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06 March 2023, 14:40

Defense industry, severe discipline, new age of Belarus-China relations in President's Chinese Week

The work schedule of the Belarus president is always full of events. Aleksandr Lukashenko holds conferences and working meetings on the most topical matters concerning the country's development, regularly visits the regions, goes on foreign trips and welcomes foreign guests, talks to reporters, signs decrees and laws. And even if there are no public events, it does not mean that the head of state does not work. It must be said that even when he relaxes, for instance, by playing ice hockey or chopping firewood, Aleksandr Lukashenko happens to find the time to give yet another instruction. All the decisions must be prompted by life, he likes to say.

The President's Week project is intended for those, who want to keep up with the head of state, be up-to-date on the latest statements and decisions of the Belarusian leader.

Why is it necessary to keep tabs on the Belarusian defense industry? Why does Aleksandr Lukashenko demand severe discipline in army units? How was the president greeted in China? Is there anything special about the new age of Belarus-China cooperation? Lengthy and fruitful talks between Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and China President Xi Jinping, meetings with top government officials and heads of the country's largest corporations in the new episode of BelTA's YouTube project President's Week.

TO KEEP TABS. Why does pacifism need teeth and what does Belarus have to achieve that?

On 27 February Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko held a government conference to discuss the financing of military purchases for defense, security, and law enforcement agencies. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Given the present level of threats against Belarus we keep close tabs on the domestic military and industrial production. I would like to stress that despite the unprecedented sanctions we are still able to produce enough weapons and military equipment for the needs of the Belarusian army. We easily get everything we need (I mean hardware) from Russia. As for microelectronics, optics, other things, we need to thank those who have preserved the technologies we inherited from the Soviet Union, thus together with Russia we can produce any type of weapons.”

Belarus can export these products to 57 countries, which it actually does, the president pointed out. “We have been successfully developing modern weapons not only in the areas where we have scientific and technological capabilities and expertise. We are also mastering new areas that are in demand today, including such as missiles and large caliber artillery ammunition,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He reminded that a lineup of unmanned aerial vehicles developed in Belarus was presented in the military training area Obuz-Lesnovsky in October 2022. “Army units successfully demonstrated their combat capabilities during that event,” the head of state said. He added, however, that it was still necessary to continue working on improving the manufacturing of modern strike drones in Belarus.

“While developing the manufacturing capabilities of unmanned aircraft, we pay close attention to ways of countering this type of weapon," the president continued. “Anti-drone radio-electronic means developed by Belarusian specialists are in great demand.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that a robotic complex able to detect and destroy aerial targets had been made. Development of a medium-range anti-aircraft missile system and an air defense guided missile for this system is on the home stretch. “I hope that this year the prime minister and the head of the defense industry will give us good news in this regard,” he said.

Last year domestic manufacturers supplied the Armed Forces of Belarus with more than 500 units of new weapons and hardware, the president stated. He noted that six samples entered service, including the modernized multiple launch rocket system Uragan-M and two types of unmanned strike drone systems.

In order to equip the Belarusian part of the Belarusian-Russian regional military force, Russia has supplied Belarus with an Iskander operational-tactical missile system with the necessary stock of missiles and ammunition and an S-400 long-range air defense missile system. “What the military wanted, they got it. These are the formidable weapons,” the Belarusian leader said.

Within the framework of the state program Belarus purchased a battery of the anti-aircraft missile system Tor, anti-tank guided missiles, mortars, infantry rocket-assisted flamethrowers, more than 830,000 units of ammunition of various calibers, the president added.

“Su-30CM aircraft, Mi-35M helicopters, armored personnel carriers and other weapons, missiles and ammunition will be delivered,” the head of state said. “In terms of the development of modern weapons, we are not standing still. Our army is getting the necessary samples to respond to emerging challenges and threats. Nevertheless, there is much to strive for. I'm not talking about small arms, grenade launchers and so on… We have plenty of that. I'm talking about a more formidable weapon. This is what we must strive for. We'll work on that.”

Later on the president hosted a restricted-attendance meeting with representatives of defense, security, and law enforcement agencies. On the eve of a three-day state visit to China Aleksandr Lukashenko invited heads of defense, security, and law enforcement agencies to discuss the situation inside the country and abroad.

