China’s influence is present in Albania, even though in the form of a “soft power” compared to other countries of the region. Faktoje’s analysis reveals how China disseminates its propaganda in Albania through media controlled by the People’s Republic of China. The case we are analyzing is related to the trade relations between two countries and the narrative presented to the public by China Radio International, which has been present in Albania for more than a decade.
“An increasing trend in trade exchanges between Albania and China.” China Radio International, in its Albanian section, chose this title to convey to the Albanian public the progress of trade relations between the Asian state and Albania at the end of this year.
The article published on December 8 starts with the sentence: ‘In the 10-month period of this year, according to INSTAT data, Albania has recorded a decline in exports to EU countries, but an increase with countries of the region and with China.”
|Radio Ejani EJANIChina state-controlled media • December 8 at 3:10 AM
Increasing trend in trade exchanges between Albania and China
INSTAT has published the data for the 10-month period of this year, highlighting the news that Albania has reduced exports to EU countries and has increased them with countries of the region and with China.
Regarding imports compared to a year ago, Italy, China, Turkey, and Greece are the main partners of Albania.
The upward trend in the Chinese economy this year has attracted considerable trade in exports and imports. Increase of exchanges and expectations between Albania and China in 2024 is commented on by analyst Bardhi Sejdarasi in an interview for the Chinese Media Group.
Post on the official Facebook profile by RADIO EJANI, December 8, 2023
Furthermore, the article explains that the importing increase from China is 26 percent, considering the world’s second-largest economy as one of Albania’s key trading partners.
This shows a tendency in the Albanian economy, businesses, Albanian importers, and exporters to turn towards the Chinese market,” emphasizes the article by Radio Ejani, the Albanian section of Chinese Foreign Radio, present in Albania since September 2012.
Referring to the official data from the Institute of Statistics for the January-October period, China is indeed considered the second-largest trading partner of Albania, accounting for almost 8 percent of the total trade volume.
If we look at INSTAT data, the group of minerals and combustible materials takes the lead in exports to China. This is because for years now, the mining industry has been oriented towards the Chinese market, and a significant number of businesses, mainly from India, have invested in the mining sector to carry out these exports to China. On the other hand, imports from China are nearly ten times higher than exports, in three main commodity groups: 1-Machinery, equipment, and spare parts, 2-Construction materials and metals, 3-Textiles and footwear”, the Economic Expert, Eduard Gjokutaj argues.
According to INSTAT, our main trading partners from January to October are:
Italy (29,5 %), China (7,8 %), Turkey (6,8 %) and Greece (6,6 %)
On the other hand, according to INSTAT, imports from China have experienced the largest increase in the ten-month period, followed by Germany and USA.
China (26,0 %), Germany (5,0 %) and USA (28,9 %)
Faktoje’s verifications show that the data reported by Radio Ejani in the December 8 publication are accurate, but their interpretation leans towards propaganda, as the main message is tailored to China’s interests. From the beginning of the article, it is emphasized the most that exports to EU countries have decreased, and then it is highlighted that they have increased with China.
In economic terms, China is interested in promoting bilateral trade relations. The message in this relationship ‘aligns’ with the narrative of mutual interest, contrasting it with trade with other powers, including EU.” – Lutfi Dervishi, investigative journalism lecturer, explains.
Even the 11-month data does not change China’s position in trade with Albania. According to INSTAT, China remains the second trading partner with 8% of the volume, after Italy, which holds 29.2% of external trade.
“China, unlike other powers interested in the region in terms of public communication, does not get involved in the internal affairs of Albania. China’s interest is promotion of its narrative as a rising power, promotion of the ‘One Belt One Road’ project, and promoting technological developments.” Dervishi emphasizes.
Beyond the economy, the Chinese state continues its efforts to expand cultural influence in the Western Balkan countries, especially in Albania.
Since November 28, 2012, the Chinese Foreign Radio, the Albanian section, has started broadcasting on FM in Tirana and Durrës, Albania.
Radio Ejani web
Even with limited frequency coverage, Radio Ejani has paid great attention to its presence on social networks. Chinese Foreign Radio is also present on Facebook, X, and Instagram that are officially banned within Chinese territory. But, not in Albania.
RADIO EJANI page has 1.1 million followers in Facebook and posts an average of 30 times a day. It is noteworthy that followers do not share comments or reactions despite the high frequency of posts with information on economics, politics, culture, or technology, while the number of likes, comments, or shares on posts is almost nonexistent.
From a research conducted through Meta Ad Library (where anyone can check how many ads a page has sponsored or how much money is spent on them on two Meta’s platforms), we found that from November 2021 to December 2023, Radio Ejani has sponsored a total of 330 ads on Facebook. Out of this total, 39 ads have been related to social issues, elections, and politics.
The total expenses incurred for ads can be approximately calculated from this registry. For example, Radio Ejani has sponsored $289 US dollars in the last two years (March 11, 2021 – December 17, 2023).
Another indicator illustrating China’s interest in disseminating its influence is the investment in the younger generation of Albanians by providing studies or summer camps in the Asian state.
We can mention as such, “Unë dhe ti në Pekin,” (Me and you in Pekin) initiative, which is program for promoting Chinese language and culture organized for several years by the Central Office of the Confucius Institute (Hanban) and the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), as well as other educational bodies in China, as described in an article on the CRI online Albanian page.
All of this illustrates China’s influence in Albania, even though in the form of a “soft power” compared to other countries in the region.