Coordination of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt and its implications for Siberia and the Far East
Joint statement on cooperation on the construction of joint Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) project was signed on May 8, 2015. It became a new milestone in Russia-China relations.
EAEU is an integrational project of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz republic and since 2016 – Armenia. SREB is a Chinese initiative, which primarily implies the extension of investment activities in transport and logistics in Eurasian region. Though the EAEU-SREB integration is not so much transit project as co-development project. In this case EAEU provides institutional framework of cooperation, and China – investments. This model will allow not only to overcome potential differences in Central Asia, but also creates preconditions for full-scale economic cooperation in the community of Greater Eurasia, which may become a new center of economic development in the coming decades.
The article analyses the process of Sino-Russian rapprochement which has significantly intensified since the worsening of Russia’s relations with the West in 2014. This process is studied as a part of the emerging of Greater Eurasia in place of Greater Europe which was envisioned in late 1980s. The states of Greater Eurasia, will not be tied by alliance relations, as are the United States and its European satellites. Some of them may turn to different centers of power; however, on the whole, they will form a unity, brought together by core interests. Precisely, this kind of democratic unity of Greater Europe could not be established by the United States and its allies. Attempting to subordinate every state to their dictates, they have united allies from most of Eastern Europe but lost Russia and Central Asia, and are increasingly antagonizing China and India, forcing them to draw closer to each other even in spite of significant contradictions. Only the future will tell who will succeed and who will not.
This article considers the opportunities for Russia presented by the launch of China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. This initiative is a comprehensive project for the rapid development of Central Asian countries, and not limited only to trans- port and logistics to guarantee the supply of Chinese goods to Europe. It is also China’s response to economic and political processes both within the country and in the Asia-Pacific region: the economic slowdown and transformation of its social and economic model, diverging income levels, the growing presence of the United States in Asia, and the new divisions of labour within the region. The Silk Road initiative is based on China’s intention to create strong regional value chains, to outsource labour-intensive and environmentally harmful production, to foster the development of northwest China including securing political stability in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and to guarantee the use of Chinese construction firms’ capac- ity. Goods transit is a secondary priority and justified not by commercial benefits from using land routes, but by the need to diversify export risks, arising due to the deteriorating military and political situation in the South China Sea. The 2015 Joint Statement on Cooperation on the Construction of Joint Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt projects resolves the issue of allegedly competitive goals of these complementary projects. The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) provides an institutional base for cooperation while the Silk Road initiative provide investments for their development. Russia may benefit from participating in the Silk Road initiative. First, it would help integrate its transportation system into the region’s logistics network and provide additional opportunities for transit and associated logistical services as well as access to growing regional markets. Second, the Silk Road initiative offers opportunities to strengthen industrial co- operation among neighbouring countries to develop new economic clusters. Third, the EEU and the Silk Road may become the basis for more ambitious cooperation in greater Eurasia, which may transform into a new centre of economic develop- ment at the global level.
The article examines trends of Chinese-Russian economic cooperation in the framework of The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and The Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), influence of these projects on the development of Eurasia. The author argues that the realization of SREB on the base of SCO is optimal. The combination of these mechanisms will create a new model of economic cooperation.
In order to turn the US and Chinese strategies in Asia Pacific into an opportunity to implement its own strategy in the region, Russia would require not simply its typical for the recent time diplomatic skill, but a strategic vision, wisdom and political will. Above all, Moscow should be able to forge a qualitatively new partnership with Washington on East Asia and the Asia Pacific, including partnership concerning development of the Russia’s Siberia and the Far East, while at the same time sustaining strategic partnership with China. This demands first and foremost a capability to overcome psychological and bureaucratic inertia both in Russia itself, and in the US.