News / Asia

China Moves Into Russia's Zone - Former Soviet Union

A general view shows the Belarus pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo site April 21, 2010 (file photo)
A general view shows the Belarus pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo site April 21, 2010 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
James Brooke

Roughly 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, China rivals Russia as the largest investor and trading partner in many of the former Soviet republics.

Belarus is running out of cash.  As electricity bills go unpaid, the Kremlin turns off the power.  Russian state-controlled TV airs hostile reports, calling Belarus a dictatorship.

Moscow's strategy is clear: pressure Minsk into selling state companies to Russia on the cheap.  The prize is Belaruskali, a major world producer of potash.  If Russians buys Belaruskali, Russia will control half of the world's production of this fertilizer, crucial at a time of looming global food shortages.

But an unexpected player has stepped in, Minsk now is in talks to sell part of Belaruskali to state companies from China.

Scouring the world for raw materials, China increasingly is penetrating the former Soviet Union, a region long considered Moscow's private pool.

Russian political columnist Konstantin von Eggert says the Kremlin is careful not to speak out against Chinese economic intrusions into Belarus, once considered the model Soviet republic.

"The Russians are not very pleased with that, but at the same time they are keeping their mouths shut, because there is nothing they can do about that.  Russia is losing its pool in the former Soviet republics, in the post-Soviet space," he said.

Belarussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Asia expert Leonid Batyanovsky says Minsk is not playing Russia against China.

"Developing relations with China does not mean developing them against somebody," said Batyanovsky.

Belarus gets little American or European investment, largely because investors feel uncertain about property rights in a country under one-man rule for 17 years.  But China last year extended a $1 billion credit line for a series of projects in Belarus.

"We are talking about the road reconstruction.  We are talking about the electrification of the railways. We are talking about the real estate projects in Minsk.  We are talking about creation of the Belarus-China industrial park," added Batyanovsky.

Belarus is just the latest new frontier for Chinese investment in the 14 former Soviet republics that once were economic colonies of Russia.  

Last month, China's president, Hu Jintao, visited Ukraine, a neighbor that Russians long called "Malaya Rossiya" or Little Russia.

In Kyiv, the Chinese leader and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, oversaw the signing of $3.5 billion in business agreements.

Earlier in his trip, Hu visited Kazakhstan.

Only 20 years ago, Nursultan Nazarbayev, then the head of the Kazakhs Soviet Socialist Republic, was fighting to keep Kazakhstan in the Soviet Union.

But last month, Nazarbayev, now president of independent Kazakhstan joined China's president in signing a "strategic partnership" agreement.  

The two presidents promised to double two-way trade during the next four years and they signed accords for the latest multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment in Kazakhstan, this time for copper.  

Next door, in Turkmenistan, China recently extended a $4-billion credit to double gas exports east to China.

With massive amounts of oil and gas now flowing eastward, China is displacing Russia as the largest source of trade and investment for all five former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

The shift to China is so fast the Central Asian leaders worry about a backlash.  

Recently, a Kazakh court gave long prison terms to two geologists convicted of selling mineral secrets to a Chinese agent.

Separately, a Kazakh presidential advisor denounced as 'dirty lies' a report his government had signed a secret 99-year lease of one-million hectares of farmland to China.

But Von Eggert, the Russian analyst, does not predict Russia will capitalize on any anti-Chinese backlash.

"Russia does not have enough political, economic, or for that matter military power, to send off this Chinese incursion into what used to be 'the zone of privileged interests of Russia' as President Medvedev once called it.  It is yet another sign of Russia's post imperial decline," noted Von Eggert.

Meanwhile in Minsk, city planners are drawing up blueprints for Belarus' first "kitai gorod" or Chinatown.

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid