The relations between Belarus and China have been marked by dynamism in all areas
The relations between Belarus and China have been marked by dynamism in all areas
Mr Tozik, what is your opinion about the current state and prospects of Belarusian-Chinese relations?
The relations with the People’s Republic of China are among the priority areas of the foreign policy of the Republic of Belarus.
We have achieved a lot since the diplomatic relations were established twenty years ago. We exchange visits on a regular basis at the high and top levels, maintain
On 17-20 September, Minsk welcomed a parliamentary delegation of the National People's Congress of China led by its Chairman Wu Bangguo. The visit became an important event in the bilateral relations from both political and economic points of view. The Economy of Belarus Magazine has approached the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Co-chair of the Belarusian-chinese commission for trade and economic cooperation, Anatoly Tozik, with a request to update us on the current state and prospects of Belarus-china relations. China has become a strategic ally of Belarus. And it is through this prism that one should look at the dynamic development of Belarusian-chinese relations in all areas, Anatoly Tozik says.
an active inter-parliamentary dialogue; there is an ongoing interaction between our government agencies. Belarus and China cooperate successfully within the framework of international institutions, providing mutual support on the issues of fundamental importance.
The Belarusian-chinese relationship got a strong impetus in December 2005 following the official visit of the President of the Republic of Belarus to Beijing. Then, the leaders of Belarus and China, Alexander Lukashenko and Hu Jintao, signed a joint declaration in which they stressed that the Belarusian-chinese relationship had advanced to a new level of strategic partnership.
It is equally important that over the last few years China has been among Belarus’s top trading partners. The high level of political relations between the two countries is an important prerequisite for the dynamic development of trade and economic ties, which is beneficial for both sides.
Speaking about the prospects of the bilateral relationship, we have many new opportunities for expanding our ties due to Belarus’s accession to the Customs Union. Certainly, it would be worthwhile for Belarus and China to set up either Belarusian-chinese or fully Chinese-owned businesses in Belarus to sell their products in the giant market of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.
I am confident that Belarus and China will cooperate just as fruitfully in tourism, education, and science.
The global financial and economic crisis has reshaped the situation in the international arena. What was its impact on Belarusian-chinese cooperation?
We have seen our cooperation growing increasingly vibrant over the last several years. I will give you some figures. In 2008 Belarus-china trade in goods and services reached $2.2 billion. In 2009 the global financial and economic crisis had a certain impact on our trade as we did not export our potash fertilizers to China, and the imports from China fell, too. But as soon as in 2010 the trade did not just pick up but outdid the 2008 level, having exceeded $2.5 billion.
As for this year, in January-june the trade was $1.7 billion, up 40% from the same period in 2010. And by the year-end we expect it to reach $3 billion.
There are a number of projects carried out in Belarus with the help of Chinese investments. Therefore, we import a large volume of investment-purpose goods, which explains the considerable import figures. I believe the situation will be changing in the future and the international trade deficit we are now having will gradually reduce, because the nature of the projects we are doing with our Chinese partners is, as a rule, import substitution and export orientation.
Hence, we may say that Belarusian-chinese trade and economic relations are bearing fruit and the global financial and economic crisis did not have a serious impact on them.
Investment projects are among the key areas of Belarusian-chinese cooperation…
This area is indeed very important and beneficial for both sides. I believe that the implementation in Belarus of large investment projects with the help of Chinese loans will enable us to refit our economy faster, use local resources more efficiently, and produce competitive goods for the domestic and international markets. Over the past several years this cooperation has been most intense.
Following the talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in August 2008, President Alexander Lukashenko suggested using Belarus’ potential at a larger scale to promote China’s interests on the European continent. Today we can already see how this concept works through invest- ments, lending operations and other forms of interaction.
For an example of fruitful Belarusian-chinese cooperation, take a look at the refitting of several CHP plants in Minsk, for which the Chinese government provided a preferential loan and another loan was extended by China Development Bank. Other examples are projects to modernize the Belarusian cement industry: the renovation of the existing facilities and construction of three new ones with the help of Chinese loans. By the way, those new facilities marked the biggest BelarusianChinese cooperation initiative in the history of the bilateral credit and investment cooperation.
On 17 December 2009, representatives of the Belarusian government and China Exim Bank signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement. Under that document, the Chinese bank opened a $5.7 billion credit line for the Belarusian government to finance a range of projects in Belarus.
