Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Croatian Agriculture Minister, Chinese Ambassador Discuss Pork Exports to China

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - Croatian Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković has held an online meeting with Chinese Ambassador Xu Erwen to discuss ways of speeding up the procedure to obtain veterinary certificates and possibilities for pork exports to China, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The agricultural cooperation with China has intensified since 2006, and thanks to the China+17 initiative and the efforts by the Agriculture Ministry, the protocol on veterinary and public health requirements for dairy products intended for export from Croatia to China was signed in 2019, removing the obstacles to the sale of Croatian dairy products on the Chinese market.

Vučković mentioned Croatian requests towards the Chinese competent authority (GACC) regarding veterinary certificates for pork and pork products, fresh and frozen tuna, honey, beef and poultry, notably the export of tuna, pork and pork products from Croatia to China.

The Croatian ministry is in close communication with the GACC and Croatia is a step closer to getting a positive assessment as a country allowed to export pork and pork products to China, the statement said.

In 2020 the GACC was notified that the World Organisation for Animal Health had recognised Croatia as a country officially free of classic swine fever.

Between 2011 and 2020, with Croatia's entry into the European Union, Croatian agricultural and food exports to China increased ninefold, while at the same time imports from China decreased by more than double. In 2020 alone, the value of agricultural and food exports to China increased by 52% compared with 2019, to nearly €7 million.

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Thursday, 8 July 2021

Smart Bee: Chinese Invest in Croatian Smart Beekeeping Scale Production

July the 8th, 2021 - The Croatian Smart Bee concept, designed by an engineer from Samobor, has attracted the attention of the Chinese who have decided to invest 50,000 euros in it.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, the best innovation of the Agro Arca 2021 fair is the unique Croatian Smart Bee Scale - Smart Bee, by Matija Hrzic. This electrical engineer from Samobor is on the verge of the commercialisation of Smart Bee.

27-year-old Hrzic began with Smart Bee's initial development through several phases back in 2016, while the start of production is expected by the end of the year. According to Hrzic, this will mean the production of the first Croatian smart beekeeping scale with advanced technologies integrated, within the framework of cooperation with a Chinese partner, which would be finalised in Croatia. An investment of around 50,000 euros is planned for the start.

Here on the Croatian market, no one produces electronic boards or measuring cells for beekeeping, while China as a mega power in this specialised niche is a logical choice for cooperation, because the price competitiveness of innovative scales can be readily achieved. The goal is to first cover the needs of Croatia and the immediate region, but as the production and sales price is many times lower, and with the fact that before the pandemic there were close to half a million active beekeepers across Europe, he believes that there are great opportunities for growth on the European market.

The mentor on the Smart Bee project, interestingly, is teacher Ivan Vlainic from the Secondary Vocational School in Samobor, a lecturer and mentor of Mate Rimac in the past, who accompanied him to numerous competitions. The most important thing in everything, Vlanic points out, is that talents are recognised as early as possible, as much as possible through competitions for technical schools, and that people who harbour such talents are able enter the world of innovation as early as possible.

As for Hrzic, Smart Bee is his first innovation with which he went to competitions, and the idea arrived to his mind at home, under the influence of his father Hrzic who is a beekeeper and who noticed some shortcomings with the process. Hrzic explained that the main problem in using the equipment that is already out there on the market concerns the price and life of the batteries.

Using the ratiometric ratio used with Smart Bee, according to him, a benefit is achieved because three times lower battery voltage is required for the same measurement accuracy, which means that you don't have to use 3 batteries but instead only one. These are only the first savings, and by using advanced versions of microcontrollers, the energy efficiency of the system is achieved, which, he says, leads to a cheap product with great application in beekeeping. This is especially true of so-called mobile beekeeping which is based on hive transport.

Mobile apiaries are becoming more prevalent in general, as the season from April to September, depending on the temperature, includes different types of bee food sources which is why hives are transported to locations with plenty of food available, from acacia and chestnut forests to lavender and oilseed rape fields.

Why is beekeeping necessary?

The first thing Hrzic mentions in answer to this query are climate changes that result in unstable weather conditions, so there is an explicit need for scales because they allow the beekeeper to know the moment when to feed the bees, not to have the honey from them consumed, or move them to another location.

According to him, bees can eat about 40 kilograms of honey a day per hundred hives in this sensitive period, so the answer is an innovative scale: a beekeeper from his home, via a mobile or web application, even via SMS by mobile phone, gets an insight in the condition of the apiary. That is done not only in terms of nectar and pollen intake, but also in terms of the temperature in the hive, the monitoring of which can prevent bee swarming or death, in addition to monitoring the health of the queen.

The plan for Smart Bee as time goes on is to place a temperature sensor in each hive, which sends data to the central unit in the scale using Bluetooth technology. Smart Bee, concluded Hrzic, also enables the detection of hives overturning, as well as problems caused by wild animals such as hungry bears.

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Saturday, 12 June 2021

Final Segments of Peljesac Bridge Structure Coming Together

June the 12th, 2021 - The final segments of the long awaited Peljesac bridge structure are finally being put into place following their delivery on Tuesday. The Chinese vessel "Development Way" carrying the bridge's final segments experienced issues and was late arriving, but it seems that things are back on track.

As Morski writes, the large Chinese vessel "Development Way" delivered the last parts of the Peljesac bridge structure on Tuesday this week. So far, 1,800 metres of the future bridge which will unite not only Croatian territory but that of the European Union (EU) have been installed, which is 75 percent of the total length of the bridge, and the remaining 24 segments of the steel span structure of the bridge have arrived by ship.

Although the ship's arrival was scheduled for Monday, there was, as stated, a two-day delay for Development Way on its way to the southern Croatian Port of Ploce from China.

As such, the enormous project that the extreme south of Croatia has been dreaming of for years, in which the need to cross into and back out of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Neum), is removed, has taken another significant step closer to its realisation. The total value of the investment in the Peljesac bridge structure stands at a massive 526 million euros.

If work continues at this pace, the much talked about bridge could be completed by the end of the year, with the steel structure hopefully being installed during August.

There is still quite a bit of work to be done yet, including installations, drainage facilities, electrical installations, the bridge's lighting, equipment, fences, windbreaks, the repair of corrosion protection, the installation of waterproofing and of course the final asphalt layer.

The official opening of the Peljesac bridge is still scheduled for some time in March 2022.

For much more, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 7 June 2021

Is Chinese Ship With Peljesac Bridge Segments Experiencing Malfunction?

June the 7th, 2021 - The works on Croatia's long awaited Peljesac bridge have been progressing well, but is the Chinese vessel carrying the last of the Peljesac bridge segments experiencing technical difficulties? 

As Morski writes, for two days in a row now, the Chinese "Development Way" cargo ship which is carrying the final Peljesac bridge segments has not been moving a great deal at all. The vessel sails under the Panamanian flag and has been strangely floating around the Strait of Otranto, more specifically at the entrance to the Adriatic sea.

The Chinese ship's current position can be seen on the site vesselfinder.com, and the limited maneuverability of the ship is stated as the reasons for its two days spent floating in the middle of the open sea, which means that it is currently experiencing malfunctions and is out of order.

Development Way was otherwise built back in 1983 and is intended for the transport of heavy loads. Its destination is the port of Ploce in southern Dalmatia, and according to Hrvatske ceste (Croatian roads), it is currently engaged in the transport of the very last 24 of the Peljesac bridge segments, more precisely of its steel span structure.

It's worth noting that the "Development Way" vessel initially started its long journey from China to Croatia back at the end of April, which means that the production of parts for the Peljesac Bridge in Chinese plants has now been completed and that the bridge that will finally connect the two parts of Croatia, removing the Bosnian border crossing from the equation, is finished at long last.

These final Peljesac bridge segments currently floating around in the Strait of Otranto will connect the country's territory, and as such the EU's territory, from one coast to the other, spanning a total length of 2440 metres.

According to the latest information available about the Chinese ship, the ship's entry into the port of Ploce confirmed for Tuesday, June the 8th instead of Monday the 7th.

For more, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Zagreb in Chinese Lonely Planet: Museums, Art, Parks Presented to China

March 13, 2021 – On the other side of the world, Croatia's capital is well-known as the "city of museums," which is precisely how the author Si Ma Yan presented Zagreb in Chinese Lonely Planet's article.

The Chinese edition of Lonely Planet, one of the most influential world tourist guides, published a guide about Zagreb in its March edition. As reported by Franka Gulin, Croatian National Tourist Board director in China, the guide nicely and vividly brings all the information about Zagreb and is primarily intended for culture, art, and local food lovers.

"Although the realization of tourist trips from distant countries is significantly difficult in these circumstances, publishing a guide about Zagreb maintains visibility and promotion of our capital in China, but also Croatia as a whole," said Croatian National Tourist Board director Kristjan Staničić.

Namely, travelers from China immensely appreciate recognizable Croatia's tourist products, such as culture, nature, and eno-gastronomy.

As Zagreb is known in China as a "city of museums," the guide's author Si Ma Yan emphasizes museums, galleries, murals, facades, and other street art forms on Zagreb's streets. The author also recommends visiting interesting antique shops and buying antique jewelry in numerous retro vintage shops and charming jewelry workshops. When it comes to accommodation, options are proposed for different categories of travelers, from the luxury segment to travelers on a smaller budget. The guide especially emphasizes that Zagreb is ideal for walks in beautiful parks, and Croatia is also famous as a filming destination.

Lonely-Planet-China-copy.jpg

Zagreb in Chinese Lonely Planet / Source: Croatian National Tourist Board

"After Lonely Planet declared Zagreb the Best in Europe in 2017, this is the second major recognition for our city by this world-renowned tourist guide. We are honored that Zagreb was presented to the Chinese market through a mini urban guide. We hope that, despite the demanding times, it will contribute to the additional positioning of our capital in the Chinese market. Guests from China have always been important for Zagreb, and publishing such an urban guide confirms how important the Croatian capital is in China," said the Zagreb Tourist Board director Martina Bienenfeld.

Besides, Franka Gulin, together with the Croatian Ambassador to China Dari Mihelin, paid an official visit to the Chinese province of Chongqing, where they met with representatives of departments and business entities for culture and tourism. Chongqing Municipality is one of China's fastest-growing regions in economy, culture, and tourism, with a population of about 40 million. Their airport in pre-COVID times was well connected to all the leading airports around the world, and the area was in constant growth in outbound travel.

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Saturday, 13 March 2021

Chinese Stop Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac Railway Project Tender Again

March the 13th, 2021 - The Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railway project tender has been forced to grind to a halt once again as the Chinese throw a spanner in the works in the form of another complaint.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Chinese have once again stopped the tender for the reconstruction/construction of the second track on the Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railway section, worth a total of 2.04 billion kuna. The tender was launched back on September the 4th last year, and the first deadline for submitting bids was November the 3rd, 2020.

However, so far there have been a total of seven appeals against the tender documentation and its changes, which has extended the tender by more than four months, according to a report from Vecernji list.

The last complaint was filed by the Chinese company China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (CREEG), more specifically its Zagreb branch, about ten days before the deadline for submitting bids was due back on March the 9th. HZ Infrastruktura sent a request to the State Commission for the Control of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM) to continue the procurement procedure, despite the aforementioned complaint filed by a Chinese company.

HZI stated that CREEG's appeal was untimely and that the Chinese were merely abusing the institute of appeal with the sole aim of extending the deadline for the submission of bids. They also stated that they received money from European Union (EU) funds for the Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railway project with the deadline for the eligibility of all expenditures until December the 31st, 2023.

Therefore, they warned that any further extension of the procedure could cause termination of the grant agreement, which could have an adverse effect on the entire Croatian economy. This would cause damage that would be greater than the value of the purchase itself, and that is one of the reasons, according to the Public Procurement Act, on the basis of which the continuation of the tender can be allowed despite the submitted Chinese complaint/appeal. Despite that, DKOM rejected the request on the grounds that HZI had not been able to actually prove what it claimed.

