April 3-4 2018
Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). Key theme: "Russia and the world: image of the future".
One belt and one way? Everything and a little more about China.

Published: February 12th, 2018

Within the framework of the MEF-2018 for the first time an objective attempt will be made to estimate the national benefits from the sensational initiative "One belt and one way". The conference will be moderated by the expert of the Moscow Economic Forum, professor of the PFUR Yuri Tavrovsky, who today agreed to share with us hopes and first disappointments on the path of China-Russia strategic cooperation.
Yuri Vladimirovich, at the Moscow Economic Forum, it is planned to discuss the interface problems of the Eurasian Economic Union and the initiative "Belt and the Way". What will this conversation be about in general?
- At the forum, the IEF will have a serious talk about the problems of the EAEC interface and the initiative "Belt and the Way". The fact is that the project of conjugation of the EAEC and the Economic belt of the Silk Road, which is colossal in terms of the scope of the planned cooperation, is quite young by the standards of world politics. During the celebrations in Moscow on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Victory over fascism, the heads of Russia and China signed a corresponding document. It is completely called: "Joint statement of Russia and China on cooperation on the conjugation of the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Economic belt of the Silk Road." Please note, incidentally, that we are talking only about one of the two components of the Chinese initiative "Belt and the Way" - about the land route. For purely geographical reasons, the countries of the EAEC are not very concerned about the "Silk Road of the Sea".
Yuri Vladimirovich, at the Moscow Economic Forum, it is planned to discuss the interface problems of the Eurasian Economic Union and the initiative "Belt and the Way". What will this conversation be about in general?
- At the forum, there will be a serious talk about the problems of conjugation of the Eurasian Economic Union and the initiative "Belt and the Way". The fact is that the project of conjugation of the Eurasian Economic Union and the "Economic belt of the Silk Road" is quite young by the standards of world politics and colossal in scope of conceived cooperation. During the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Victory over fascism, held in Moscow, the heads of Russia and China signed a corresponding document. It is completely called: "Joint statement of Russia and China on cooperation with the aim of conjugating the Eurasian Economic Union and the Economic belt of the Silk Road." Please note that we are talking about only one of two components of the Chinese initiative "Belt and the Way" - about the land route. For purely geographical reasons, the countries of Eurasian Economic Union are not bothered by the "Silk Road of the Sea".
What are the benefits for Russia in the foreseeable future within the framework of the Belts and Paths project?
- The significance of the document signed less than three years ago, in my opinion, was that the Russian support for Si Jinping's initiative to create the Economic Silk Road Belt was first officially fixed by a special document, rather than an oral statement or paragraph in a multidisciplinary document. What are the benefits for Russia in the foreseeable future within the framework of the Belts and Paths project?

