22 October 2018, Monday, 18:22
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Last Stop On Silk Road

19
IRYNA KHALIP

Actually, this is nothing but the economic expansion of China to Belarus.

A year ago Aliaksandr Lukashenka called the Belarusian-Chinese relations an "all-weather friendship". Last weekend, the summertime weather finally established: two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement on gratuitous technical and economic assistance for the amount of 800 million yuan. This money China will allocate to Belarus for the construction of a national football stadium, a swimming pool, and a residential complex. And also - a preferential loan of 4.3 billion yuan for the implementation of the project for the organization of high-tech agro-industrial full cycle production. And, finally, an agreement on mutual visa-free regime for holders of ordinary passports. In general, the weather seems fabulous.

In such situations, one always looks for the answer to the question, what was before, a chicken or an egg? That is, was it the abolition of visas that opened the door of the Chinese safe for Belarus - or, vice versa, the visa-free regime became a consequence of the signed agreements? In our case, of course, the second. And the stadium has absolutely nothing to do with this.

Belarus is the last station of the Silk Road, in understandable coordinates. The next stop is Europe, with which everything is not too simple. So, at the last station it is desirable to have not only the right to run errands, but also some other rights. And better - both rights and property. This is what China is currently doing in Belarus.

A stadium with a swimming pool - it's generally not too important. And not too expensive. Last year, China has already built several social residential buildings and a student hostel for Belarus.

Among businessmen this is called the "entrance ticket", that is, the payment for the right to do business in this territory. The state calls this social programs.

"Baltika" brewing company once ran away from Belarus to escape being involved in such "programs": after having invested millions in a dying Minsk brewery, Teimuraz Bolloev was faced with a choice - either build an ice palace and quietly brew beer further, or leave. But China is not "Baltika". It’s not a big thing for China to build a stadium, or a pool — just like sorting out a handful of peas.

But Chinese loans are interesting. These are not Russian loans issued without conditions and additional agreements. China issues loans, in fact, to itself. Because all of them are accompanied by hundreds of pages and paragraphs that provide for the purchase of equipment for ongoing projects exclusively in China, and the performance of works - mainly by Chinese specialists.

That is, the Chinese government, giving out loans to other states, creates jobs for its specialists there and provides sales to its own enterprises. And visa-free regime for holders of ordinary passports is needed not so much for Belarus as for China. The average Belarusian tourist is not rich, it's expensive to go to China, and the Chinese budget will not be replenished by the Belarusian tourist. However, it will become much easier for the Chinese workers. They are no longer limited by the Belarusian law on visa-free entry for only 5 days.

Actually, this is nothing but the economic expansion of China to Belarus.

And it's not about the stadium. Pay attention to the amount of agricultural soft loans. To invest over half a billion dollars in unprofitable agriculture in Belarus? Risk, of course, is a noble cause, but not so expensive. However, money has already been invested in a dubious Belji plant - there the Belarusians assembly Chinese Geely cars, which no one buys. The enterprise is subsidized by the Belarusian state, cars are bought in small quantities by state institutions, and it is not clear who outwitted whom in the end.

By the way, most recently - in March - Aliaksandr Lukashenka, during the consultative session, was outraged and criticized the Belji plant and two more Chinese investment projects: the Svetlahorsk pulp and cardboard factory and the Dobrush cardboard factory. Vice Prime Minister Uladzimir Siamashka answered that the Chinese general contractors were to blame. Well, now everything is clear: it’s just local specialists could not provide their full presence. And after the abolition of visas, the wheel will turn as if there’s some squirrel running on it.

Now China generously spreads eggs to the Belarusian baskets, not taking too much care of the effectiveness of those baskets. There can be many of them, they may even be unviable. The main point is different: "one road, one belt".

Iryna Khalip, Novaya Gazeta