The Chinese company China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), which is building the Peljesac bridge down in Dalmatia, also stopped this tender with an appeal filed on December the 4th, which DKOM rejected as untimely within just four days. It was then interpreted that the Chinese had filed the complaint to put pressure on the Croatian side over another tender - for a concession on the Zagreb coast in the Port of Rijeka, where they had made the best offer in a consortium with other Chinese companies.

However, the United States and the EU both put pressure on Croatia not to let the Chinese have access to the Port of Rijeka, and at the end of last year the tender was entirely annulled. Therefore, the new Chinese complaint for the Hrvatski Leskovac-Karlovac railway project might easily be interpreted as a kind of revenge for the Rijeka situation, but that is yet to be proven beyond doubt.

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Friday, 5 March 2021

Croatia on Chinese Hainan Television Attracted 60 Million Viewers

March 5, 2021 – An episode entirely dedicated to Croatia on Chinese Hainan Television attracted about 60 million viewers in its first broadcast.

As reported by Franka Gulin, Croatian National Tourist Board director in China, an episode entirely dedicated to Croatia was broadcast on Chinese Hainan TV, which about 700 million viewers watch.

The episode aired as part of the seventh season of Connections, a popular mosaic TV show that has been airing since 2016. TV presenter Mei Qing hosts cultural experts and ambassadors to the People's Republic of China from countries around the world.

"Broadcasting the show about Croatia, which was watched by about 60 million viewers in the first broadcast, is a great opportunity to promote our country on the Chinese market. The show talked about the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, the Šibenik International Children's Festival, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, and Zadar, a city-friend with the Chinese tropical paradise Sanya. We also touched on football and pianist Maksim Mrvica, and the hosts surprised us with great pronunciations of Croatian names and general knowledge about Croatia," said Gulin.

Along with the Croatian ambassador to the People's Republic of China, Dario Mihelin, Gulin also participated in filming a show about Croatia.

Hainan TV is a large regional media house owned by the Hainan Broadcasting Group based on China's largest island of Hainan. It broadcasts its program on eight channels and satellite television, while a good part of the programs and live streams are available online.

Considering that the show is broadcast within the entire network of the mentioned television and abroad, as well as within the platforms of Hong Kong International Satellite TV, iQiyi, Tencent, TravelNet, and the Himalayas, the ratings are significantly higher than the official figures. Therefore, it is possible that even more than 60 million people saw the show about Croatia.

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Sunday, 3 January 2021

Rijeka Port Chinese Investment Stopped Owing to EU, US Pressure

January the 3rd, 2020 - The much talked about Rijeka Port Chinese investment has been forced to stop owing to pressure from both the European Union and from across the Atlantic from the United States of America, who do not want the Chinese there for strategic reasons.

As Morski/Josip Bohutinski writes, the Rijeka Port Authority has annulled the tender for a concession worth a massive 20.5 billion kuna despite the fact that two binding offers had been received for that tender from global players in the field of port management. The problem was that one offer, and ironically the best one of them all, came from a consortium of Chinese companies.

According to Vecernji list, the pressure being put on Croatia from both the USA and the EU to ensure that the Chinese don't get the 50-year concession for the container terminal in Rijeka Port was huge. The US and the EU do not want this Rijeka Port Chinese investment for various strategic reasons. The decision on the tender for the concessionaire was therefore weighed up and postponed for a long time. Croatia could choose the Chinese offer despite opposition from its Western allies, or it simply cancel the tender. According to current information, the possibility to choose another, less favourable offer was not taken into account.

A new tender

According to the decision of the Managing Board of the Rijeka Port Authority, the pressure to reject the Chinese was indeed enormous. Namely, the Governing Board made the decision to cancel the tender on Wednesday, and this news went almost unnoticed in the shadow of the utterly tragic events in Petrinja and its surroundings. The Rijeka Port Authority didn't provide an explanation as to why the tender was annulled, it only stated that the Board made a decision on the annulment of the concession procedure and on the initiation of a new procedure. It has also been stated that the Board of Directors decided on this unanimously, with all of its nine members. It was said that, in accordance with that decision, the Rijeka Port Authority will start a new procedure for granting a concession for the development, operation and management of the Zagreb Deep Sea container terminal as soon as possible.

