China signs cooperation agreements with Belarus
Updated: 2013-07-17 02:21
By Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Beijing set to offer loans for nuclear plant and invest in industrial city
China and Belarus established a comprehensive strategic partnership on Tuesday and signed a dozen cooperation papers, including the offer of loans for Belarus' first nuclear power plant.
President Xi Jinping and his visiting Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko signed a joint declaration announcing the partnership and officiated at the signing of other documents after talks at the Great Hall of the People.
Experts said deepening economic cooperation with China is of great importance to the restrained economy of Belarus, while good ties with Minsk have strategic significance for Beijing.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, Lukashenko told Xi that China's development is a great encouragement for Belarus.
The two countries vowed to strongly support each other in political affairs, including bracing each other's core interests and major concerns, political and social systems and development paths chosen on their individual national conditions.
On economic matters, the partners agreed to make plans in areas ranging from infrastructure and communication to energy and financing.
Among the cooperation documents signed was an agreement in which the Export-Import Bank of China offered loans for a nuclear power plant in Belarus.
No details were given, but the Belarusian government said on July 11 that, from 2013 to 2018, Belarus would take a soft loan of $323.8 million from the Export-Import Bank of China for 15 years for the plant.
Chen Yurong, a senior researcher with the China Institute of International Studies, said the nuclear power plant will help balance Belarus' energy structure, which relies heavily on imported natural gas.
"The fact that China is helping Belarus in the construction of its first nuclear power plant shows their close ties," Chen said.
There were also agreements involving Guangdong province and Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, regarding a proposed China-Belarus industrial city.
China and Belarus in 2011 signed an agreement to build the industrial city in the suburbs of Minsk, the Belarusian capital. Xinhua said in June that China will invest $5 billion in the city.
According to Chinese and Belarusian officials, Lukashenko has earmarked a plot of land near Minsk International Airport, with a space 40 percent larger than Manhattan, for the project, which will accommodate 155,000 residents.
"The project will enable Chinese goods to enter duty-free into the markets of Russia and Kazakhstan," a Chinese official was quoted as saying.
"The Sino-Belarus Industrial Park is of significant meaning for Belarus' finance stability," said Yu Sui, a senior adviser at the China Institution for International Strategic Studies.
Lukashenko has said the industrial city will enable Belarus to increase its imports by $50 billion.
Yu said Lukashenko's visit is especially focused on expanding economic cooperation, as the Belarusian economy is restrained by sanctions from the West.
A close relationship between China and Belarus can greatly benefit China's connections with other East European states, he said.
Lukashenko is on a three-day state visit to China that started on Monday night. He is scheduled to meet Premier Li Keqiang and top political adviser Yu Zhengsheng on Thursday.
Zhang Fan contributed to this story.