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Transit Perspective

How the forum in Beijing decides the logistics destiny of the Far East

One of the main questions that the international forum “One Belt - One Way” is designed to answer, taking place on May 14-15 in Beijing: “How can Russia fit into the global trans-Eurasian project of the Silk Road actively promoted by China?”. According to scientists from the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences, for this it is necessary to thoroughly invest in the transport and logistics infrastructure, and above all in the east of the country.

Transit Perspective
In the First International Forum "One Belt - One Way", held on 14-15 in May, the heads of 28 states and governments participate, as well as 1200 delegates from around the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin became one of the three main forum participants, along with Chairman Xi Jinping of the PRC and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. It is expected that during the event mechanisms will be defined for the creation of a new type of globalization based on transcontinental logistics, launched by China, having put forward in the fall of the year 2013 the strategic initiative "One belt - one way", consisting of two parts: "The Economic belt of the Silk Road" and "Sea Silk Road of the XXI century". The projects of the routes are still variable (in some versions, the EPSP passes through a significant part of the territory of Russia, in others - only concerns it, in the third - it goes to the Russian side.

The goal of the projects is to connect the economically developed countries of Asia, Europe and Africa along the two ancient routes of the Silk Road, to create the longest and most voluminous platform for economic cooperation between Asia and Europe. Also, the Chinese initiative is aimed at ensuring the unimpeded sale of its goods to the whole world and accelerating the socio-economic development of the PRC in the context of the reduction of export opportunities of this state in the traditional markets of the USA, the European Union and East Asia as a result of objective economic and political reasons.

Director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Luzyanin and head of the Center for Social and Economic Research of China (CSEC) of the Institute Andrei Ostrovsky recognize that it is not yet clear how Russia integrates into the economic belt of the Silk Road (ESRP). This internationally transcontinental logistics project, actively promoted by China, is designed to sew the network of transport corridors and trade communications of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa - following the example of the famous Silk Road of the Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Andrey Ostrovsky says that for a full-fledged and mutually beneficial cooperation with China in the field of cross-border and transcontinental transport, it is necessary to increase the cargo handling capacities of the Far Eastern ports within the transport corridors "Primorye-1" and "Primorye-2", to build and commission new railway facilities (Trans-Siberian ) and transport infrastructure, modernize border crossings with China on the territory of Primorye and Priamurye. “But where to get the money for this is an open question. Regional budgets are limited in their capabilities. Are the Chinese themselves ready to invest in our infrastructure? So far, at least, they are not doing this, although, for the implementation of the idea of ​​a new silk road, they have created two powerful financial structures - the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund ... ", - emphasizes the head of the CSEIC.

Sergei Luzyanin, director of the Institute for the Far East, believes that the Chinese SREB initiative is aimed at strengthening China's geopolitical and economic role in the Eurasian space. “It is obvious that the event, which is attended by the heads of 28 states plus the UN Secretary General, has enough reasons to become an annual event. This forum is intended, I believe, to become a kind of new institution of global governance, albeit informal for now. Like those (International Monetary Fund, World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) that Western countries established after the Second World War. But if those institutions were created by the United States and its allies, as they say, “for themselves,” then in the SREB this is the know-how of China and he intends to play “first fiddle” here, ”believes Sergei Luzyanin. 

Despite the skepticism in assessing the prospects for Russia's participation in the project of the Chinese New Silk Road, the Institute for the Far East believes that the idea of ​​the SREB without using the territory of the Russian Federation for transit tasks cannot be successfully implemented. True, Russia should be considered here not only and not so much in itself as the largest state of Eurasia, stretching along almost the entire northern part of the continent, but together with its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) - Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. “It is necessary to ensure the conjugation of two large-scale projects - the EAEU and the SREB. Perhaps through the creation of a free trade zone for all participating countries. This will allow, on the one hand, for Russia and other EAEU members to create a huge transit zone for goods from Europe to Asia, expand the markets for their products in China and other Asian countries. On the other hand, China will receive more opportunities to expand its markets for its products and obtain the raw materials necessary for the economy, ”says Andrei Ostrovsky.
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