to the fact that the overall management of the Republic of Bulgaria is carried out under the conditions of pressure and dictates of external forces, which will inevitably influence on the working environment and atmosphere of any current and future joint activity. Which implies a wider use of civil, friendly and informal structures in relations and a shift to indirect, mediated by foreign natural and legal persons connections between the formal economic, cultural and other structures that implement cooperation between the two countries. Individuals and entities making indirect connections must be registered in countries that are not subject to US and European Union sanctions, but are not themselves involved in any sanctions directed against the People’s Republic of China.

Fourthly, the need to establish a bank or bank branch through which payments between partners can be made directly or better still indirectly is more urgent than ever.

Or in short, after defining the priorities, after creating the structures, after deploying the contacts, after setting the tasks and after ensuring the implementation with the necessary resources, it remains only to monitor the implementation of the set parameters and control the development of relations in the already set direction . The correct determination of priorities, clear goals and time frames, good personnel selection of the people who will implement them and the appropriate material provision of the teams working in the relevant areas are decisive for the success of all such initiatives.

There are several ways to improve the Chinese-Bulgarian trade relationship:

1. Balancing trade: The two countries could work together to address the trade imbalance by encouraging Bulgarian companies to export more high-tech products to China and promoting Chinese investment in value-added industries in Bulgaria.

2. Fostering innovation and technology transfer: Encouraging technology transfer and innovation through joint ventures and research collaborations could help improve the competitiveness of Bulgarian companies and increase their exports to China.

3. Promoting cultural exchange: Increasing cultural exchange through business, academic, and cultural events could help improve understanding and trust between the two countries and facilitate greater cooperation.

4. Addressing concerns: Addressing concerns about the impact of Chinese investment on Bulgaria‘s sovereignty and security can help to build trust and increase cooperation.

5. Streamlining procedures: Simplifying and streamlining trade and investment procedures could help to reduce barriers and increase cooperation between the two countries.

Guidelines and recommendations for possible actions on the further implementation and development of the cooperation mechanism between China and Bulgaria

Advice and recommendations of the conducted research the following guidelines outline in which ways should be sought accelerated development of bilateral relations.

In the public political sphere

1.Organization of an international scientific conference on the topic: “The Chinese factor in the civilizational changes of the 20th century”.

2.Organization of an International Judicial Forum, on the topic: “Legal aspects of the implementation of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative and establishment of an International Legal Advisory Body, with the participation of lawyers from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

In the field of economy

1.Trakia Gold unified Bulgarian trade standard system and the interconnected Research Commercial Investment Digital Center (developed in more detail later on).

2.Assistance in establishing showrooms (exhibition halls) and trade centers representing Chinese trade giants such as Yiwu, Shanghai, etc. (developed in more detail later on)

3.Continuation of work on the construction of the Silistra – Shumen – Karnobat – Yambol – Lesovo expressway and the Silistra – Kalarash cross-border link, a transport link of the “One Belt, One Road” project, connecting Greece (Alexandropoulos port) and Turkey via Bulgaria, with Romania, Moldova, Slovakia, etc.

4.Launching the idea of an international airport in the Gotse Delchev region (on the site of a former German military airport, with a ready made project) which will serve the development of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative not only in the Rhodopes region, but also in a a wider cross-border region covering Bulgaria, northern Greece and the European part of Turkey.

5.Joint projects in the mining industry.

6.Establishment of partnership cooperation in the field of electric vehicle construction and energy storage issues. Support the development and implementation of a unified charging system for electric vehicles.

7.Strengthening cooperation in the field of agriculture in the following main directions:

● The impact of climate change on cereal crops
● Food from organic farming – quality and safety
● Medicinal plants – status, quality and prospects

8. Development of cooperation in the field of tourism and the wellness industry. The development of a project for the construction of a base in Semkovo, which, in addition to the traditional tourist aspects of educational, mountain, winter and cultural tourism, will also offer a specific product – traditional Chinese medicine.

In the fields of science and education

1. Creation, jointly with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the Technical University and the telecommunication giant Huawei, of an Academic Center for Technology Transfer in Sofia.

2. Assistance of the competent authorities on both sides to elaborate and sign an agreement on mutual recognition of diplomas.

3. Support the implementation of the current projects under the Program for Bilateral Scientific Cooperation RB – PRC.

4. The representatives of the ministries of education and universities of both countries to develop and propose a Project for an international master’s program “Civilizational Development of Eurasia”.

