President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping on Sunday arrived in Minsk where he was warmly welcomed by the President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus as the parties sealed billions of dollars worth of commercial agreements.
Xi’s visit came after he attended to the Russian V-day military parade on Saturday in Moscow, upon the invitation of Belarusian president who perceives Chinese investment as a panacea for the country’s struggling economy.
Chinese President aims to enhance cooperation with Belarus in order to further integrate the post-Soviet Eurasian space with China’s westward Silk Road vision, a blueprint project to bridge Asia and Europe through a series of transportation, infrastructure, trade and energy links.
"I hope the two sides will take the opportunity of our meeting to turn the high-level political relationship into more substantial and practical outcomes, and work together to open up a new era for the China-Belarus comprehensive strategic partnership," said Xi, by China’s official Xinhua Agency.
Xi’s three days official visit to Minsk is the first by a Chinese head of state in 14 years and expected to have finished with approximately 16 billion dollars worth of commercial deals to which Belarus keenly need for its weak economy.
Belarus is heavily dependent on Russia in terms of transaction costs, trade and resources, but the recent financial-economic crisis in Russian economy in the wake of the Western sanctions and drops in oil prices also affected Minsk negatively.
The Belarusian president spoke optimistically as he said China was investing for modernization of Belarus in terms of infrastructure as China's state development bank will be providing $700 million in low-interests credits to be repaid within 15 years.
China also pledged to provide aids into Belarusian financial and agricultural sectors through which Beijing seemed eager to increase its economic presence further into the eastern Europe.
Some analyst also believe that China obtained a transit en route to Europe as it opened the way on the remote borders of Europe.
"China has opened up a window of opportunity for Belarus," said political analyst Yaroslav Romanchuk.
"Lukashenko has been given a magic wand. Belarus will be able to capitalize through its status as a transit country and will strive to become hub for the transfer of Chinese goods to Europe," said Romanchuk.
Xi also announced that Beijing would invite 100 Belarusian exchange students this year for what he calls, “more people-to-people exchanges and closer sub-national government-to-government cooperation”.
China’s opening up towards westward coincides with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union as Beijing also wants to increase its cooperation with Central Asia and the post-Soviet countries like Belarus.
Before his visit to Minsk, Xi underlined importance of the issue on Friday when he met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Xi and Putin stated that the newly-founded Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Chinese blueprint Silk Road projects should be incorporated to each other as the necessity of newborn Russian-Chinese partnership.
President Lukashenko is one of the champion of Russian and Chinese-led projects and cooperations in wider Eurasia region since his country’s relations has been soured with the West during the post-Communist transitional era.
Lukashenko had previously said that the relations between Belarus and China were a good example of maintaining an ‘equitable’ and ‘mutually beneficial’ dialogue after the parties announced strategic partnership in 2013.
Since then he has been stressing that the bilateral relations would remain as a strategic priority of Belarusian foreign policy.
He has reiterated several times that Minsk was interested in having powerful support from such a giant state like China which he once described a major factor for the independence of Belarus as a sovereign country.