“In the light of internal and, above all, external developments, I would like to hear your opinion on the internal political and military situation around Belarus. Once again, I would like to emphasize and draw your attention to the need to ensure the strictest discipline in military units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the KGB. The toughest discipline! Everyone should do their job," Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

“We have a considerable number of people in uniform. Everyone is armed. These people are geared to defend their Fatherland. We need to use it. Discipline and performance of their duties. Especially on the border. When I talk about the border, you should understand that this is not solely the domain of [Chairman of the State Border Committee Anatoly] Lappo. This is the domain of the police, the KGB, the military. We all need to keep our guard on in terms of the border security and be able to identify even the smallest manifestation of aggressiveness against our state in order to take appropriate response measures,” the president demanded. “They use any opportunity to destabilize the situation in Belarus. They will not stop. I want you to fulfill these demands. Everything else is on me.”

ALL-WEATHER FRIENDSHIP. How did Belarus and China begin a new age of relations?

On 28 February – 2 March Aleksandr Lukashenko was on a state visit to the People's Republic of China. It is the highest protocol status of foreign visits.

In Beijing the Belarusian head of state was welcomed taking into account not only the diplomatic protocol but friendly relations between the countries, a special level of relations of all-weather and comprehensive strategic partnership, on which the leaders of Belarus and China agreed back in September 2022.

National anthems, guard of honor, Belarusian flags in Beijing streets, a ceremonial motorcade accompanied by motorcyclists and many other peculiarities testified to the special status of this visit. China has been paying huge attention to business etiquette and the protocol since ancient times, this is why nothing is left to chance.

But it was not the most important thing. During negotiations with Aleksandr Lukashenko China President Xi Jinping noted the key thing was to fill the new status of the bilateral relations with content. “Mr. President and I are united by the common desire to advance China-Belarus relations. We've been friends for years. We maintain strong and unbreakable friendship. In conditions of instability and turbulence of the international situation China is actively intent on working together with Belarus to enhance political mutual trust and practical cooperation for the sake of dynamic, healthy, and stable advancement of bilateral relations,” Xi Jinping stated.

Why was the timing of the visit unique?

The Belarus president's visit to the People's Republic of China was of historical significance. By the way, it was the 13th visit on record since Aleksandr Lukashenko became the president and it was the 13th time Aleksandr Lukashenko had met with the current China President Xi Jinping. By the way, the number 13 has no negative connotations in China. On the contrary, sinologists say it is a lucky and noble number. There are multiple examples of that in the Chinese culture.

By the way, China had recently lifted severe anti-COVID-19 restrictions and Aleksandr Lukashenko was one of the first dignitaries to visit China after it happened.

It is worth noting that the visit took place in a period of important political events in China and against the backdrop of a complicated period of geopolitical transformation on the planet. It is important to understand that China has already become a main pole of the multipolar world system, this is why a lot depends on the global scale on its domestic stability and stable development.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to that at the beginning of his four-hour negotiations with Xi Jinping. The head of state said: “Dear Mr. President, dear friend of the Belarusian people! First of all, I want to once again congratulate you on the greatest trust shown by the Chinese people. In my message of congratulations that reflected the position of me as the president of Belarus and my family, I honestly said that we were really worried about the outcome of the regular congress of the Chinese Communist Party. We were very nervous, though probably we should not have been. Nevertheless, people always worry about their friends. And on behalf of the Belarusian people, on behalf of my small family and myself personally I would like to congratulate my friend Xi Jinping on his election as President of the People's Republic of China.”

But that's not all there is to it. The visit took place prior to the start of the work of annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. These are important political events in China. During these events personnel decisions are made, the team in charge of further realization of China's strategic development plans and accomplishment of specified goals is put together. “It rarely happens. And it only emphasizes the importance and significance of the friendship and the friendly attitudes of primarily the two leaders – Aleksandr Lukashenko and Xi Jinping,” First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Nikolai Snopkov told reporters.

How did Belarus and China manage to accomplish virtually the impossible?

Prior to meeting with Xi Jinping Aleksandr Lukashenko had substantial meetings with representatives of top Chinese government officials.

First, Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang. Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that back in the day Belarus borrowed China's practices in a number of areas, primarily in matters concerning the creation of free economic zones. “We learned all the best from you (we started this process 30 years ago). We've done a lot since then. The pearl project crowning our relations is [the China-Belarus industrial park] Great Stone, a major international project that Chinese President Xi Jinping and I inaugurated near Minsk," the head of state said. “Back then I said that we would never leave favors unanswered to the great Chinese people. This has always been the case in the history of our people. I have worked with three Chinese presidents: Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and the incumbent president Xi Jinping.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that with the direct participation of Li Keqiang, the countries had achieved virtually the impossible. Earlier the countries dreamed of $5 billion in trade. Today this figure has almost reached $6 billion and continues to grow.