A framework agreement on financial cooperation was signed by the Finance Ministry of Belarus and China Development Bank during a Minsk visit of China VicePresident Xi Jinping on 24 March 2010. In line with the agreement,
the Chinese bank opened a credit line for Belarus to the tune of $8.3 billion. The parties also considered setting up the China-belarus Industrial Park in Belarus.
A government delegation of Belarus met with representatives of China Exim Bank in Beijing on 7 June 2010. The parties concluded a general loan agreement to provide Belarus with a $1 billion buyer loan on preferential terms.
During the visit of the Belarusian head of state to China on 9-11 October 2010 the parties signed a package of documents to materialize $3.5 billion worth of joint projects in power engineering, construction, manufacturing industry, road and transport infrastruc- ture. An agreement was concluded in December 2010 to provide loans on preferential terms to construct power units at Beryoza and Lukoml state district power plants.
During the visit of top executives of China Exim Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in June this year, loan agreements were signed to finance major joint projects estimated at over $1 billion. The projects include the construction of a plant to produce bleached sulphate pulp in Svetlogorsk, renovation of the Zhlobin-gomel section of the Minsk-gomel highway М-5/Е271 and electrification of the railway sections Gomel-zhlobin-osipovichi and Zhlobin-kalinkovichi.
At present, a large-scale project to renovate the air-terminal complex of the National Airport Minsk is in the pipeline. A modern international passenger transit terminal, the second runway and other facilities will be constructed there using Chinese direct investments.
I would like to mention the successful operation of a BelarusChina joint venture to produce household appliances. The company was established by the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of household appliances Midea Group Co and Belarus’ holding company Horizont. This project marked the arrival of large Chinese investors in Belarus.
A joint project to construct the Lebyazhy residential neighborhood in Minsk is another example of successful cooperation.
I would like to note that Belarusian companies have also implemented a number of investment projects in China. They include joint ventures to assemble and provide maintenance to BELAZ trucks in Beijing, produce fodder and corn harvesters, and assemble Belarusian tractors in Harbin.
What are the most remarkable joint projects in education and culture?
I will give you just one figure: almost 2,000 Chinese nationals study at 22 universities of Belarus.
The Confucius Institute was set up at the Belarusian State University in 2006. The institute is to promote China and the Chinese language, bring closer and mutually enrich the national cultures, facilitate trade, economic and scientific cooperation.
The Chinese language is taught at five secondary schools of Belarus. In the academic year of 2010-2011, 260 school students studied Chinese as a mandatory discipline; another 90 chose it as an optional discipline.
I would like to note that every year Belarusian universities take part in major international education exhibitions in China. A joint exposition of Belarusian universities was presented at China Education Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Belarusian delegations also participated in international education exhibitions in Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang.
In October-november last year 25 rectors of Chinese universities were on a visit to Belarus. The trip was stipulated in the cooperation agreement on professional training, advanced training, internship, retraining and exchange of specialists signed by the Education Ministry of Belarus and the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs of China.
The two countries are forging new ties, arranging visits of youth organizations, unions of women, peace funds, and journalists. We are expanding cooperation in healthcare and culture. For example, the Days of Belarusian Culture in China and the Days of Chinese Culture in Belarus are held on a regular basis.
By the way, the Days of Chinese Culture have just concluded…
The striking cultural traditions of China were showcased during the Days of Chinese Culture on 25 September–2 October. The event was inaugurated at the big stage of the Belarusian State Philharmonic where traditional Chinese music was performed. The Chinese orchestra that gave the concert is well known all over China and beyond. The concert was also staged at Grodno Music College.
The songs and dances of Inner Mongolia and a show by Chinese circus artists were performed at the Minsk State Linguistic University. As is known, this region of China has preserved the ancient traditions of ethnic Mongols.
Besides musicians and dancers, Minsk also welcomed Chinese artists who presented their works during the Days of Chinese Culture. The exposition “Ceramics and porcelain from China” opened at the National Art Museum of Belarus, while an exhibition “Modern fiber art of China” was held at the National History Museum.
The Days of Chinese Culture were arranged following the Days of Belarusian Culture that were a big success in China in October 2010.
This year Belarus welcomed Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. That was no doubt a big event giving a new impetus to the Belarusian-chinese cooperation. What are the main results of the visit?
The visit was very fruitful. I would like to emphasize that the visit of such a high-level official is very important for our country and actually reflects the state of relations between the two countries. Indeed, the NPC Standing Committee Chairman is officially number two in the leadership structure in China.
Mr Wu Bangguo was accompanied by a big delegation of 150 people: heads of ministries and agencies, major corporations, banks of China.