5. The creation of a network of schools for tourism and high technologies

Cultural cooperation

1. The cooperation between the professional unions of the journalists of the two countries should find expression in the development of a program to reflect the achievements of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

2. Creation and maintenance of a website of the National Association for the Belt and Road”.

3. Initiation of an international publishing program for literary works dedicated to the civilizational ideas underlying the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

4. Organization of annual international art exhibitions, hosted alternatively, to reflect the thematic diversity of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

5. Development of cooperation between the national theaters of the two countries.

6. The realization of a feature-documentary film co-production “The Silk Road” .

7. Engaging the cooperation of the telecommunications giant Huawei in the already traditional film competition “Cinema in the Palm” for amateur films realized with the help of a mobile phone.

Initiatives in the field of youth partnership and enterpreneurship

1. Establishment of an international youth business forum based in Sofia on the basis of the signed protocol between our Association and the National Youth Organization of the People’s Republic of China.

2. Continuation of the successfully launched international youth dialogue on various aspects of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative in various formats – bilateral, “China-CEE” or an even wider format.

3. Support of young entrepreneurs and leaders through the cooperation platforms of the global initiative “One Belt, One Road” and the ” China-CEE” Format. Contribution to creating a digital and

modern world based on business and cross-border partnerships.

Central to the Association’s proposals is the Trakia Gold unified Bulgarian trade standard system. At the center of this idea, which should bring the efforts of private business closer to the capabilities of state institutions, is the creation of a Research Commercial Investment Digital Center.

The main goal in this case, through digitalization of trade and payments, is the centralization of the process and the achievement of correct trade and logistics using an established network of consumers and producers in Asia, Bulgaria and CEE; improving mutual understanding of local cultures, business practices, laws and regulations; increasing dialogue and opportunities for cooperation and mutual understanding through customized events and meetings between public and private sectors; to provide professional support for mutual investment and commercial initiatives; preparing analyzes for research on investment climate, risk reduction, quality enhancement and return.

The problem of the Bulgarian manufacturers of fast-moving goods and consumer goods is that they would hardly enter the market of the countries of the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” /RCEP/, resp. would find it difficult to establish direct long-term commercial relationships with regional resellers or end customers; The production capacity combined with the cultural and language barriers of most producers and traders appears to be too small and/or complex for the volumes and quality of the quantities demanded by the RCEP market.

This necessitates the logical necessity of creating a business unit /digital platform/ which collects information on the available for sale/export quantities of specific goods from all Bulgarian producers in a given field, offering them under a unified Bulgarian brand – ” Trakia Gold” on RCEP market; This provides and implies: Centralization of trade and logistics control; Research work; Marketing; Price positioning and greater accessibility of the product makes it possible to enter this segment; Offering integrated trade-related and banking/blockchain based services.

Trakia Gold’s commercial strategy is to initially focus on increasing the volume of trade in the food industry: Wines and alcoholic products; Mineral water; Rose oils and other cosmetics; Tobacco products; Agricultural products.

As we outlined above, special attention should also be paid to the need to create commercial and economic centers in Sofia and other Bulgarian cities, based on the experience of the PRC in countries such as Poland and Germany, with permanent exhibition and warehouse space. There, Bulgarian manufacturers and traders will be able to get to know first-hand the extremely wide export possibilities of the PRC and place their orders, which will be able to be fulfilled in a short time. On a reciprocal basis, using Trakia Gold, similar centers can be found on the territory of the PRC. It is important to note that this matter was discussed and agreed with the leadership of the Shanghai Reform Commission.

The idea of creating a network of “sister cities and sister regions” between cities and regions of Bulgaria and China deserves special attention. In this regard, we have the good basis of already signed twinning agreements between individual cities and regions of both countries, which unfortunately still exist formally.

And their inclusion in a common system, within an Association of twinned cities and regions, with leadership changing on a rotating basis and by building a single center for information exchange and communication, can allow this initiative to establish itself as the backbone of the Bulgarian-Chinese partnership and cooperation.


In our opinion, it would be useful, based on the present analysis and the proposals contained therein, to organize in the near future the first Bulgarian-Chinese Public Economic and Political Forum to discuss the possibility of building a long-term strategy for the development of comprehensive relations between our two sides.

It is precisely in these crisis phenomena in world politics and in the economy that the voice of people’s diplomacy, the voice of every nation, must rise and become stronger.

It is necessary to unite reasonable and far-sighted politicians, historians, scientists, cultural figures and public figures who understand that different views on a particular problem do not interfere with the peaceful coexistence of countries and peoples and that, subject to mutual respect, a dialogue of states is possible using different civilizational development models.

We consider the diversity of peoples living on Earth to be the greatest value, each of which contributes to the development of world civilization: science, culture, technical achievements. Creative and cultural potential, spiritual knowledge and historical experience of each nation is an inexhaustible source of civilization development. Based on this diversity, respecting the spiritual ideals and cultural values of peoples, we strive to strengthen ties between people and countries, to offer a new format of international relations built on mutual respect and trust.

