MINSK, 20 January (BelTA) - Despite the difficult situation in the world, cooperation between Belarus and China has shown positive results, BelTA learned from the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
20 January marks the 31st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Belarus and China. "We can say with confidence that during this period the relations between our countries have passed the test of time and are an example of successful interaction between the states," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed. “On 15 September 2022, on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Samarkand, the leaders of the countries Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping decided to raise the level of bilateral relations between Belarus and China to an all-weather and comprehensive strategic partnership. The adoption of the relevant joint declaration testifies to the high appreciation of our common achievements and reflects plans for the future, emphasizes the commitment to the consistent implementation of the agreements reached by the leaders of our countries, and gives a new impetus to the Belarusian-Chinese cooperation in various fields.”
Bilateral trade has increased 51 times over the past 30 years. China is the second largest trading partner of Belarus after the Russian Federation.
It is noteworthy that even in the last three years, against the background of the pandemic, strict quarantine restrictions and foreign economic challenges, Belarusian exports to China steadily increased by 25-30% annually.
The 2022 statistics also demonstrates the growth of mutual foreign trade. In January-November, foreign trade with China continued to grow – by 8.1% year-on-year. The growth rate of exports of goods and services was 147.7%, imports - 96.9%.
Trade went up by 13.9%. In 2022, Belarus supplied almost twice as many products to China as against 2021. The emphasis was on products with high added value, the range of which is constantly expanding. Thanks to joint efforts, the supply of soybean oil, tanned leather, chipboards, peat, coke and bitumen, copper and copper alloys, carbon, tall oil was launched last year. This is the result of well-coordinated work of enterprises, ministries and departments, local authorities.
More than 170 Belarusian producers of dairy, meat, fish, confectionery, alcoholic and other food products have been certified to export their products to China. Work is underway to obtain certification for new suppliers of meat products, rapeseed oil and vegetable products (cereal flakes, flour). All prerequisites are in place to make significant progress in the supply of Belarusian baby milk food, canned food, meat finished products.
Belarus' major services exports are transport, construction, other business, computer, telecommunications, information and educational services. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs drew attention to the fact that an agreement between Belarus and China on trade in services and investments to be signed this year will help Belarus to further increase its exports mainly in such sectors as business services, air transport services, and communication services.
Belarus' merchandise imports from China increased by 1.7 times over the past 10 years. Investment imports have recently been steady, accounting for about 18% of the total volume of imports from China.
Taking into account the sanctions and the reorientation of imports from the markets of unfriendly countries, emphasis is placed on the search, together with industry chambers of commerce and associations of China, of Chinese importers of technical equipment, raw materials and components for domestic enterprises. About 40 large Belarusian enterprises have already established active cooperation on this issue across more than 190 commodity items.
Taking into account the development of digital technologies in 2022, a new mechanism for increasing trade with China was used, namely e-commerce. In July, Belarus' first national electronic pavilion was opened on the JD.com and Douyin platforms. The operator of the pavilion is Industrial Park Development Company. At the end of last year, right before the New Year holidays, the parties reached an agreement to launch Belarus' electronic national pavilions on seven new electronic platforms of China.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the largest infrastructure project in history of large-scale "economic corridors” – Belt and Road initiative, first put forward by President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping in Astana in 2013. Belarus has become one of the key participants in the Belt and Road initiative. Thus, the project of the China-Belarus Industrial Park Great Stone with an area of 91.5 square kilometers is being successfully implemented. At the beginning of 2023 the park had 100 residents from 15 countries, about half of them being companies with Chinese capital.
Investment projects implemented in the park cover many important areas of activity, such as R&D, mechanical engineering, electronics and telecommunications, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, production of medical devices, new materials, storage and processing of large amounts of data, complex e-commerce.
For Belarus, cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road initiative helps not only to preserve the existing transport and logistics routes but also to obtain additional ones for the supply of goods to China and the countries of Southeast Asia.
