Posted: 04.06.2024 15:15:00

Route: Minsk – Beijing

About 6,000 kilometres separate Belarus and China, but even a huge distance does not prevent the countries from building high-level relations with each other. This is largely due to the far-sighted and wise policy of the leaders of both states, as well as the vigorous work at the level of parliaments, ministries and departments. Thus, an official Belarusian delegation headed by Chairperson of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus Natalya Kochanova paid a visit to the Chinese capital last week. The programme of the visit was eventful — after all, Belarus–China bilateral co-operation is developing in almost all areas. On the first day of the visit, the focus was made on the legislation and interaction of women’s organisations. On the second day, Chairperson of the Council of the Republic Natalya Kochanova met with Vice President of the People’s Republic of China Han Zheng and Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee Zhao Leji. Special attention was paid to trade and economic partnership, parliamentary interaction and co-ordination of a unique Belarus–China: Partnership 2030 co-operation plan. The initiatives concerning many other areas of collaboration were also announced during the events.

Meeting of the Belarusian delegation with members of the National People's Congress Standing Committe

According to regional and sectoral principles

The first event in the programme was a meeting with a state councillor, President of the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) Shen Yiqin at the House of People’s Assemblies in Beijing. Addressing her Chinese counterpart, Natalya Kochanova expressed confidence that further liaison between the Belarusian Women’s Union (BWU) and the ACWF will develop fruitfully.   
The Chairperson of the Council of the Republic invited Shen Yiqin to Belarus. As the speaker pointed out, it is important for the Belarusian side that the agreements and decisions that were adopted at the level of heads of states are implemented, “We need to work out a roadmap for our co-operation. I also suggest considering the question of setting up a Council of Women under our (mine and yours) patronage. The Council will monitor the implementation of the previously set tasks. Along with that, we could work more effectively at the global level, addressing the tasks of preserving peace and tranquility in our countries, as well as the issues of the women’s agenda of Belarus and China, including the development of the women’s movement in the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) and BRICS.”
In turn, the ACWF President, Shen Yiqin, drew attention to the successes in practical collaboration between Belarus and China, “Belarus is one of China’s most important partners in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). We are ready to faithfully implement all the agreements of our leaders, as well as strengthen humanitarian exchanges, promote co-operation in the field of education, science, culture, and youth policy. This is necessary for reinforcing mutual understanding and friendship between our peoples.” 

In the framework of the official visit, the Belarusian delegation visited Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing to get an insight into
the advanced Chinese experience in the field of healthcare

At a qualitatively new level

Another high-profile event that took place in Beijing was the first meeting of the High-Level Committee on Co-operation between the Legislative Bodies of the Republic of Belarus and the People’s Republic of China. Natalya Kochanova stressed that it would become a significant milestone in the history of Belarus–China parliamentarism, “Our parliaments have been co-operating on a bilateral basis and within the framework of international organisations for a long time. There is a well-developed legal framework between our countries, which is updated with new documents every year. An interparliamentary agreement signed between the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus and the National People’s Congress of China in 2023, and the creation of the High-Level Committee brought our interparliamentary interaction to a qualitatively new level.”
Belarus’ accession to the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, which may happen as early as July 2024, will give a new powerful impetus to the Belarus–China partnership. The speaker of the Council of the Republic thanked the Chinese side for its support in this matter.

There is potential for growth

In the field of trade and economic co-operation, the dynamics of mutual trade speaks for itself. 
“By the end of 2023, the trade turnover between Belarus and China increased by 30 percent and amounted to about $8 billion,” the Chairperson of the Council of the Republic cited the data. “According to the results of January–March 2024, the trade turnover was slightly less than $2 billion. There is potential for growth. In the credit and investment sector, 50 projects were implemented with Chinese partners last year. Currently, 20+ loan agreements have been concluded with Chinese financial institutions for a total amount of about $5 billion. Thus, in terms of the volume of direct investments received in Belarus last year, China entered the top three investor countries,” noted Natalya Kochanova.
The proposals of the Chinese side during the meeting of the Сommittee were voiced by Zhang Qingwei, Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China. He pointed out the need to improve the legislative framework, which will contribute to the development of the Belarus–China partnership. “It is necessary to take comprehensive measures to leverage our advantage and give a new impetus to relations,” Zhang Qingwei remarked. “At the moment, 45 pairs of twinning ties have been established between the provinces, regions and cities of our countries. More than 300 events were held within the framework of the Year of the Regions of Belarus and China, which took place from 2021 to 2023. Interregional co-operation has become a new point of growth in bilateral relations.” 

During the first meeting of the High-Level Committee on Co-operation between the Legislative Bodies of Belarus and China

Stake on innovation

The current and next years are planned to be marked by the Year of Science, Technology and Innovation of Belarus and China. In this regard, as Natalya Kochanova emphasised during the meeting with China’s Vice President Han Zheng, the Belarusian side is already preparing an appropriate plan for bilateral co-operation, “This will enable us to bring scientific and technical co-operation between our countries to a completely new level. As a result of the agreements between the Head of the Belarusian State and Secretary of the Party Committee of Peking University Hao Ping, a Forum of Rectors of Belarus and China will be held in Minsk on June 26th, 2024. The President of Belarus personally pays close attention to this event.”
The Chinese side also focused on innovative and scientific co-operation. According to the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, these areas can become bright points of growth.
“It is necessary to open up additional areas for co-operation, including new energy sources, transnational e-commerce and the digital economy,” Han Zhen stressed.
“Therefore, we need to jointly facilitate efforts to sign an agreement on trade, services and investments in order to ensure uninterrupted supplies of potash fertilisers and high-quality agricultural products, as well as to fully implement projects such as the construction of a national football stadium and an international standard swimming pool.”
The warm relations between the leaders of the two countries, as well as similar values and views on the ongoing geopolitical processes contribute to a strong friendship between Belarusians and Chinese. Natalya Kochanova assured, “Belarus has always been and will remain a reliable friend for China. We are ready to further develop political interaction and practical Belarus–China co-operation in all areas. We also stand in solidarity with China on the fundamental principles of geopolitical security. Peace, consent, sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs are the main pillars on which the policy of our states is based today.”

Links in the chain

Another pivotal meeting took place with the participation of Chairperson of the Council of the Republic Natalya Kochanova and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Zhao Leji, in the course of which the parties discussed strengthening parliamentary contacts. Natalya Kochanova emphasised in this aspect, 
“Thanks to the far-sighted and wise policy of the leaders of Belarus and China, our countries have formed an exemplary model of strategic co-operation, including joint parliamentary activity. Our common strategic goal in the international arena is the formation of a fair multipolar world order that does not accept dictates, political or sanctions pressure on sovereign states. Starting from July 2024, China will preside over the SCO. In this regard, Belarus is ready to support possible initiatives put forward by the Chinese side, including the creation of a parliamentary dimension within the organisation. We hope for China’s support of Belarus’ movement towards full-scale membership in the BRICS.”

By Yulia Demeshko