“We have no closed topics for cooperation. We cooperate in all avenues. Most importantly, we have never set ourselves the task of being friends and working against third countries. We are doing everything in the interests of our peoples - Belarusian and Chinese. This will continue to be the case,” the Belarusian leader assured.

Aleksandr Lukashenko wished success with the development of China since it is important for Belarus, too. “Because if China is strong, Belarus will be strong, too,” the Belarusian leader stressed. “We have many proposals, a lot of plans that will be beneficial to both Belarus and China. The main thing (and I said this to Jiang Zemin, then Hu Jintao) is that you have a friend in the face of peaceful Belarus in the center of Europe. Let's work together and intensify our relations for the benefit of our peoples. Belarus has no closed topics, no closed regions for you. Come, and we will cooperate. Our friendship has become all-weather, comprehensive. We are ready to act in this vein and meet the Chinese people halfway.”

China is traditionally one of Belarus' top three trade partners. In 2022 Belarus-China trade totaled $5.79 billion, over 113% as against 2021. Belarus' merchandise export amounted to $1.61 billion, with import at $4.18 billion.

After meeting with Li Keqiang Aleksandr Lukashenko laid a wreath at the Monument to the People's Heroes on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It is not only a tradition but an important part of the state visit. Preserving historical memory is important for China, too, and the country honors its heroes, who gave their lives in revolutionary struggle.

Why is China a priority in Belarus' foreign policy?

Another important meeting was with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Li Zhanshu. Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned amendments to Belarus' Constitution, which gave a constitutional status to the Belarusian People's Congress. There are no organizations exactly like this in the world but it has similarities with the National People's Congress of China, the president noted.

“Expansion of contacts with China is a priority for us. In foreign policy. Thanks to joint efforts the notion ‘comprehensive strategic partnership' has acquired special significance in relations between Belarus and the People's Republic of China. Today Minsk and Beijing continue building up the constructive political dialogue, successfully advancing economic interaction, and expanding regional ties,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

He stressed that the all-weather nature of bilateral cooperation allows Belarus and China to continue advancing. “We are ready to continue exercising the necessary effort in the future for the sake of fruitful development of our partnership,” he said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also mentioned that Belarus and China are on the same page regarding the question of a multipolar world order. “China has become a global power. It is impossible to solve any issue on our planet without China. China is a proponent of a multipolar world. We pursue the same policy. In general, the domestic policy of China and the domestic policy of Belarus have a lot in common. We fully support the international agenda. We stick to the same principles,” the Belarusian leader said.

He emphasized that the recent proposals of the president of the People's Republic of China on peaceful development of the world, prevention of sanctions, and promotion of good neighborly relations fully coincide with the position of Belarus.

“We highly value close strategic cooperation with your country in the international arena. Our countries provide unwavering support to each other on key issues of the international agenda. We condemn actions aimed at escalating tensions around Taiwan. Belarus has always followed the One China principle, advocated a peaceful solution to this issue and strongly opposed the interference of foreign states in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of China. Minsk has supported and will continue to support Beijing on all sensitive issues, including issues related to Xinjiang, the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Taiwan,” the Belarusian leader assured.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that inter-parliamentary contacts are an important factor in Belarus-China relations.

What Xi Jinping's initiatives did Aleksandr Lukashenko back?

During negotiations with Xi Jinping the Belarusian head of state said he supports China's initiatives in the area of international security and in matters concerning development.

“Today's meeting is held at a very difficult time which requires new nonstandard approaches and responsible political decisions. First of all, they should be aimed at preventing global confrontation which will have no winners. You have recently stated it, both clearly and unambiguously, addressing the world community. Belarus has been actively proposing peace and fully supports your initiative on international security,” said the head of state.

He added that Xi Jinping's development initiative fully coincides with the Belarusian vision. “We immediately joined the mechanisms to promote it and are ready for joint preparation and implementation of projects in Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The Global Development Initiative, aimed at assisting developing countries through technical assistance projects financed by China, was announced by Xi Jinping in September 2021 in a speech to the UN General Assembly. Beijing formed the Group of Friends in support of the initiative, which currently includes about 60 UN member states. Belarus was among the first to join the group.

