In 2018 the Belarusian-Chinese cooperation reached the highest level in the history of bilateral relations. In an interview with BelTA Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Republic of Belarus Cui Qiming talks about the most important events in the bilateral cooperation in 2018.
Mr Ambassador, who are Belarus and China for each other?
True friends and mutually beneficial partners. The Belarusian-Chinese friendship has stood the test of time and is growing stronger.
To be more specific, bilateral contacts have been steadily gaining momentum on all fronts. In 2018, under the strategic leadership of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Belarusian-Chinese relations of trust-based comprehensive strategic partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation became stronger, the political trust between the two countries grew.
China and Belarus provide each other increasingly strong support in matters relating to the most important interests of both states. It is obvious that the relations between the countries at all levels grow closer every day. This is especially manifested in the Road and Belt initiative.
In the course of the year, the countries exchanged high-level visits. Belarus hosted high officials of China: Zhao Leji, the member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC, China's Vice President Wang Qishan, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe
In June of this year, the president of the Republic of Belarus participated in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in the Chinese city of Qingdao. Alexander Lukashenko and Xi Jinping met to exchange views on further development of the Belarusian-Chinese relations, strengthening of cooperation in various fields.
China is Belarus' third largest trading partner and ranks second in terms of imports...
Yes, indeed. According to the Belarusian statistics, in January-October of 2018, the bilateral trade in goods approached $3 billion, which was up by about 18% year-on-year. The countries have successfully implemented projects in energy, transport infrastructure, vehicle assembly, development of small and medium-sized businesses.
Given the high level of relations with Belarus, China has taken measures to address the problem of access of Belarusian dairy products, beef, poultry and other agricultural products to the Chinese market. This year, Belarus dairy export to China surged seven times. The Chinese side has provided support in the transportation of high-quality Belarusian goods by the Chinese-European railway service.
With regard to interregional cooperation, it has noticeably intensified as well. Since the beginning of the year the regions have exchanged 65 visits. The provinces of Gansu, Guangdong, Hubei, Hunan, Chongqing City and others have established sister-city relations with all regions of Belarus and the city of Minsk.
A roadmap for cooperation drawn up by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Economy Ministry of Belarus has been underway. Among the most promising projects I would like to single out the projects relating to the modernization of railways, agricultural production and processing, infrastructure construction, commercial real estate development.
How do you assess the results of Belarus' participation in the first China International Import Expo which was held in Shanghai in November?
It was successful. Belarus' national exposition attracted huge attention of potential buyers. The delegation was led by Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration, Co-chairman of the Belarusian-Chinese Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee Nikolai Snopkov. The delegation included representatives of numerous enterprises and companies that held numerous negotiations with Chinese and foreign partners. This large-scale event will become a tradition. So next year Belarus will also be a welcome guest at the exhibition.
Almost simultaneously with the Shanghai exhibition, the Belarusian-Chinese Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee had a meeting in Beijing. On behalf of Belarus it was chaired by Nikolai Snopkov. The meeting outlined further economic and investment steps in the bilateral cooperation.
What is the status of investment cooperation?
I can say that it has been growing, including in part of Chinese investments. Among the examples I can cite the successful completion of the first stage of the project to build social housing in accordance with the China-Belarus agreement. We have also successfully implemented such projects as the construction of student hostels and the Minsk Central District Hospital.
Other important agreements include China's technical and economic assistance to the National Football Stadium and Swimming Pool of International Standard projects. Construction is in full swing in the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park Great Stone and the Chinese-Belarus cooperation center of scientific and technological achievements transformation.
The first stage of the Great Stone infrastructure construction project on the area of 8.5 square kilometers will be completed this year. The number of park residents has already reached 39, including companies from the United States and the European Union, with contract investments of more than $1.1 billion.
How successful is scientific, technical and educational cooperation?
This year, China hosted a meeting of the commission for sci-tech cooperation of the Chinese-Belarusian Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee. Participants acknowledged active interaction between scientists of Belarus and China. The parties identified potentially important research projects. Joint research has gradually become a new model of cooperation between the two countries.
Relations in education are mutually important. This year, China played host to the congress of the subcommittee on education of the Chinese-Belarusian Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee. Thanks to joint efforts, the Belarusian language is growing popular in China and the Chinese language gained popularity in Belarus. The Beijing Second Foreign Languages Institute and many other Chinese universities open Belarusian language courses and set up Belarusian research centers.
A new Confucius Institute has recently opened in Belarus making it a total of four Confucius Institutes and two Confucius classes in the country. The number of foreign students continues to increase. About 1,000 Belarusian students are receiving education in China. It is expected that by the end of the year the number of Chinese students studying in Belarus will reach 3,000 people.
The Belarusian president invited 300 Chinese children for recuperation holidays in Belarusian children's summer camps. This demonstrates the warm regard of Alexander Lukashenko and the Belarusian people towards China and evokes the warmest feelings in Chinese people. This summer, the Ministry of Education of China also invited 50 Belarusian school students to summer camps in Beijing, Shanghai and Harbin.
Culture and tourism can also be viewed as areas that contribute to the development of bilateral cooperation, can't they?
The cultural component plays a big role in the interaction between the countries. The Chinese Cultural Center in Minsk organizes various events, hosts free screenings of Chinese films, invites famous Chinese artists to put up exhibitions and stage theater performances. This center has become an important venue for cultural exchange.
At the Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Qingdao, China and Belarus signed an agreement on mutual visa-free travel for citizens of the two countries. The document was officially ratified on 10 August 2018. This laid the foundation for further deepening of cultural cooperation.
According to Belarus' data, the number of Chinese citizens who visited Belarus in January-July 2018 reached 17,000 people. The number of Chinese tourists in Belarus has been gradually increasing since August 2018. Belarus' Year of Tourism in China was also a success.
What are the prospects of the Belarusian-Chinese cooperation?
China and Belarus are undoubtedly an example of countries whose relations are built on mutual respect, equal communication and mutually beneficial cooperation. China is ready to continue cooperating with Belarus to maintain a high level of bilateral relations, implement the agreements reached by the leaders of the two countries, and work on the development of all-weather friendship.
I am confident that in 2019 China and Belarus will further strengthen support on issues of mutual interest. The parties will continue aligning strategic development of the two states, and intensify the implementation of the Belt and Road initiative. The focus will also be on the construction of the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park and investment. We hope that more foreign enterprises and companies will join the Great Stone project.
On the New Year's Eve I would like to express my best wishes to the Belarusian friends. I wish prosperity to Belarus, happiness and harmony to the Belarusian people.
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