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Globalization with Chinese characteristics

Will the "One Belt - One Way" initiative become an international integration project?

Globalization with Chinese characteristics

Alexander Isayev

Leading researcher, Deputy Head of the Center for the Study and Forecasting of Russian-Chinese Relations, IFES RAS
In Beijing, the first high-level international forum on cooperation within the framework of the "Silk Road Economic Belt" initiative, which for short was called "One belt - one way" was completed. Heads of states and governments of 29 states, official representatives of dozens of other countries of the world, heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, businessmen, financiers, in total more than 200 participants took part in it. Judging by the results of the forum, the meetings within the framework of this initiative may well become regular.

The opening of the forum demonstrated that Beijing tried to organize the ceremony so that Russia was represented at the forum as the second most important player in the framework of the Chinese initiative. The speech of the Russian president, who delivered his welcoming speech immediately after the statement of President Xi Jinping, underscored Russia's importance for the PRC in the implementation of its plans.

In the capital of China, it was stated that China and Russia today play the role of a ballast system, which gives stability to the ship of economic interaction in Eurasia. It is worth recalling in this connection that in 2015, Russia and China signed a declaration on the interface between the EurAsEC development and the One-Way-One-Way initiative, and began discussing the practical details of cooperation. The international meeting in Beijing showed that the integration of the Chinese initiative with the development of the Eurasian Economic Community can become a reality, it remains only to define the roles and consolidate them for each participant in the process.

Be that as it may, today the Chinese initiative is positioned as a multilateral strategy on the vast Eurasian geographic and economic space. To date, the initiative "One belt - one way" has acquired practical outlines. In China, the investment-financial and production infrastructure was created. Including in the form of the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investment (ABIA) and other institutions, with impressive financial capabilities. The financial potential of the project after the Forum will increase, as announced, by $ 14,5 billion US dollars. In addition, China's commercial banks plan to provide special loans of $ 55,1 billion US dollars to support practical interaction with various countries.

Experts emphasize two key areas of this initiative: the economic belt of the Silk Road, that is, land transport and trade routes through Central Asia and Russia to Europe, as well as to the south of the Middle East region, and the sea Silk Road - through South-East Asia to the South Pacific , and across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East region and southern Europe. The strategic goal is to stimulate further economic development of the PRC, especially its western regions.

At first, this initiative looked like a purely economic one, and later political issues occupied a very prominent place in it. Now we are talking about ensuring peace, security, cooperation and economic prosperity of all countries involved in the implementation of this program.

In other words, to date, the initiative of the “economic belt of the silk road” is becoming an important component of the Chinese understanding of globalization, in which the economy is adjacent to politics, when Chinese interests are taken into account, as well as the interests of the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Now, in truth, it inevitably arises the assumption that the place and role of the SCO in the new conditions can be defined in a new way.

At the forum, China announced that it is promoting the idea of ​​economic globalization. In this context, the initiative "One belt, one way" becomes one of the most important elements of economic globalization on the Eurasian continent, and, according to its authors, should contribute to the improvement of the international economic order. The main content of the "One Belt, One Way", as reported by the leading Chinese media outlets these days, is "the harmonization of political attitudes, the unification of transport infrastructures, the liberalization of trade, the interaction and interconnection of financial spheres, the spiritual rapprochement of peoples." Undoubtedly, the goal is very noble, and its implementation, if it will, will lead to serious shifts in the political and economic map of the world. Moreover, both Russia and China proceed from the premise that the future of integration - the revival of protectionism and the desire for individual or group leadership will create insurmountable obstacles to economic progress.

It is very important that a lot is already being done. The China-led initiative and the EurAsEC formation program initiated by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus create stable conditions for co-development, and the involvement of other countries in this process, gives rise to new opportunities for the construction of infrastructure-logistics routes, free trade zones, free circulation of goods and services on a giant geographical Space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

The first practical steps inspire optimism. With Kazakhstan, China is implementing or actively discussing 54 joint projects. In the integration processes, other SCO countries, European states are involved. New transport routes for the supply of Chinese goods to Europe are already being implemented, and vice versa: for example, according to the Xinhua News Agency, since the beginning of the year, 1000 freight trains with Chinese goods have been sent to Europe from China by all routes (more such routes), that on 160 Percent more than last year. The trains stopped coming back from European countries empty; Back they are carrying Spanish wine, Polish milk, Belarusian oil, German cars and other goods. China's high interest in such a form of cooperation will become more understandable if we recall that four years after the launch of the one-way-one-way initiative, the volume of China's trade with countries along the Great Silk Road was more than $ 3 trillion. The volume of Chinese investment in these states for this period exceeded $ 50 billion, there were created 56 zones of trade and economic cooperation.

At the same time, India's refusal to participate in the Beijing Forum is also a matter of concern. Indian representatives were present among the forum participants, but Delhi was represented not at the state, but at the expert level. New Delhi seems to feel hurt, as one of the most important elements of China's economic program was the project to create a China-Pakistan economic corridor. It implies the economic activities of the PRC and Pakistan on the territory of the Gilgit-Baltistan region. This region is part of Kashmir, which is a disputed territory for India and Pakistan. Foreign experts believe that China, which is extremely sensitive to territorial problems, made a big mistake when it did not take into account India's opinion in such a sensitive area as a territorial conflict with Pakistan, and thus created an excuse for distrust of its initiative on the part of the largest player from Number of emerging economies and one of the leading members of the BRICS. Moreover, India is among the contenders for the title of the third world economy; This place, it is believed, it may well take to 2030 year.