- The significance of the document signed less than three years ago, in my opinion, was that the Russian support for Si Jinping's initiative to create the Economic Silk Road Belt was first officially fixed by a special document, rather than an oral statement or paragraph in a multidisciplinary document. Similarly, the Chinese side officially supported the "author's" project of V.V. Putin on Eurasian Economic Union creation. It isn’t a secret that in the world expert community, both initiatives were seen as a manifestation of rivalry between Russia and China in the post-Soviet space and, especially, in Central Asia. Attempts to question the true motives of the two integration initiatives, to counter the positions of the leaders of the two countries did not begin yesterday and will not end tomorrow. It is no secret that in the world expert community, both initiatives were seen as a manifestation of rivalry between Russia and China in the post-Soviet space and, especially, in Central Asia. Attempts to doubt the true motives of two integration initiatives, to counter the positions of leaders did not begin yesterday and will not end tomorrow.
How does the implementation of the project "Belt and the Way" affect Russia's cooperation with China?
- The May statement of 2015 on the conjugation of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Economic belt of the Silk Road was of strategic importance - it defined a new and very promising direction of cooperation - promotion to the free trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union and China. The scope of the document went far beyond even these large-scale relations and, taking into account the scope of the Chinese "Belt and the Way", covered the whole of Eurasia. The significance of the document was that it detailed the task for the ministries and departments of both countries, in fact the road map: to develop and sign an agreement on trade and economic cooperation; simplify investment and implement large joint projects of industrial parks, cross-border zones of economic cooperation; implement joint development projects for logistics, transport infrastructure and intermodal transport; ensure compatibility of rules and norms in the field of trade and economic relations; expand the scope of payments in national currencies, strengthen the cooperation of financial institutions, including the Silk Road Fund, the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investments, the Interbank Association of the SCO.
What can be said about the results of conjoining the "Belt and the Way" and the Eurasian Economic Union? What has already been achieved in this direction?
- You ask about the results, which, by the way, could be more. For almost three years a free trade zone has not been created. Less significant, but no less important agreements remain in development. What is the reason? I think there are several of them. As always there are objective and subjective. Breakthrough of the dam on the way of a huge volume of Chinese goods can demolish existing in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union production, cause unemployment and social instability. Joint documents are needed to regulate these issues. They are in the process of preparing, agreeing. But the problem is obvious.
Yuri Vladimirovich, what kind of subjective problems did you mention?
- Chinese executives, frightened by the system struggle against corruption, began to exercise maximum caution in dealing with all foreigners, including colleagues from the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. They sometimes show excessive stiffness in negotiations of different levels. Differences in legislation and record keeping, the language barrier, the difference in the traditions of negotiations, also increase disappointment. It is not worth dumping the position of influential circles of the elite who still doubt the correctness of choosing the main strategic partner - Russia. Some are oriented to the West in everything. Others still have not forgotten about the times of the Sino-Soviet "cold war".
Differences in legislation and the conduct of affairs, the language barrier, the difference in the traditions of the negotiations also increase frustration. It is not worth dumping the position of influential circles of the elite who still doubt the correctness of choosing the main strategic partner - Russia. Some are oriented to the West in everything. Others still have not forgotten about the times of the Chinese-Soviet "cold war".
This is from the point of view of the Chinese side, but from the Russian side?
- In Russia, as well as in other countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, disillusionment with the slow pace of cooperation development accumulated. Excessive hopes were placed on this cooperation after the imposition of Western sanctions. Skeptical reasonings are heard both from oligarchs, and from heads of the enterprise associations involved in business with China. Executives of different ministries send information to the Kremlin on the preparatory work carried out, notes on "objective difficulties" and the need to "take the time" with the implementation of agreements. The leaders of Russia, as the "engine" of the Eurasian Economic Union and China, as authors of the Economic Belt program, are not blind at all. They see decrease in rates of interface and take measures. After all, taking into account the political realities of the two countries, progress is impossible without solutions "at the top".
Are you talking about the meetings of Russian leader Vladimir Putin with Xi Jinping?
- Yes exactly. Let's remember how last year, in May, during the Silk Way Forum in Beijing, a serious conversation between Putin and Xi Jinping took place. It was devoted to summing up the results of first years "One belt and one way" initiative implementation, that was put forward in autumn 2013. The results are ambiguous. On the territory of China itself, the implementation of the program "Belt and Path" is regarded as the main priority. New ports and railway stations, railways and highways, logistical hubs and free trade centers have already been commissioned or are being completed Plants whose products are destined for the markets of the Eurasian Economic Union, Pakistan, India, the Middle East and Africa are built or transferred from other areas along the infrastructure routes. During 2016, I traveled throughout the Chinese section of the "Economic Corridor" and described my impressions in the book "The New Silk Road. The main project of the 21st century ". However, in the countries adjacent to China, especially within the borders of the Eurasian Economic Union, the successes are much less. So it's worth talking about it.
It would be desirable to understand the place of Russia in this general European-Asian way?
- From the very beginning of the Forum, which was attended by 29 presidents and premiers from countries along the Silk Road routes, V.V. Putin took a special, honorable place among the guests. This manifested itself both in the protocol of the main diplomatic event of 2017, and in the special affability of the host of the event. The presence of Russian leader compensated the absence of other countries leaders - permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as a demonstrative refusal to invite such an important country of Eurasia as India. In turn, the guest from Moscow said a lot of kind words about Xi Jinping's initiative and demonstrated Russia's interest in the further development of the long-term strategy "Belt and the Way", listing a number of proposals on Russia's participation in it. The conceptual "clock reconciliation" in May gave visible results later, in July of the same year.
When has the president of China arrived to Moscow? Has the rhetoric somehow exchanged?
– Yes, when Xi Jinping has arrived with an official visit to Moscow, special attention to stimulation of economic and humanitarian interaction has been shown. It was shown not only in number of intention protocols that officials tirelessly signed, bowing, according to Chinese ceremonies, sitting behind their heads of state. It is important to have real progress on the most important areas of interaction, which are drawn to several large-scale and concrete agreements. It's not a secret that this project has recently been surrounded by an unpleasant aura and in general has been questioned by some experts. In the field of finance, which has become a "narrow neck" of cooperation, specific decisions have also been made. The Russian-Chinese Investment Cooperation Fund has been set up with a volume of 68 billion yuan (equivalent to $ 10 billion).
And why yuans, but not rubles have been chosen?
- Using the national currency, Chinese investors will be able to enter our market more easily. Another investment fund, although with a smaller capital ($ 1 billion), will focus on agriculture and infrastructure. Attention is drawn to the agreement on creation of a joint venture on Russian territory that will produce trains for high-speed railways - a sphere of production in which the Chinese have accumulated a lot of experience. Collaboration over the project of the high-speed cargo train which production can also begin in Russia is very important. Unlike low-loaded passenger high-speed railroads in Russia, high-speed cargo lines are capable to give profit and to become the backbone of the New silk way from China to Europe. The benefit from implementation of these arrangements will be mutual and will begin to extend to all Eurasian Economic Union participants. Success of one participant in the economic block means the general success, positions at negotiations with the trade and economic giant China become more impressive. Of course, this is provided that no one conducts a "double game", does not try to achieve unilateral advantages in cooperation with Beijing to the detriment of its partners in the Eurasian Eсonomic Union.
As it became clear, the conference within the framework of the MEF-2018 will be devoted to the problems of conjugation of the Eurasian Economic Union. What tasks do you set for this conference?
- There are certain achievements in the way of conjugation of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Economic belt of the Silk Road, but problems are also visible with the naked eye. Holding a special conference on this topic within the framework of the MEF-2018 is, in fact, the first serious attempt to objectively assess the state of affairs, to discuss breakthrough projects that would meet the national interests of both our countries and China. Only such projects have a chance of realization. Only the implementation of specific projects will allow us to consider the combination of political and economic realities.

Interviewed by Ksenia Shiryaeva
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