The Global Security Initiative was launched by the Chinese president in April 2022 at the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia. The initiative is based on the firm assertion of the authority and status of the United Nations Organization, joint practice of true multilateralism, coordination of efforts to address security threats in both traditional and non-traditional areas, joint work to improve global security governance and create a new framework of regional security. The initiative coincides with the Belarusian vision of the situation in the international arena, and also the initiatives to resume a broad international dialogue on confidence-building measures, security and cooperation in Europe.

How does the president evaluate the potential of bilateral projects?

To set up joint ventures and advance manufacturing cooperation. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the proposal during the part of his negotiations with the Chinese president that was opened to mass media.

“We are extremely interested in deepening cooperation with China in technological development, including the establishment of joint ventures, the modernization of Belarusian enterprises with the introduction of modern Chinese technology, the promotion of goods and services to the markets of third countries,” the Belarusian leader said.

In his words, the potential of bilateral projects is enormous. “Our manufacturers are interested in studying the competencies and technologies of Chinese companies to form a component base, produce engines, transmissions, axles, other units and assemblies. I suggest setting up joint ventures in machine tool engineering, electric transport, and production of parts for agricultural machinery both in Belarus and in China. Manufacturing cooperation will help raise product competitiveness,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

During the talks the president also voiced a number of other proposals that were in line with the joint work on social and economic development and modernization.

What does the new age in Belarusian-Chinese relations mean?

The two leaders communicated much longer than planned, which clearly indicates a mutual interest in addressing items on the agenda and focus on results.

A massive package of documents on cooperation in various spheres was signed in the presence of the heads of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko and Xi Jinping personally signed the main document. It is a joint statement on further advancement of exemplary relations of all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership between Belarus and the People's Republic of China in a new age.

The sides agreed that upgrading the status of Belarus-China relations to the level of all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership was a milestone event. The bilateral relations made a historic leap forward and became an example of a new type of international relations. This is why the heads of state used this statement to sketch out future cooperation avenues. “It is the most important political document, which emphasizes that in this complicated situation China stands with us and we don't fail China,” First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Nikolai Snopkov told reporters.

“Personal communication between the heads of state always gives a strong impetus to bilateral relations in all areas without exception. A testimony to that was the signing of a large package of bilateral agreements and arrangements. A total of 27 intergovernmental, interdepartmental and interregional agreements were signed, as well as about eight commercial contracts in various areas of manufacturing and agriculture. And this is not the limit as the work continues. And we expect this package to grow bigger,” Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Aleinik told reporters in Beijing in the morning on 2 March.

The documents focus on advancing cooperation in various spheres, including investments, agriculture, food supplies, healthcare, civil engineering, production sector, R&D cooperation, sport, tourism, and mass media.

In addition, a large block of these documents deals with interregional cooperation, finance, the banking sector, information support for trade and cooperation through the Red Cross.

Nikolai Snopkov said the sides had signed a package of powerful documents, which would shape Belarus-China relations for the next 5-10 years.

The cumulative economic effect of the Belarusian-Chinese agreements made and formalized during Aleksandr Lukashenko's state visit is estimated at more than $3.5 billion. “It will not be achieved right now but all the agreements and processes going on, including those defined in Samarkand [in September 2022] add up to this overall figure,” the first deputy prime minister said.

What projects did Aleksandr Lukashenko offer to major Chinese private companies?

On the last day of the visit, 2 March Aleksandr Lukashenko held meetings with heads of major Chinese companies, during which matters of investment in various spheres and cooperation in automobile production were discussed.

Among other people the head of state met with Chairman of CITIC Group Corporation Zhu Hexin. Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus is proud of its cooperation with CITIC Group Corporation, which is one of the world's most powerful companies. “We strongly hope that after this visit and negotiations with top leaders of the country, including my good friend Xi Jinping, our cooperation will only expand and that we will have no problems in the future with the launch of new projects. Particularly with regard to the creation, construction of facilities of your company and Belarusian facilities in Belarus' territory,” the head of state said.

He noted that the total investments in construction projects involving CITIC Group Corporation in Belarus are estimated at $1.5 billion at the moment.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested that the corporation focus on several areas of work in Belarus. The first one is the construction of a mining and processing plant. “The Belarusian side has realized everything you've talked about, everything you've asked for or demanded,” the head of state said.

