EASTERN PARTNERSHIP COUNTRIES ON THE CROSSROADS OF THE EURASIAN INTEGRATION PROCESSES PART 1
This article focuses on the analysis of geopolitical and geostrategic essence of the following integration projects: Eastern Partnership Program (EaP) of the European Union, Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I argue that as the six Eastern Partnership countries are geographically and geopolitically situated on the cross-roads of these projects, they should become the “bridge” of cooperation and dialogue among them.
From this perspective, the main research goal is to understand the essence of each integration project separately. The actor and interest analysis will allow the main decla¬red and latent goals of the above-mentioned Eurasian integration projects to be revealed. At the same time, the article aims to reveal and understand foreign policy priorities of the Eastern Partnership participant countries within the framework of globalization and Eurasian regionalization.
Taking into consideration a wide range of symmetric and asymmetric challenges and thre¬ats in Eastern Partnership countries, specifically in the South Caucasus, all the actors need more peaceful, stable and cooperative regions. In this context, the research understands “Eurasian dia¬logue through cooperation” as factor of huma¬ni¬za¬tion of the region based on promotion of cooperation culture. This article argues that EaP should be modernized to become the plat¬form of humanization of the Eurasian security architecture and “bridge” regional integration pro¬ces¬ses in Eurasia.
INTRODUCTION. NEW WORLD ORDER:
HUMANIZATION AND COOPERATION CULTURE
The beginning of the 21st century signalized the start of the development of multipolar world order. This process is accompanied by the development of the EU, rise of China, fresh restart of Russia, as well as the establishment and development of a number of international regional organizations and cooperation platforms, such as Shanghai Cooperation and BRICS. This allowed F. Zakaria to announce the “rise of the rest” , as an antithesis to S. Huntington`s famous “the West and the Rest”.
This transition allowed many researchers to trace the end of the unipolar world order of 1990. China has played a specific role in this transition and became the 2nd largest economy in the world after the US, outrunning Japan in 2010 .
However, this means only transition towards multipolarity. Famous American scientist Z.Brzezinski wrote that even if the US will experience decline, hardly a single power would start to dominate in the world, particularly, China. Moreover, China will not be able to take the role of the US neither now, nor in upcoming few decades .
Following Z.Brzezinski, it could be concluded that recent developments in international relations, as well as the “rise of the Rest” is able to claim that the world is in the process of development of a new world order.
H.Kissinger writes: “A reconstruction of the international system is the ultimate challenge to statesmanship in our time. The contemporary quest for world order will require a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order within the various regions, and to relate these regional orders to one another. These goals are not necessarily identical or self-reconciling: the triumph of a radical movement might bring order to one region while setting the stage for turmoil in and with all others. The domination of a region by one country militarily, even if it brings the appearance of order, could produce a crisis for the rest of the world” .
The experiences of the last two decades, specifically of Iraq war, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, etc. stresses the importance of cooperation and humanization driven construction of the new world system based on the ideas of peaceful co-existence, stability, and sustainable development.
In this context, the development of the new world order should be based on the necessity of humanization of international relations and development of cooperation culture. This will foster the harmonized development of international relations in the process of the formation of a new world order.
The idea of humanization of international relations became widely known based on Jan Tinbergen`s report to the Club of Rome titled “Reshaping the International Order”. The report stressed the importance of human social organization named “humanistic socialism”. The latter was called to provide equal opportunities inside and among countries, based on universal human values . This approach allowed various researchers to develop the necessity of humanization of world order. René Kemp and his colleagues have researched the concept of humanization of the economy and define it as “an umbrella term for activities of living and working based on values of reciprocity, responsible citizenship, integrity and autonomy, connectedness and trust, suggesting new ways of doing that operate on a different logic and principles such as trust-based cooperation, mutuality, autonomy, and respecting the environment” .
In this regard, writing about humanization of international relation, professor E.S.Markarian proves its necessity in the following way: “The situation started completely changing when the humankind in the process of planetary crisis entered into current phase of globalization, thus, becoming an integral socio-economic organism. As a result, it received its own interests and needs. This is critically important for the self-preservation of humankind” .
Thus, we see that nowadays humankind faces global challenges and threats. From this point of view, humanization of international relations will foster peaceful and safe human development on a planetary scale.
Another important way to provide peaceful coexistence in the world and specifically in Eurasia, is the possible development of cooperation culture.
There is no a united approach towards understanding and explaining the concept of cooperation culture in academic research of international relations and political science, as it is, for instance, the stance with the concept of peace culture, developed by Johan Galtung.
An American business strategist and blogger Evan Rosen distinguishes seven steps to achieve culture of collaboration in the business (in the context of collaboration hackathons):
- Plan: a key question to be answered
- People: broad participation in cross-functional collaboration
- Principles: value system
- Practices: principles in action
- Processes: prototype and test ideas
- Planet: to address how their ideas impact the communities in which the organization does business
- Payoff: the work product of the hackathon which must create value .
At the same time famous world thought expert on Customer Experience Colin Shaw outlines four critical elements to create a collaborative culture (for patient/customer experience):
- Leadership: the leaders are required to demonstrate and set the stage for the transformation.
- Motivation: the trick is to get employees to be internally motivated.
- Coaching: The central method of showing the way is about micro teaching that can occur organically throughout the workday.
- Measurement .
Interestingly most of these components and steps could be easily transited to the realm of international relations, making them more cooperation and peace oriented.
In this regard Polish professor Barbara Kożuch defines three types of collaboration:
- Collaboration, i.e. positive collaboration;
- Competition, or rivalry;
- Battle, i.e. negative collaboration .
Thus, our goal is to develop positive collaboration based on responsible leadership, motivation, clear vision and strategy, as well as mutually accepted principles.
Talking about the possible opportunities of political cooperation Clayton M. Christensen, Matt MarxHoward, and H. Stevenson emphasize the role of democracy to foster cooperation: “Democracy can be used as a tool to encourage cooperation. An important insight from this model is that democracy will not work except where people agree strongly on both dimensions of the matrix: what they want and the rules of cause and effect. The very functioning of democracy depends upon the existence of strong cultural beliefs that are often rooted in the teachings of certain religions” .
Following the idea of democratic cooperation, a group of Iranian researchers develops a six-step combination to foster cooperation culture :
Thus, the concept of the “culture of collaboration” (or cooperation) in international relations could be summarized as set of such components as responsibility, democracy, leadership, motivation, trust, broad participation of all interested stakeholders, dialogue and strategic approach/long-term interests, aiming to achieve positive cooperation and peaceful co-existence among nations and countries on local, regional and global levels of world order.
EURASIAN INTEGRATION PROJECTS ON THE CROSS-ROADS
Eastern Partnership Program
EaP is a relatively new regional integration project officially presented by the EU to six neighbor countries in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus. It was presented by Poland with active Sweden participation on May 26, 2008 during the EU Foreign affairs Council meeting. It is designed to promote regional stability and sustainable development through economic cooperation, democratic institution-building, as well as stabilization of the EU eastern neighborhood.
The EaP was not established on “empty space”. Particularly following the fifth round of the EU enlargement, officials in Brussels started to rethink its external relations with regional borderlands and as a result initiated the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).
The ENP includes sixteen neighboring countries to the south (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Lebanon) and east (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine). The idea was to increase influence in these countries by offering economic advantages and innovative mechanisms needed in those countries comprehensive modernization.
However very soon it became clear that “single size fits all” policy would hardly work for the whole region with so much historic, cultural, political economic and other differences.
As a result, EU policymakers, recognizing the necessity of diversified approach to the ENP participating states, launched the Eastern Partnership in May 2009.
According to European External Action Service, “the EaP is a joint initiative involving the EU, its member states and 6 eastern European partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It is based on a commitment to the principles of international law and fundamental values - democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also encompasses support for a market economy, sustainable development and good governance” .
The official objectives of the EaP are to develop the political association and economic integration of the EU with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. It was designed to advance human rights and good-governance norms through the creation of a free-trade zone that would give partner countries access to the EU’s five hundred million consumers. However, the initiative did not go further to offer EU membership to partner countries. On one hand it was reasonable decision taking into account the limited possibilities of the further EU enlargement. On the other hand, this move was widely seen as an impediment and restriction for partner counties to enact serious economic and political reforms .
There is also the third opinion, which claims that the EaP was intentionally designed to stop the EU enlargement to the East.
