President Alexander Lukashenko said that nothing threatens the transit of Chinese goods through Belarus.
Over the past years, Belarus has managed to turn into an essential link in the transit chain of China leading to Western Europe. But recently Minsk has faced increasing sanctions pressure from the EU a new, fifth in a row, a package of sanctions is already being prepared.
In these conditions, Lukashenka considered it necessary to reassure his Asian ally: Belarus will continue to fulfil the transit agreements in any case. Details in the material “Izvestia”.
In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to revive the ancient trade route of the Great Silk Road. For this, the concept of “One Belt One Road” was proposed, consisting of two directions: overland the “Economic Belt of the Silk Road” and water “Maritime Silk Road of the XXI century.” To implement the plan, it was necessary to develop and build hundreds of infrastructure facilities in different countries: railways, highways, power plants and industrial parks.
At the same time, the Chinese Leader named Belarus as an important junction platform of the Silk Road. As part of this path, the two states planned about 90 joint investment projects.
In 2014, the Ministry of Economy of Belarus signed with the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC a protocol of cooperation. From this time on, Belarus can be considered a full-fledged participant in the “Silk Road”.
In the first half of January 2019, at the Paris conference of the International Union of Railways and the Association of Freight Forwarders (FERRMED) was signed a memorandum on the development of Eurasian logistics for the transport of goods between China and the countries of the European Union.
The document was accompanied by a route map, according to which the main flow of goods goes through Belarus. By the way, this was a big disappointment for Ukraine, which at one time intended to take a pretty bite off the Chinese transit pie. Indeed, in 2013 it was said that the Chinese side is ready to invest huge funds in the transport infrastructure of Ukraine.
However, after the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, who was actively developing relations with China, most of the previous plans for cooperation were not implemented. The focus of attention of China shifted to Belarus, and Ukraine was left with only a spare railway branch – the southern branch of the main route (Moscow Kiev Budapest).
As part of the integration into the New Silk Road, Belarus has acquired a large number of infrastructure facilities. Among them, we can mention the multimodal assembly ground and the logistics centre for the distribution of goods in the FEZ Grodnoinvest, intended to become a global hub on the way of movement of goods from Central and Southeast Asia to the EU market and the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park Great Stone (in 25 km from Minsk), which is an industrial landfill for the placement of high-tech industries with an export purpose (mainly to the EU markets).
An impressive inspection and inspection complex of the Brest customs was also built – including a scanning tunnel, which is equipped with the technology of fast control and high-speed self-adaptation. He can “see through” cargo in motion, without stopping freight trains and identifying, for example, blocks of contraband cigarettes in lumber. The Chinese side invested $ 5.5 million in the launch of this complex.
China’s Interests will Not be Affected
All these investments paid off. Even in the crisis 2020, the Belarusian railways were transported more than 550 thousand TEU containers (twenty-foot equivalent) within the China-Europe-China route. Moreover, the volume of container traffic was 1.6 times higher than the level of 2019.
“Our transport infrastructure is in active demand as a reliable transit corridor,” said Alexander Lukashenko during his video message addressed to the participants of the Global Summit for Trade in Services held in Beijing with the participation of Xi Jinping.
According to Lukashenko, from 2014 to 2020, railway container traffic on the China-Europe-China line through Belarus increased 14 times. At the same time, the President stressed that Minsk will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the uninterrupted movement of these trains.
In addition, Lukashenko directly called China a key partner of Belarus and unequivocally noted the great prospects that he sees in the possibility of accessing Chinese online trading resources.
These words are not accidental: the Belarusian leader needed to smooth out the effect of his own statement made a few months earlier. In May of this year, talking about the EU sanctions imposed on Belarus, Lukashenka emotionally said: “We do not want any economic war.
All of them, Europeans: sanctions, sanctions, we will impose sanctions! Well, we will answer. How long can you walk with your head bowed? They want to transport goods through the Mediterranean Sea there, to the east to Russia, China let them carry them. ” Moreover, on July 6 Lukashenka instructed the government to study the possibility of banning the transit of German goods to Russia and China through the territory of Belarus.
Soon Chinese Ambassador to Moscow Zhang Hanhui made it clearthat the Chinese side drew attention both to the words of Alexander Lukashenko about the possibility of restricting the transit of goods through the territory of Belarus, and to the new unilateral expansion of EU restrictions against the republic.
“China has consistently opposed the unjustified use of unilateral sanctions in international relations, as well as against the use of sanctions for mutual threats. China opposes the interference of foreign forces in the internal policy of Belarus, ”the Ambassador emphasised.
According to Zhang Hanhui, Beijing hopes that the parties will not undermine stability in the region. It is clear that Lukashenka is trying to assure China, which Minsk considers one of its main geopolitical “friends”, that Belarus is a stable and reliable partner. In addition, this state expects to further expand its participation in the “New Silk Road”.
So, on July 14, at the container port of Jade-Weser in Wilhelmshaven (Germany) for the first time arrived direct freight train from China. The train, which left the province of Anhui on June 25, stayed on the road for 18 days (half the time it would take for the ship) and brought home appliances and textiles. During this time, he covered a distance of 10 thousand km, passing through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland.
Belarus Cannot be Excluded from the Equation
At the same time, the European Union continues to impose sanctions against Minsk. The other day it became known the content of their next package is already the fifth in a row.
Despite the fears, there were no measures against the Belarusian transit complex the sanctions will again affect individuals, Belavia airlines, as well as a number of Belarusian travel companies, which, according to the EU, “contribute to the development of the migration crisis in Europe”.
In other words, the European Union is well aware of its own dependence on Belarus in the field of Chinese transit.
The expectations of the EU states that China will diversify transport flows in order to avoid being overly tied to Russia and Belarus are purely speculative. For the time being, such hopes were especially strongly cherished by the Baltic countries, who hoped that China would decide to use their ports.
However, these hopes were dashed by geopolitics. If before the beginning of 2019 the Balts expressed their desire to cooperate with China, then accusations against Beijing spilled out as if from a cornucopia – the Asian power was accused of “subversive activities”, espionage and all sorts of insidious designs. This, of course, is not accidental and coincided with the intensification of the confrontation between the United States and China.
Small countries could not go against the policy of their overseas patron. Lithuania was especially zealous, trying to offend and insult Beijing as much as possible. In August, patience ran out there and China not only recalled the Ambassador from Lithuania, but also suspended its railway transit through its territory.
Nevertheless, neither China nor the EU can yet refuse the services of Belarus. And Belarus itself, as follows from the statements of Lukashenka, is not going to put obstacles to China all the more.