"The Belarusian section of the Belt and Road land route is an extremely important element of the China-Europe railway transport route. The main flow of overland Chinese exports passes through Belarus, trains are serviced and formed here and then are headed to the EU countries. Currently, container trains connect 60 cities in China with 170 cities in 23 European countries. On average, Belarusian Railways ensures transit communication and terminal processing of about 25 container trains on the China-Europe-China route per day. Taking into account the great potential of the Chinese market, it is possible to expect a further increase in traffic," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Within the framework of investment cooperation, companies from China are successfully implementing joint projects in Belarus in healthcare, engineering, pharmaceuticals, electronics and biotechnology. More than 160 companies with Chinese capital have been registered in the country, and their number is growing annually. "We have proposed to Chinese business more than 140 investment projects that our country is ready to implement with the use of Chinese investments. These are projects in various sectors: industry, agriculture, health and tourism. For each of the projects, we are ready to provide all kinds of assistance to ensure their successful implementation in the interests of our countries," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed.
Belarus and China has a practice of declaring thematic annual events. For example, 2021 and 2022 were declared the Years of Regions of Belarus and China, with more than 200 events held.
It has become a good tradition for Belarus and China to develop trade, economic, investment and humanitarian cooperation at the regional level. Each of the six Belarusian regions has twin provinces in China. Belarusian regions have been building friendly and mutually beneficial ties with Chinese twin regions for many years.
Interregional cooperation is primarily important because it is at the local level where trade and economic ties receive a boost, which, in turn, helps deepen and expand interaction, including in culture and tourism.
Before the pandemic, in 2017-2019 Belarus was at the top of the list of popular tourist destinations in Eastern Europe for Chinese tourists. 2018 was declared the Year of Tourism of Belarus in China and became fruitful given the agreements and contracts concluded and implemented between the tourism sectors of the two countries. With China reopening its borders this year, we can not only restore the level of interaction in this area, but also develop new areas in cultural, cognitive, gastronomic, business, industrial, environmental, health and medical tourism in Belarus.
One of the crucial areas of bilateral cooperation is the exchange of Days of Culture. In 2022, in view of the strict anti-epidemic restrictions, the Days of Culture of Belarus in China were held in the online format for the first time. The event became possible due to the active support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People's Republic of China and the leading media outlets of China, which broadcast concert programs of the best creative ensembles of Belarus on their Internet platforms over the period of three months and enabled millions of Chinese citizens to learn more about traditional and modern Belarusian culture.
“It should be emphasized that long-term and productive cooperation, based on mutual trust, is impossible without understanding the mentality and knowledge of the culture, traditions and customs of the partner country. That is why we have always paid special attention to public diplomacy and promotion of traditional Belarusian culture and Belarusian language in China,” the ministry said.
In 2012-2019 in China there were 11 centers of Belarusian studies and one institute of Belarusian studies specializing in economic research, which function on the basis of higher educational institutions. They host conferences, workshops, lectures on the Belarusian language and culture, and also on the Belarusian-Chinese relations.
The Belarusian language is taught at the foreign studies universities in Beijing, Tianjin and Xi'an, as well as Beijing International Studies University.
With the support of the Belarusian Embassy in China, Beijing International Studies University established the All-China Contest in the Belarusian Language in 2020 (held every two years), and Tianjin Foreign Studies University holds the All-China Competition in Belarusian Studies.
It is gratifying that Chinese young people show a sincere interest in the language and culture of our country, diligently and lovingly immerse themselves in Belarusian traditions, thus contributing to the rapprochement of our peoples and deepening Belarusian-Chinese cultural exchanges.
“The relations between Belarus and China is based on mutual respect and support, all-weather friendship, common aspiration for peace and creation. The year 2023 promises us many significant and interesting events and meetings in a face-to-face format, including at the level of the leaders of our countries, which will fill the Belarusian-Chinese strategic partnership with new practical content,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs added.