As the main goal of EaP, the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit (Prague, 7 May 2009) emphasizes the creation of the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the EU and interested partner countries. The latter was to be implement by developing a specific Eastern dimension of the ENP. “With this aim, the Eastern Partnership will seek to support political and socio-economic reforms of the partner countries, facilitating approximation towards the European Union. This serves the shared commitment to stability, security and prosperity of the European Union, the partner countries and indeed the entire European continent” .
At the same time EaP provides strategic security dimension for the EU. Particularly, the EU Global Strategy of 2016 clearly states “… We have learnt the lesson: my neighbour’s and my partner’s weaknesses are my own weaknesses. So we will invest in win-win solutions, and move beyond the illusion that international politics can be a zero-sum game… Internal and external security are ever more intertwined: our security at home entails a parallel interest in peace in our neighbouring and surrounding regions. It implies a broader interest in preventing conflict, promoting human security, addressing the root causes of instability and working towards a safer world” .
Thus, successful EaP implementation will contribute to the EU external and internal security through establishing peaceful, sustainable and stable region in its neighborhood. Nowadays this approach is more than taking into account the Ukrainian conflict, migration crisis in the EU, increasing violence in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, etc.
Trying to further understand the role and significance of the EaP, I am presenting below some opinions of Hungarian policy-makers and researchers who reflected on that issue during expert interviews. As it was agreed not to disclose them, I am presenting direct words without naming the experts:
“The EaP is the result of strategic thinking of (Radoslaw) Sikorski… I think that the EaP has two strategic goals: to prepare the participating states to tighter integration with the EU and decrease the Russian influence in that region”.
“At short there is European Union which wants to shift its neighborhood away from Russia. And to have neighbors with whom we can commerce and trade. This is the reason why it was created”.
“I do not think that the EU needs EaP. We are not interested in these countries, especially the South Caucasus at all, they are far from us and can not give us anything. The EU is doing EaP only because it is a normative power and it feels necessary to spread European values in the region. But I repeat, we do not have any real interest in the EaP participating countries”.
However, there is the opposite opinion too: “Why they are not important? All the neighbors are important for the EU. The EaP at least helps Brussels to see, to understand possible developments in these region with regard to the EU. At the same time the Project allows to understand Russian influence and strength in various fields”.
At the same time Hungarian researcher András Rácz outlines specifically two major points of interest for Hungary in the EaP: diversification of energy imports and the issue of Hungarian minorities. He brings the words of the Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai who stressed the importance of the Partnership for Hungary and the EU as it improves energy security and allows having alternative sources of gas and alternative transit lines .
Despite the fact that Nabucco pipeline project is completely dead at the moment, the EU is still interested in Caspian and Iranian gas.
The Director of the Policy Planning Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic David Král has outlined the following Czech interests:
- Economic interest: “Czech companies are in a pressing need to look for new markets and also, with increasing labour costs in the Czech Republic, in need to invest in lower-cost countries. From this perspective, Eastern Europe seems to be a natural choice for Czech businesses due to the knowledge of local environment, as well as overly good reputation of Czech industry and products in the region”.
- Resurgence of Russian influence in Eastern Europe .
Thus, it can be concluded that back in 2009, the EaP has been and currently remains a strategic initiative, which covers wide range of EU foreign policy issues in that region, including economic, political, social and other fields. Summarizing, it could be said that the EaP was established mainly due to the following reasons and interests:
- EU as a normative power
- Economic interests: trade and new markets
- Diversification of energy import
- Political and economic stability in neighborhood as a precondition for the stability in the EU
- Geostrategic motives: decrease the role of Russia in the region which is in the EU`s close neighborhood
- Better understanding of Russia`s motives and capacities to promote these motives
- Control of strategic ground routes from East to West
- Tool of influence on the EU’s international environment.
Eurasian Economic Union
In 2000, Vladimir Putin took the office of the president of the Russian Federation. He was a “fresh air” for Russian politics after Yeltsin`s 90s. Putin`s approach was based on the desire to strengthen geopolitical positions of Russia and diversify the unipolar world. In early 2000s, Putin succeeded in uniting Russia and stabilizing the political-economic situation. This allowed the development of old and initiate new integration frameworks in post-soviet area, particularly, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), etc.
