Slovenia’s China policy still looking for the right fit

by Tinkara Godec

Mar 21, 2023 in CEIAS Insights

Slovenia’s China policy still looking for the right fit

Slovenia’s attempt at renewed China policy is still burdened by a lack of knowledge.

While Slovenia’s new foreign policy strategy recognizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific region, it lacks a clear China policy due to a lack of understanding. As Slovenia aims to strike a balance between cooperation with China in high-tech industries and avoiding dependencies, achieving this goal is hindered by lack of knowledge and awareness of  China’s advancements in high-tech industries. Without a better understanding of China, Slovenia’s China policy may fail to achieve its goal of concrete and beneficial cooperation with China, cognizant of potential risks.

2023 will be an eventful year for Slovenia’s foreign policy – it announced its candidacy to the UN Security Council in December, and in January, Slovenia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Tanja Fajon, unveiled the key points of Slovenia’s new foreign policy strategy at the 26th Consultation of Slovenian Diplomacy. The new strategy finally recognizes that the Asia-Pacific region has long been overlooked in Slovenia’s foreign policy – but does it aim to correct that?

In the last foreign policy strategy, adopted in December 2021, China was barely mentioned. In fact, it was mentioned four times – at first, described as both a competitor and an opportunity for economic cooperation, and then later described as one of Slovenia’s main partners in Asia. Under Prime Minister Janez Janša, the previous government pursued a hawkish China policy, which culminated in PM Janša calling Taiwan a country and announcing Slovenia would exchange cultural and economic representatives with it.

After the left-wing coalition won the election in April of 2022, Slovenia’s China policy was expected to return to a more pragmatic stance, seeking good business relations with China and putting political considerations on the back burner. In August, for example, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs (MFEA) made it clear that all plans to exchange representatives with Taiwan had been abandoned. However, Minister Fajon’s speech at the Diplomatic Consultation in January shows a changed stance – Slovenia is becoming increasingly vary of dependencies on others that might arise through extended cooperation.

At her speech to the Diplomatic Consultation, Minister Fajon characterized Asia as a region that plays an increasingly important role in international relations – a new center of gravity of the world order, as she called it – on which Europe is becoming increasingly more dependent.

In light of recent calls throughout the EU to reduce dependency on China, Fajon called for a reflection on the EU’s partnership with other countries, especially in Asia, and ensuring that the EU continues to cooperate with other countries while preventing falling into dependency at the same time. Slovenia would like to continue to cooperate with China in priority areas such as artificial intelligence, technology, science and research, and in particular fields of environmental protection and green transformation. However, these fields are also prone to dependencies. For example, the EU is a net importer of high-tech products, such as rare materials, from China, and the imports from China account for over a third of all high-tech imports. If Slovenia wants to find a balance between dependency, which could “allow other actors to dictate foreign policy definitions, economic dynamics, supply of strategic goods (energy, medical equipment, etc.) and thereby influence the quality of life of our residents,” as Minister Fajon said, and beneficial cooperation, it needs to overcome a significant obstacle – the lack of knowledge and awareness of where China stands in high-tech industries.

Although the MFEA wants to cooperate with China in high-tech industries, the Minister branded China as “a follower of innovation and a country that adopts Western technologies.” The reality is far less rosy for the West. Especially in the field of high-tech industries, which the Minister was referring to, China has a considerable advantage in several critical sectors. In the field of AI, Chinese researchers are leading not only by the number of scientific articles posted but have also surpassed the US in the number of citations. China files more than half of the world’s patents in the field of AI, and by some estimations, China’s implementation of AI technologies in products and services could surpass the US this year. Clearly, Slovenia still lacks knowledge and expertise in understanding China, leading to outdated views of one of the major global powers, bringing into question the efficiency of strategies for cooperation and risk management based on such views.

While Minister Fajon recognizes that the Asia-Pacific region has long been overlooked in Slovenian foreign policy, there is still a long way to go before it defines a clear and goal-oriented China policy. Without proper knowledge and understanding of China, there cannot be a good China strategy. If Slovenia fails to recognize that China is outrunning the US and the EU in the field of high-tech, its China policy will inevitably fail to achieve its primary goal – concrete and beneficial cooperation with China cognizant of potential risks.


Tinkara Godec
Tinkara Godec

Research Fellow

Key Topics



Murgašova 3131/2
81104 Bratislava

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news and updates from CEIAS.

All rights reserved

CEIAS 2023