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Belarus and China's Belt and Road Initiative

Authors: Grigory Ioffe*, Radford University
Topics: Eurasia, East Europe, Economic Geography
Keywords: Belarus, China, Belt and Road Initiative, Industrial Park
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Following the analysis of literature on geopolitical significance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a preliminary conclusion is made that the latter reconnects Eurasia. Apparently, China pursues its own interest, but the positive effect of enhanced connectivity within the world largest landmass is hard to deny. The Great Stone, China-Belarus Industrial Park is integral to BRI. The Park has 56 resident companies, ten of which are already operational. The paper analyzes such aspects of Belarus's gain from the Park as diversification of trade, enhancing Belarus's role in international value chains, and Belarus's vigorous opposition to the zero-sum game approach that would require it to make an unequivocal choice between Russia and Western structures. At present, a half of Belarus’s international trade is with Russia and a quarter with the EU. Considering that Belarus’s export to the EU critically depends upon import from Russia (as Belarus sells refined oil to Western buyers), the role of Russia in Belarus’s connections with the outside world is overpowering. Examples are provided as to how the BRI, i.e., the initiative emanating from a distant world power, facilitates Belarus’s cooperation with its close neighbors such as Latvia and Germany. Minsk has long expressed its desire to achieve such a makeup of its trade exchange whereby one-third of it would be with Russia, one-third with the EU, and the remaining third with other countries. This target is still remote, but BRI has a strong potential to move Belarus closer to it.

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