In 2011, then-prime-minister Putin published an article in “Izvestia” newspaper, where he elaborated the idea of establishing a new regional integration organization – the Eurasian Union .
“Creation of the Customs Union and United Economic Area establishes the basis for further development of the Eurasian Economic Union... We do not stop on it and have the ambitious vision to step up onto the next, higher level of integration – the Eurasian Union”, clarifies Putin. After returning to the Office in 2012, Putin continued the new term as the president with active promotion of the idea of establishment of the Eurasian Union.
The EEU was launched on January 1, 2015 and currently includes 5 members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan and Russia. Thus, developing the idea of multipolar international system, president Putin`s objective is to establish a new mechanism of balance of powers, based on the promotion of an alternative to Euro-Atlantic global polar.
At the same time, the essence of the current processes with regard to the Eurasian Economic Union and its further development could not be fully disclosed without comprehensive study of the historic routes of current developments.
The idea of Eurasianism is not new. According to the Modern Philosophical Dictionary Eurasianism is an ideocratic geopolitical and social-philosophical study, morphological complex of ideas and intellectual movement, which was founded in 1921 among the Russian emigrants and which preserves the ideal-political potential until now. The movement was presented by such founding fathers and leading ideologists as G.Phlorovski, L.Karsavin, N.Alekseev, G.Vernadski, B.Visheslavtsev, N.Trubetskoy, R.Yakobson, V.Ilyin, etc. According to the Dictionary, based on the social and geographical outcomes of V.Kluchevski, N.Danilevski and S.Solovyev the Eurasianism theorists not only opposed Russia-Eurasia and Western Europe, but also accentuated the potential importance of traditional and modernized founding triads of Russian mentality: “Orthodoxy – autocracy – nationality”, “centralization – discipline – self-sacrifice” .
In this context, one of the founding fathers of the study P.N.Savitskiy thinks that Eurasianism should provide the spiritual synthesis of Eastern and Western identities as Russia is the center of the Eurasian continent. According to him, only the availability of that center allows providing the unity of those two identities, but its elimination would lead to disintegration of all the other parts, which he calls the continental outskirts, including Europe, Central Asia, Iran, India, Indo-China, China and Japan. And only the presence of Russia ensures the unity and integrity of the continent . Thus, Eurasianism develops the central place and role of Russia, as the Eurasian heartland. It sees Russia as a unique unite, which should become an alternative polar on international arena.
At the same time, the process of development of the EEU has rather long history of regional integration. The idea to establish a Eurasian Union on the territory of the former Soviet Union was expressed by the president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1994 . Starting from early 2000s we see rather significant activation of Russian-led integration and cooperation initiatives on post-Soviet space in political, military, economic and other dimensions. Particularly, in 2002 Collective Security Treaty was transformed into full-scale military organization – CSTO . The latter could be treated as the military wing of Russian influence in the region.
Almost simultaneously with the CSTO, Eurasian Economic community was established in 2001 within the framework of CIS and with the idea of further development into a customs union. Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia was launched in 2011. A year later (in 2012) it was leveled up to the next stage of economic integration – United Economic Space.
All these phases prepared the necessary ground to establish Eurasian Economic Union. Generally speaking this is what was reflected in Putin`s article of 2011, where than-prime-minister, particularly stresses the importance of the following issues:
- The EEU is not an attempt to re-establish the Soviet Union, as the latter left in history. “Unification of natural resources, capital, and strong human capital will allow the Eurasian Union to be competitive in industrial and technological race, in the competition for investors, creation of new working places and leading manufacturing”.
- The Eurasian Union as a center for further integration processes, which gradually merge the independently functioning Customs Union and United Economic Space .
However today these approaches are challenged by wide range of issues, specifically, lack of unity among the most influential actors in Eurasia. The situation became even worse after the start of the Ukrainian conflict.
While Russia is currently not in the position to provide further geographical enlargement of the EEU, it needs to develop cooperation within Eurasia in face of specifically increasing economic sanctions from the US.
In this controversial international environment called by many researchers “New Middle Ages” or “Period of uncertainty”, motivated by the necessity to improve relations with the EU and deepen cooperation in Eurasia, Putin brought to the international political agenda the vision of creation, the Greater Eurasian Union and establishment of “integration of integrations”, which had been formulated during the 70th annual UN General Assembly Summit in 2016.
