Belarusian authorities aspire to boost voters expectations from cooperation with China
The Belarusian state media have launched a media campaign to promote Sino-Belarusian cooperation in order to demonstrate prospects for prosperity growth amid dwindling state resources to buy the loyalty of the electorate. The authorities aim to drag people’s attention away from criticism voiced by the opposition about the authorities’ failure to find a way out of the protracted recession. In addition, the Belarusian leadership aspires to strengthen its international position and consolidate its media image of the guarantor of regional stability and security.
In late September 2016, President Lukashenka will make a state visit to China.
The Belarusian authorities are unlikely to count on a breakthrough in Sino-Belarusian economic cooperation and on a major loan for the Belarusian economy. That said, the major ‘arrival’ of China in Belarus was announced back in 2006. Independent analysts say that until now Sino-Belarusian economic and investment cooperation demonstrated modest and rather controversial results.
In all likelihood, the state media aims to distract the population from the lingering economic crisis and falling living standards in the midst of the parliamentary campaign. Broad information campaign about the prospect of large Chinese investments and loans may help to reduce people’s interest in resonant election campaigns of opposition candidates.
Events in Ukraine no longer have a huge impact on public sentiment in Belarus and the authorities have exhausted their potential of peacekeeping efforts to keep their popular ratings high. In addition, in the absence of positive results in the economy, the Belarusian government anticipates to increase trust in public institutions by making high-level contacts with the Chinese leadership.
By strengthening Sino-Belarusian military and bilateral cooperation, Minsk aspires to support its image as a guarantor of regional stability and security and as a platform for international cooperation. That said, some analysts say that the threat of military-political pressure on Belarus from the Kremlin has increased amid devalued peacemaking efforts of Minsk in the Ukrainian crisis.
The fuss in the state-run media about Lukashenka’s official visit to Beijing also has drawn away people’s attention from the visit to China of Svetlana Alexievich, this year’s Nobel laureate.
The Belarusian authorities aim to create a domestic political resonance regarding the prospects for Sino-Belarusian cooperation in order to distract voters from economic difficulties during the parliamentary election campaign.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.