Belarus behind the Chinese Wall

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Developing relations with China, Belarusian authorities pursue, among other things, the task of obtaining additional (Chinese) external security guarantees. Which is especially important in the light of the current crisis in Eastern Europe and very unreliable Belarusian-Russian relations. While taking into account the traditional caution of the Chinese, involving the PRC in regional security issues is not an easy task, it is likely that some achievements have been made by the Belarusian authorities.

However, everything has its price. But in Minsk they prefer not to talk about it publicly.

“United Shield-2017”. On July 11-18, the first anti-terrorist training “United Shield -2017” with the participation of special forces of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus and the People’s Armed Police of China took place for the first time. The liberation of the settlement and hostages was trained. The Belarusian side asserts that such events improve the skills of command in special purpose units when performing joint tasks.

Chinese officials are traditionally more straightforward. Thus, the commander of the People’s Armed Police of China, Wang Ning, said that the event is intended to promote regional security. Obviously, we are talking about Eastern Europe: it is doubtful that Beijing had the need to support the Belarusian special forces on Chinese territory.

Attention is drawn to the fact that a high-ranking Chinese military leader visits a company level event. There is no mention of Colonel-General Wang Ning holding any meaningful meetings or negotiations. Obviously, the purpose of the visit was just an observation the “United Shield” in the field. The fact that the general being in charge of more than 1.5 million people is attending events of this scale, especially beyond the far end of the world, is more than just a courtesy visit.

Chinese policemen for Minsk. In July, a delegation from the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China headed by the Chief of the Political Bureau of the the Ministry of Public Security Xia Chunyuan visited Belarus. On July 25, 2017 it became known that the law enforcement agencies of Belarus and China agreed on strengthening cooperation in the fight against terrorism (including the exchange of information and the provision of technical assistance to Belarus by China). In turn, the Chinese side hopes that the Belarusian colleagues will “pay special attention to the terrorist groups operating in Eastern Europe and ensure security in Belarus, including in the territory of the industrial park “Great Stone”.

PRC Ministry of Public Security also plans to cooperate with the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus in ensuring the security of the facilities of the “new Silk Road”, transported goods, protecting public order in the industrial park “Great Stone”, as there are many citizens of China there. To crown it all, the Belarusian law enforcers will face difficulties in these tasks without knowledge of the Chinese language and mentality, therefore the Ministry of Public Security Political Bureau offered assistance in this regard. Which is a fairly transparent hint of the need for the presence of Chinese law enforcement officers on the territory of Belarus.

The visit of the delegation of the Ministry of Defense of China was almost not covered. Nothing is known even about its duration, which is unusual.

The questions posed by the Chinese side themselves cause mixed reactions. In Belarus, apart from the “Great Stone”, there are no other objects of the “new Silk Road”. At least for now. The security of goods passing through the territory of Belarus is ensured at a sufficient level and there are no problems in this area.

Regarding the prospects for the presence of Chinese policemen in the “Great Stone”, it is necessary to note that earlier in China the possibility of sending policemen to protect important Chinese investments in problem countries, primarily to Afghanistan for the protection of mines, was discussed. At present, the protection of Chinese economic facilities abroad, if necessary, is taken formally by private military companies from China. We use the word “formally”, because in practice they are under the full control of the Chinese law enforcement agencies. A specific thing in this area is the fact that in most cases Chinese private military companies’ specialists in host countries are not armed. Under their command there are armed natives who ensure the current security of Chinese objects. If necessary, it is possible that they will hand over weapons to Chinese specialists.

There is no need for the presence of foreign security officials in Belarus (both under the guise of private military companies or even subordinate to the Belarusian security agencies). At least at the moment.

But the question for some reason arose. One can only try to guess this reason.

Chinese military-industrial complex in Belarus. On August 1, 2017 Aliaksandr Lukashenka received a Chinese delegation led by Chairman of the State Property Control Committee of the State Council of China, Xiao Yatsin. During the meeting, the Belarusian leader suggested the Chinese side to consider the possibility of creating high-tech enterprises of the military industrial complex in the “Great Stone” industrial park: both joint ventures and ones with 100% Chinese capital.

It is necessary to note that Xiao Yatsin oversees the acquisition of strategic assets abroad in the interests of the PRC. So, he is not just a high-ranking official, but a conductor of Chinese influence in the world. Then there is a question: what kind of asset in Belarus can be strategic for Beijing?

Next, it is worth recalling that the best improvisation is a prepared one. It is unlikely that the public proposal of the Belarusian leader on the establishment of production of military products in Belarus was unexpected for the Chinese side. President Lukashenka can not fail to understand that in case his proposal is ignored by the Chinese, it will deal a serious blow to his reputation. It will be even more serious blow for his self-esteem. It is very likely that Belarus and China have certain agreements on the creation of military industry in our country with the participation of Chinese companies. This may include radar systems, secure digital communications, radio electronic reconnaissance, UAVs, possibly wheeled armored vehicles.

Conclusion. In three weeks, three high-ranking Chinese delegations visited Belarus. One can talk about the record in intensity of communication. The visits were covered only partly. But at the same time, a number of directions of the Belarusian-Chinese interaction, which could not be left without attention, were announced. The announcements were done deliberately. This is happening against the background of fears that Russia will try to use the forthcoming “West-2017” exercises to provoke an escalation of confrontation in the region.

For many years, the Belarusian top authorities have sought to involve the PRC in regional affairs as one of the external guarantors of stability, capable of balancing both the West and Russia. For the first time Beijing gave a hint that they are ready for more obvious and weighty involvement in Eastern European affairs, including using the Belarusian territory. But what are the conditions and goals of the Chinese presence? And what will be the consequences for Belarus? Everything has its price and the Chinese support of Minsk will not be an exception. At the moment these questions remain unanswered.

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