It seems that at the upcoming SCO summit in June at 7-8 in Astana, and then at the BRICS summit in China this autumn, these controversies will be given serious attention, although it is unlikely to overcome it in one or two meetings. Nevertheless, experts hope that the Sino-Indian relations are in a phase of pragmatic development. Since 2008, China has been the main trading partner of India. In 2015, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to almost 72 billion US dollars, and the cost of Chinese exports to this country is estimated at 63 billion US dollars.

Now a little bit about Russian-Chinese cooperation in the framework of the One-Belt-One Way Initiative.

Perhaps, one of the most notable trends of modern economic cooperation between Russia and China today is cooperation in the transport sector. This is confirmed by the practical actions of the two countries in the field of laying new routes, and the construction of infrastructure and logistics corridors in both the east and the west of the Russian Federation.

Recently, the largest multi-purpose logistics operator in the post-Soviet space, JSC RZD Logistics, proceeded to deliver goods to the PRC on a regular basis. The first container train from the logistics center RZD in the Kaluga region went through the border crossing Zabaikalsk-Manchuria to the Chinese port of Dalian 5 April. Since 4 May these transportations have passed in a regular phase - once in two weeks. The organizers of the route believe that among the potential export cargoes from Russia to China are food products, agricultural products and other non-primary goods. According to ITAR-TASS, the operation of the route is carried out jointly by Russian Railways, Transcontainer, Freight Village Vorsino and Chinese company Sinotrans.

In parallel, transcontinental routes are formed from East to West. There are several of them. In May-June, according to official reports, the first trial railway transit of goods from China to Europe via Lithuania is expected. The cargo will go through the territories of Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, then through the Lithuanian border station Szestokai to Poland and Europe. Cargo transportation along this route became possible due to the agreement signed by the "United Transport and Logistics Company" established by the railways of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with the Lithuanian Railways Company (Lietuvos gelezinkeliai). Until the end of 2017 year, skip the new transport corridor 20 railway trains.

Multimodal container transportations are being piloted experimentally from Western Europe via Latvia, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan further to China, to the city of Kashgar. The route will pass through Riga, from here to Kashgar approximately in 7 400 kilometers, and the freight train will overcome it according to the traffic schedule for 14 days. In other words, China is also interested in this direction in creating an integrated Eurasian economic space in the European direction, which corresponds to the economic interests of both this group of countries and China itself.

Modern transport and logistics strategy sometimes takes quite unexpected turns. A transport corridor has opened for the delivery of goods from Northeast China through the Far Eastern Russian territory to ... southern China. Due to the extremely busy port of Dalian, this route turned out to be economically profitable for Chinese commodity producers, and it seems that it will develop. The new route once again drew attention to the need to develop infrastructure in the Russian Far East.

In Minvostokrazvitiya RF convinced that the realization of the benefits associated with the geographical proximity of Russia and China, should rely on infrastructure. According to the head of the ministry Alexander Galushka, in addition to the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe bridge under construction and the railway bridge of Nizhneleninskoye-Tongjiang, it is necessary to build the Poltavka-Dunnin bridge.

There is another very large project, which you can not pass by. It is about the automobile artery "Meridian", which should connect the PRC and Western Europe, and which will pass through the territory of Russia. Currently, the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investment is discussing the issue of allocating funding for this project. This is, in fact, a transcontinental project. The length of the "Meridian", according to Rosavtodor, is 8445 km, it will pass through the territories of China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus to the EU countries. And its Russian segment will be about 2000 km. It is planned that the traffic on the highway will be four-lane, and its construction, if negotiations on financing will be successful, can be completed in 2020.

Undoubtedly, such diverse, complex and multi-directional cooperation in the transport sector makes participants in this cooperation think about effective management of this process. This is another problem to be solved.

The interaction of Russia and China in the transport, logistics and infrastructure sphere is not the main thing in the solution of the joining of the EAEC and the Chinese initiative. Moreover, in the opinion of Russian practical departments, we are talking about the definition and development of those economic directions on which joint economic activities of our countries are possible. Today, more and more talk about such areas as energy, trade, production cooperation. So far, the first steps have been taken, and the results, if they are, we will see in a few years.

The strategy "Economic belt of the Silk Road" is still in the development stage. This initiative, unlike EurAsEC, has not yet become an integration project, but there is potential for this. Until now, China has focused on realizing the trade and economic interests of its country, which is understandable and natural, but the further, the more it will have to take into account the interests of other countries. And, it seems, he starts to do this, stating that he alone will not draw such a project, he should become international. Nevertheless, in the expert community of China there is an opinion that the Eurasian Economic Community and the initiative "One belt is one way" - the projects are completely different. Therefore, according to the supporters of this idea, China should build a new "silk road" and "economic belt" on a bilateral basis, not with the entire Eurasian Economic Union, but with its individual participants.

The first steps along the uncharted road, as you know, are not easy. But from a fragile seedling planted with a caring hand, as you know, a strong tree grows.

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