The second avenue of work deals with the Belarusian National Biotechnology Corporation (BNBC). The first stages of the project - BNBC 1 and BNBC 2 – have been successfully implemented with the participation of Chinese partners. “We would like to continue the construction of the biotechnological cluster, of the biotechnological corporation in Belarus' territory. We would like to implement the project's third stage, which involves deep processing of corn and manufacturing of vitamins and other products. We strongly hope for it. Xi Jinping showed no rejection of this project because it is a landmark project,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that apart from BNBC, Belarus and China are implementing a number of other important projects such as production of Geely cars and others. “These are pivotal projects for the whole world, for Europe. With these projects China and we would like to show that Belarus-China cooperation is not limited to simple trade. We also create high-tech companies and corporations,” the Belarusian leader said.

The president noted that there are several other projects that deal with production and processing of agricultural products that can be later supplied to the Chinese market. “These projects have not met any resistance or questioning. On the contrary, as with previous projects, you will receive substantial support from the Belarusian authorities,” the Belarusian leader assured.

Belarusian Agriculture and Food Minister Igor Brylo discussed the matter of building BNBC 3 in Beijing as well. The project envisages the production of vitamins, amino acids, starch and glucose products. This will make it possible to set up the production of vitamins (B2, B12, C) and new types of amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine), which are fundamentally new products both for Belarus and for all CIS countries.

“China set up a state investment agency several years ago. It took on the role of moderator of all such investment projects. I met with the leadership of this agency. Negotiations lasted for more than two hours,” Igor Brylo noted. “They were concerned about prospective sales markets for our products, in particular, vitamins. We explained in detail in what countries Belarus will sell them. We agreed that we will give them full information in terms of every sales market. I have a very strong positive feeling that the BNBC 3 project will get a go-ahead. It's a huge investment.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko also met with top executives of FAW Group, formerly China First Automobile Works. FAW Group is one of the oldest and largest car manufacturers in China. The corporation's most famous car brand is Hongqi (translated as “red flag”) while the most famous commercial truck brand is Jiefang. The Hongqi L series limousine was chosen as an official vehicle for major celebrations and events in China. By the way, a car of this brand was provided by the Chinese side for the Belarus president's motorcade during his state visit to China.

“You know that we are determined to develop the automotive industry in Belarus. Yesterday, during the negotiations with my friend Xi Jinping, I asked him to support my initiative to establish cooperation with your company. He responded positively and stressed: ‘This is a state-run company, I support contacts between Belarusian specialists and the company, and I am ready to help promote cooperation as much as it is needed',” the Belarus president shared details of the negotiations.

“You know that we are interested in you. You make good cars. If you want to work in Belarus, I am at your service. I would like us to join efforts and create a really good car in Belarus. And if we want to succeed, we should embark on it now, and do it very quickly, as now the markets for our future products are still vacant. I have one question: what is your take on this idea, given that it is supported by me and Xi Jinping?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.

Yang Dayong, chairman of FAW Import & Export Co., Ltd., general manager of FAW's overseas business department, thanked for the opportunity to meet and emphasized a great interest in cooperation. “We will very carefully and attentively implement this project that was agreed on by the heads of state,” he assured.

FLIGHT BACK HOME. How did Aleksandr Lukashenko's aircraft return from China in the company of a “blown-up” plane?

It has already been noted that the Belarusian head of state enjoyed the highest level of reception in China. Aleksandr Lukashenko's motorcade was always accompanied by a group of motorcyclists, which emphasized his special status.

While flying back from China, in Belarusian skies Aleksandr Lukashenko's aircraft was also accompanied. Interestingly, one of the aircraft was the Russian airborne early warning and control aircraft A-50, which had been previously reported as blown up. The Pul Pervogo Telegram channel posted the corresponding video.

“Dear friends! The president has come back home! And the A-50 aircraft, which extremists claimed they had destroyed and blown up, successfully met with, escorted, and took care of security of the Air Force One during landing together with a group of fighter jets!” the Pul Pervogo Telegram channel wrote.

A screenshot from a video released by the TV channel <a rel="nofollow" target="_blank" href="">Belarus One</a>
A screenshot from a video released by the TV channel Belarus One

The Russian super airliner is on combat duty in Belarus and is tasked with patrolling the country's borders.

This is how yet another work week of the head of state went. Aleksandr Lukashenko discussed security matters and the equipment of defense, security, and law enforcement agencies, went on a three-day visit to China, and even helped dispel the fake news that some hot heads have been mad about for the last week.

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