The new tender will be conducted through a public tender in an open procedure lasting 35 days from the publication of the notice of intent to the final granting of the concession. The best bid for the concession at that container terminal was made by a consortium of Chinese companies comprising Ningbo Zhoushan Port Company Limited with a 70 percent stake, Tianjin Port Overseas Holding Limited with a 20 percent stake and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), which is constructing the Peljesac bridge in Dalmatia, with a 10 percent stake.

The Chinese offered a permanent portion of the annual concession fee of two million euros, with a commitment to complete the second phase of work within five years. The second offer came from a consortium consisting of the Dutch company APM Terminal BV with a 51 percent stake in the consortium and the Croatian company Enna Logic with a 49 percent stake, and they offered a permanent part of the concession fee of one million euros per year, with the obligation to complete the second phase in a decade.

Ningbo-Zhoushan otherwise operates the largest port in the world, and Tianjin is among the 10 largest ports in the world. APM terminals BV is the operator of 74 terminals worldwide, and is part of the largest shipping container company - A.P. Moller-Maersk. Binding offers arrived in March 2020 and the decision has only just been made, although it was expected to be made back in September. Therefore, the bidders were also asked to extend the guarantee for the seriousness of their bids from the 31st of December 2020.

The invitation to participate in the tender for the concession, development and management of the Rijeka Port container terminal was published back on March the 4th, 2019, and those interested could submit a request to participate by May the 3rd, 2019. The first round of the competition ended on June the 30th, 2019, after the evaluation of the received applications for participation. The second round of tenders began on the 1st of July 2019, and on the 2nd of December 2019, the Rijeka Port Authority sent the candidates a notice of the conclusion of the dialogue and an invitation to submit their final bids. The deadline for submission of those bids expired on March the 4th, 2019.

A fifteen day appeal time

CRBC, which, as stated, is building the Peljesac bridge, has filed an appeal against the tender for the Hrvatski Leskovac - Karlovac railway, and the move was interpreted as a Chinese maneuver and pressure to make a decision on the now dropped Rijeka Port Chinese investment, Vecernji notes. The Chinese, as well as the Dutch-Croatian consortium, may file an appeal against the decision to cancel the concession procedure within fifteen days of receiving such a decision. The appeal in that case would be submitted to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure. Otherwise, the tender documentation states that the concession grantor reserves the right to cancel the tender procedure in accordance with the appropriate law, to reserve the right not to accept all bids received if they don't fully comply with the tender conditions, and to do so in accordance with the Regulation on the concession procedure.

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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

VIDEO: 600 Chinese Workers Working on Peljesac Bridge Construction

October the 21st, 2020 - The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has seen many a planned investment shelved in anticipation of more stable times or simply binned entirely. When it comes to the Peljesac Bridge construction, however, things are going full steam ahead in spite of the challenging times in which we continue to find ourselves. 

The pandemic year has of course caused issues of its own to the Peljesac Bridge construction plans, with the long-awaited bridge being built by Chinese workers who had their own various issues with the delivery of not only the necessary equipment and parts, but of themselves as a result of quarantines and testing.

The Peljesac Bridge saga is an apparently endless one, but this long-anticipated strategic Croatian project finally kicked off thanks to European Union (EU) funds and a keen Chinese consortium. The bridge, which will eliminate the need for those crossing from the extreme south of Dalmatia into the rest of the country or back again to cross into neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina (Neum), as as important to the European Union as it is to Croatia, as it will link EU territory.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Chinese workers aren't letting anything get in the way of getting the job done on the Peljesac Bridge construction site down in sunny Dalmatia, and as many as 600 of them are currently working on making sure things stay on track. 