The central point of the Minsk visit was the talks with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, during which the parties confirmed their interest in further strengthening and expansion of comprehensive cooperation. The President expressed gratitude to China for providing advice on the ways to stabilize the macroeconomic situation in the country. There was a very trusted and comprehensive exchange of views on a wide range of international problems and virtually on all issues of bilateral cooperation.
Mr Wu Bangguo also met with Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, Speakers of the Council of the Republic and the House of Representatives Anatoly Rubinov and Vladimir Andreichenko.
During the negotiations the Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee said that the Chinese government decided to provide Belarus with a soft loan of $1 billion to implement the joint projects, and CNY70 million as a gratuitous grant.
Mr Wu Bangguo also participated in a foundation stone ceremony to mark the official start of the construction of the Peking Hotel in Minsk. This complex will not only become one of the city landmarks but will also give a clear picture of China’s achievements in architecture and construction.
Another important event took place in the field of education. The headof thenpcstandingcommittee attended the opening ceremony for the Confucius Institute at the Minsk State Linguistic University.
Although the visit was held within the framework of inter-parliamentary cooperation, the sides signed a number of important documents on investment cooperation. Among them was a framework agreement on financial cooperation in privatization and raising Chinese investment between the Government of Belarus and China Exim Bank, a credit agreement to finance the construction of the Vitebsk hydroelectric power plant on the Western Dvina. The Belarusian government and China Development Bank also concluded a framework agreement on financing the investment project “Technical upgrade of the Dobrush Paper Mill subsidiary “Geroi Truda”.
The parties signed an agreement on financing the investment project “Construction of a plant to produce soda ash in Mozyr District, Gomel Oblast.” The State Defense Industries Committee of Belarus
and China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) signed a contract to create a national system of satellite communication and broadcasting in our country.
But the main document that was concluded by the governments of the two countries was the agreement on the establishment of the China-belarus Industrial Park. Mr Tozik, please tell us more about this project...
I will start with its background. The President of Belarus suggested creating such a park a few years ago. During the visit of the Belarusian head of state to China, the Economy Ministry of Belarus and the Chinese corporation CAMCE signed a memorandum to establish the park on 11 October 2010.
Already in January 2011, the parties worked out a schedule, defined the main activities, the timing of their execution, and appointed those responsible on both sides. In May this year Economy Minister of Belarus Nikolai Snopkov went on a visit to China, during which he met with Minister of Commerce Chen Deming and executives of Sinomax Corporation (CAMCE makes part of it ) to discuss the project.
In June, the President of the Republic of Belarus sent a letter to the Chairman of the PRC, reaffirming his support for this large joint project.
An intergovernmental agreement on the establishment of the China-belarus Industrial Park was signed during the visit of Mr Wu Bangguo to Minsk. According to it, Belarus will allocate an area of 80.48 square kilometers in Smolevichi District, Minsk Oblast, to accommodate the park. The executing agency on the Belarusian side is the Horizont holding company, which already agreed with CAMCE on setting up a joint management company responsible for developing and managing of the park.
I emphasize that a special preferential treatment will be offered to the resident companies of the park. It will apply not only to Chinese producers but also to other leading international companies from South-east Asia, Europe and America. We would like to see, first of all, high-technology companies in Belarus. This will enhance the innovative component of the Belarusian economy. In Belarus, they will have a strong platform to promote their products to the 170 million strong market of the Customs Union dutyfree, and can significantly reduce the time and transportation costs when entering the EU market.
In conclusion, I would like to say: we need China and China needs us. We are equal partners though we are very different. Cooperation is absolutely mutually beneficial, which allows us, with confidence and optimism, to continue building relations with this great country.
Belarus and China signed an investment project
to build the Lebyazhy
in Minsk. Thirty-three homes will be built
according to Chinese standards and
A 1.5MW wind mill made by the Chinese HEAG company has been installed in the village of Grabniki, Novogrudok District. The mill is outfitted with an advanced security system, including lightning protection
In September 2011 Ms Xu Lin, Director-general
of the Office of Chinese Language Council International
and General Director of the Confucius Institutes Headquarters,
visited the Confucius Institute at the Belarusian State University
which opened in Minsk in 2007
A foundation stone ceremony to mark the start of the construction of the five-star Peking Hotel was held in Minsk. The ceremony was attended by a Chinese parliamentary delegation headed by Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee Wu Bangguo
The second unit of Minsk CHP Plant
No. 5 will come on stream by the
end of 2011. The investment
project worth 260 million has been financed by China Development