Realizing the need for new initiatives that can unite all sound forces for the sake of peace on Earth, we need radical changes in the field of international cohabitation.

At the basis of these changes, we must also put the question of building a new system of international communication, erected on the foundations of new principles of international law. Such an approach will be a positive reflection of the constructive development of a peaceful dialogue between peoples. The new system of international law should provide opportunities to better understand each other, to look at national traditions, to preserve spiritual and family values. It should provide an opportunity for mutual search for solutions to many issues of the spiritual renewal of society, which ultimately acquire a global character.

Today, when new realities dictate the agenda in the field of international relations, when the influence of non-governmental organizations on the formation of foreign and domestic policies has noticeably increased, when government officials increasingly listen to the demands of civil society when making decisions, there are broader prospects for the formation of qualitatively new interethnic , interreligious, humanitarian and new interstate relations. Obviously, it is possible to effectively counter common challenges and threats only by collective efforts in the spirit of joint responsibility.

今年,我们将庆祝中华人民共和国成立75周年和保中建交75 周年。现在,保加利亚正在努力实现再工业化,即重新达到 1989 年的水平,以适应21世纪的社会经济和政治现实。从这一点来看,中国的榜样、中国的经验对我国至关重要。因此,如果在保加利亚的外交政策问题上能够达成共识,那么这种共识恰恰可以归功于我们对积极发展与中华人民共和国的关系所采取的建设性和对国家负责任的态度。国家首脑频繁访华(主要是从保加利亚角度)就是证明。保加利亚对中国与中东欧国家全面发展关系模式的建设性态度也证明了这一点。我曾多次说过,这一模式已成为一个实验平台,中国国家主席习近平提出的一带一路倡议就是从这个平台开始的。






我们与中国的主要不同之处,也是他们经济政策取得成功的保证,在于他们提出了需要新的发展模式的论点,包括所谓的 “双循环”,即国内市场和国外市场相互促进,但与近期不同的是,国内市场优先。










在我看来,解决保中关系问题的出路,或者形象地说,这方面的 “瓶颈”,首先在于协调民间部门与政府机构之间的关系。



过去 10 年保中合作的弱项:

1. 贸易不平衡:保加利亚严重依赖向中国出口低附加值产品,高科技产品的双向贸易有限。

2. 对主权和安全的潜在影响:中国投资对保加利亚主权和安全的潜在影响一直备受关注。

3. 利益分配不均:一些利益相关者对中国投资和贸易带来的利益分配不均表示担忧,因为一些社区和行业可能会被抛在后面。



2.主权和安全问题: 一些人担心中国投资对保加利亚主权和安全的潜在影响。

















2. 促进创新和技术转让:通过合资企业和研究合作鼓励技术转让和创新,有助于提高保加利亚公司的竞争力,增加对华出口。

3. 促进文化交流:通过商业、学术和文化活动加强文化交流,有助于增进两国之间的理解和信任,促进更广泛的合作。

4. 消除顾虑:消除对中国投资影响保加利亚主权和安全的担忧,有助于建立信任和加强合作。

5. 简化程序:简化和精简贸易和投资程序有助于减少两国之间的障碍,加强合作。





1. 组织一次以“文明中的中国因素”为主题的国际科学会议:“20世纪文明变革中的中国因素”。

2. 举办国际司法论坛,主题为“实施一带一路倡议的法律问题和建立国际法律咨询机构”,来自中东欧国家的律师参加论坛。


1. 用色雷斯黄金(保加利亚的考古遗存,出土的黄金饰品以精美驰名—译注)来统一保加利亚的贸易标准体系和相互连接的研究商业投资数字中心(稍后将详细介绍)。







● 气候变化对谷物的影响
● 有机农业食品——质量和安全
● 药用植物——现状、质量和前景






4.由两国教育部和大学的代表制定并提出 “欧亚文明发展 ”国际硕士课程项目。





3. 启动一项国际文学作品出版计划,以宣传一带一路倡议的文明理念。




7.与电信巨头华为公司合作,举办 “掌上影院 ”业余电影竞赛,该竞赛已成为利用手机拍摄业余电影的传统赛事。




3.通过一带一路全球倡议和 “中国—中东欧国家合作机制”形式的合作平台,支持青年企业家和领军人物。在商业和跨境伙伴关系的基础上,为创建一个数字化的现代世界做出贡献。



保加利亚快速消费品生产商面临的问题是,他们很难进入“区域全面经济伙伴关系” (RCEP)国家的市场,也很难与地区经销商或终端客户建立直接的长期商业关系;大多数生 产商和贸易商的生产能力以及文化和语言障碍似乎都太小和/或太复杂,无法满足RCEP市场对数量和质量的要求。