The N1 team recently paid a visit to the Peljesac Bridge construction to check how the coming together of one of the largest strategic projects in Croatian history is progressing in these trying times.

The Chinese workers currently working on the bridge, all 600 of them, don't leave the construction site and work at full capacity. In the spring of 2022, the works are expected to finally be completed, reported Hari Kocic.

Watch the video below:

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Sunday, 11 October 2020

Pompeo in Dubrovnik Warns Croatia Against Close Ties With China

October the 11th, 2020 - Mike Pompeo in Dubrovnik attracted a lot of media attention, and the former head of the CIA had a clear message to Croatia when it comes to doing business with the Chinese - Be careful.

As Novac/David Lekaj writes, "Open your eyes when doing business with China," was the message of the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, who received his military training at the prestigious West Point and his doctorate in law from Harvard.

Mike Pompeo in Dubrovnik explained the geopolitical dangers and pitfalls of cooperation with China in great detail as part of the "17 + 1" initiative. His statement that "the Chinese just want to take money from Croatia" surprised the Croatian public, considering that newspaper columns have been filled with articles about Chinese investments in various projects within the country for several years. However, what was happening far from the radar of the Croatian public was the presentation of Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma to Chinese businessmen at the "Green Forum" on Tuesday (September the 29th) when he uttered almost the same words as Pompeo in Dubrovnik. All in all, we should encourage our government to seriously consider Croatia's further role in the "17 + 1" initiative.

What has been achieved from the announced Chinese investments in Croatia? Well almost nothing. In the absence of the realisation of the promised investments, Peljesac Bridge often gets referred to as a Chinese investment, although it isn't. Peljesac Bridge is an investment by the Croatian Government, mostly financed by European Union (EU) funds. The Chinese simply picked up money to carry out the work. The then Chinese ambassador in Zagreb, Hu Zhaoming, in the midst of some strong media lobbying for Chinese companies, publicly promised that the money that the Chinese state-owned company would receive for doing the work on Peljesac Bridge would be invested in Croatia. As soon as the transfer was made, the Chinese directed all the money to the Italian Port of Trieste, and Ambassador Hu Zhaoming left Croatia for half a term, and was promoted to the high position of Director of the Information and Communication Office of the Central Liaison Department at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Such a modus operandi was pointed out by Pompeo in Dubrovnik. As were China's combinatorics through the "17 + 1" initiative, whereby China has networked the transition countries of Europe in order for Chinese companies to gain initial business experience that they currently lack to enter the ''game'' with developed EU countries. In fact, the "17 + 1" initiative brings together the "b" and "c" leagues of European countries according to Chinese criteria. In all this, Croatia hasn't achieved any economic interest and this quite legitimately calls into question the further membership of Croatia in such an organisation from which only China benefits.

Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma appealed to Chinese corporations at the Green Forum on Tuesday (September the 29th) to strive to be at the service of the world to restore China's degraded image, rather than trying to conquer the global market. In addition, Ma told Chinese businessmen that they should stop considering globalisation a mere effort to conquer the global market and nothing more. Instead, they should properly develop their ability to provide quality products and services, the tycoon noted.

In other words, China’s image is currently and expectedly dismal, as Chinese companies are the world’s biggest plagiarists, unscrupulously using other people’s patents and intellectual property. But you don't have to go to China to understand what Jack Ma is talking about, just visit the Smederevo steel plant or the Bor mine in neighbouring Serbia, which taken over by the Chinese, and after talking to the locals there it will be clear what environmental issues are at stake in that part of Serbia. If China doesn't finally make a real turnaround, if it doesn't become a reliable country that instills confidence in others, that doesn't "mask" things that can endanger human lives around the world (as it did at the beginning of the current coronavirus pandemic), then such a China quite simply cannot expect the rest of the world to harbour decent relations with it, instead, the world will continue to experience China as it did before - the global cradle of cheap copies.

The harsh criticism of the Chinese Embassy in Zagreb on the statements of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Dubrovnik was obviously wrongly addressed, as Pompeo spoke in Dubrovnik almost in the same tone as Jack Ma did just a few days ago in China.

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