Sino-Belarusian cooperation not unique for the region

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April 22, 2016 18:38

On October 2nd, the Belarusian House of Representatives ratified a Sino-Belarusian agreement on the military forces, temporarily deployed for joint exercises and training.

Belarus has been consistently reinforcing its cooperation with China, reaching the level of strategic partnership in summer 2013. Strengthening Sino-Belarusian bilateral relations allows Belarus to overcome its excessive dependence on Russia, while there is no progress in Western policy. However, China’s cooperation with Belarus is not exceptional in the region as China also reaches out to other neighbours of Belarus.

Since 2011, following a failed Belarus-EU dialogue, Belarus has put stakes on China and created unprecedented favourable conditions for Chinese investment. At the same time, Belarus has long exaggerated the level of political cooperation with China, calling it a ‘strategic partnership’. However, the ‘strategic’ level of relations was possible only after Lukashenko’s seventh visit to China and occurred later than with other Belarusian neighbours. This summer, the parties signed a declaration on the comprehensive strategic partnership, as well as other agreements, inter alia, on cooperation in aerospace and defence technology.

On the one hand, rhetoric about the exceptional nature of Sino-Belarusian relations is used by Belarus for domestic consumption. Often, an excessive focus on relations with China enables Belarus to compensate for foreign policy failures, especially concerning Belarusian-European relations. On the other hand, by developing cooperation with China, Belarus hopes to make Russia jealous and, as a result, to win certain concessions as the Eurasian Union shapes up.

However, the relationship between China and Belarus is not unique in the region. Signed in 2001, the Good Neighbourhood, Friendship and Cooperation Treaty established a strategic partnership between China and Russia. A Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Ukraine and China was signed in summer 2011, and Sino-Polish – in late 2011. ‘Comprehensive strategic partnership’ relations between China and the EU were established in 2003.

Military cooperation between Belarus and China is also not unique. It helps Belarusian military to make steps towards integration in the global security system. Belarus and China have held joint exercises and training in Belarus since 2011. The draft agreement on the status of China’s military forces in Belarus was signed in December 2012.

Thus, Sino-Belarusian relations, inter alia, in the military sphere, are developing in line with regional trends. Belarus seeks to improve cooperation with China by all means. However, the Chinese leaders do not treat their relations with Belarus as something special.

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