Minsk – Beijing: moving towards each other

Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to China’s capital city of Beijing this December is one of the key events in Belarus’ foreign political life
The midpoint of Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to China was his meeting with Hu Jintao, Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Council of the People’s Republic of China. President of China welcomed Alexander Lukashenko and called him the best friend of the Chinese people. “You pay so much attention to the Chinese-Belarusian friendship and make a great contribution to the development of relations between our countries. I appreciate this.”

In turn, Alexander Lukashenko thanked Hu Jintao for the warm welcome. He said the homely atmosphere of his visit corresponded to the spirit of the Belarusian-Chinese relations, which could be called a real breakthrough, especially over the past few years. “We could not even imagine that we would have half a billion dollar trade turnover with a country so far away. Today we have crossed this limit,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

Diplomatic relations between Belarus and China were established back in 1992, but business cooperation needed an impetus. This impetus was given later, when China became one of the key foreign political priorities of this country in line with the policy of the Belarusian administration. This has been the fifth visit of Alexander Lukashenko to China, and every meeting with the leaders of one of the largest countries of the world resulted in a boost in mutual trade. The current $500 million of trade turnover can be considered a sort of “intermediate total”. Specialists believe this figure may quadruple in years to come.

Another visit means another step towards the unbelievable $2 billion, and the number of documents signed during Alexander Lukashenko’s stay in China is good proof. The key document is the joint declaration of China and Belarus signed by the two heads of state. This is a strategic program that outlines the basic directions and sectors of political and economic cooperation. Belarus and China aim not only at a serious interstate dialogue, but also at specific actions and projects.

“We discussed political issues and found out that there were no disagreements regarding the processes that are now taking place in the world. We have identical stances. We come out for a multi-polar world... ”

Alexander Lukashenko
The declaration is supported by more than ten intergovernmental and inter-industry agreements and contracts. There is an agreement on cooperation in tourism that allows direct cooperation between Belarusian and Chinese travel agencies. Earlier, the ban on direct cooperation between foreign companies and Chinese tour operators applied to Belarus. Now that the presidents signed the agreement some 80 Belarusian travel agencies interested in China get a regulatory framework that greatly facilitates their business. The same is true for Belarus’ state-owned GSM operator BeST. China supplies equipment to the Belarusian mobile operator and, what is even more important, provides soft loans. In fact, all the documents signed in China are very profitable for this country, including agreements on cooperation in science, education, finance, the press, between local administrations.

These deals are all based on the close (if not identical) views of the parties on a number of international issues: “We share the same positions in the international scene, the same conceptual views on the world order,” Alexander Lukashenko said, adding that the relations between Belarus and China are those of true friends.

According to President, Belarus is making use of Chinese experience now. The two countries keep to the principle of development that is possible without breaking the bases, and this policy does pay off. The two economies are developing at an astonishing pace, while the effectiveness of mutual cooperation is based on mutual understanding in many spheres.

“We discussed political issues and found out that there were no disagreements regarding the processes that are now taking place in the world,” Alexander Lukashenko said commenting on his meeting with Hu Jintao. “We have identical stances. We come out for a multi-polar world, for non-interference in internal affairs of independent countries, for free development of states. We are against double standards and military interference.” According to President, the state leader of China suggested that the two countries should keep up intensive interstate contacts as accelerators of development in any sector.

The list of companies that are expected to cooperate with China may be very long, as there are quite a number of enterprises ready to work with Chinese partners in tourism, sports, education, science and high technologies, including outer space exploration.

The Chinese party undertook to finance many of the joint projects discussed during the visit of President. This will not be a one-time initiative, as China plans to set new lending conditions and volumes. Loans may total $1 billion every year.

One of the main political results of the visit is quite sensational. According to Alexander Lukashenko, the Chinese administration invited Belarus to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This is a fast developing institution led by China and Russia. India and Pakistan also take part in the organization. “A very powerful center of force is being established,” Alexander Lukashenko said. “It is essential for us to be present in such an institution even as observers. The region is developing and most of the primary events of the planetary scale will be taking place here.” As a result of preliminary consultations with the members of Shanghai Cooperation Organization all member-states provided all-round support for Belarus and its intention to join the organization.

The strategy of interaction between Belarus and China proved extremely efficient and is likely to become a model for cooperation and dialogue with other countries. Alexander Lukashenko specifically noted that Belarus will follow this path in relations with India, Vietnam, and the Middle East. This way is based on the strategic interest and genuine intention to cooperate both in politics and economics. Diplomatic “topside” of business relations serves as a glue to strengthen ties between the countries.

by Dmitry Kryatov
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