At the same time, during the opening ceremony of “One belt, one Road” International Forum in Beijing on May 14-15, 2016 Putin stated in his speech: “I think that unification of potentials of such integration formats as EEU, One belt, one road, Shanghai Organization, ASEAN is capable to become the basis for formation of a larger Eurasian partnership… We would greet participation of the EU member-states in this partnership. In this case it would be really harmonic, balanced and comprehensive, allowing to realize a unique chance to create a united space of cooperation from Atlantic to Pacific Ocean – actually, for the first time in history… This is a real civilizational project directed towards Future” .
Interestingly, the first signs and elements of the Greater Eurasia project can be found in Putin`s 2011 article. Particularly he writes: “The two largest units of our continent – EU and forming Eurasian Union – based their partnership on the principles of free trade and compatibility of regulation systems, objectively, including through the relations with third countries and regional structures, are capable to spread these principles to the whole area – from Atlantic to Pacific Ocean” .
Similar ideas we can be found in the updated Foreign Policy Concept of Russia of 2016, which in comparison to 2013 version keeps stressing the importance of the development of the EEU, but also accentuated the importance of “integration of integrations” from Atlantic to Pacific .
Thus, we see that currently Eurasianism is developing at least on two tracks – EEU, which is formed reality even if with controversial outcomes at the moment. Another vector is the Greater Eurasia, which currently is much more difficult to implement due to not only tensed EU-Russia relations, but also often contradicting Russia-China interests. Developing the idea of the Greater Eurasia, Russia does not give up the process of strengthening the EEU and promoting the integration process in the “Near abroad”. It finds the EEU as an important mechanism to harmonize integration processes in European and Eurasian regions.
Summarizing, it could be said that the EEU was established mainly due to the following reasons and interests:
- Strengthening influence in the region, which Russia considers as the sphere of its interests
- Development of multipolar world order
- Economic interests: trade, labor force
- EEU as a buffer zone against EU and NATO enlargement
- EEU as a buffer zone against increasing Chinese influence in Central Asia
- Foreign military bases
- Connectivity bridge towards the Middle East (in terms of Armenia), Europe (Belarus) and Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan).
- Eurasianism as an ideology to unite Russian society, pro-Russian forces domestically and abroad and secure Russia`s place in global order for the Future.
Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative is a comprehensive project aiming at better economic integration in Eurasia. The Project encompasses the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The BRI was initially proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the BRI is a comprehensive visionary project for global economic development in the new world order. It refers to both historic Silk Road and also takes into account the modern tendencies of global economic development to foster inclusive growth and development in the 21st century. The BRI covers more than 60 countries and regions from Asia to Europe via Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the Middle East. The region estimates about 30 per cent of global GDP and more than 35 per cent of the world's merchandise trade. At the same time the Project sets ambitious plan by 2050 to advance three billion more people into the middle class in the Belt and Road region through providing 80 per cent of global GDP growth .
On May 10, 2017 (shortly before the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which took place on May 14 and 15) China issued a detailed explanatory document on the Belt and Road Initiative. Starting from the first words, the document outlines the economic nature and economic motives of the BRI: “Economic globalization and regional integration has stimulated strong potential for economic activity, while scientific and technological progress has greatly improved the efficiency of work and daily life” .
According to the above-mentioned document, particularly, the BRI sets the following seven areas of cooperation :
1. Promoting connectivity of infrastructure and facilities
2. Enhancing economic and trade cooperation
3. Expanding production capacity and investment cooperation
4. Expanding financial cooperation
5. Strengthening cooperation on ecological and environmental protection
6. Promoting orderly maritime cooperation
7. Strengthening cooperation and exchanges in cultural, social and other fields
The BRI mostly sets to foster economic cooperation through the development of infrastructure projects, which will bridge and make Eurasian economic centers closer. From this perspective the following routes are presented:
The Silk Road Economic Belt has three routes:
- from Northwest China and Northeast China to Europe and the Baltic Sea via Central Asia and Russia;
- from North-West China to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea, passing through Central Asia and West Asia;
- from Southwest China through the Indochina Peninsula to the Indian Ocean.
The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road has two major routes:
- one starts from coastal ports of China, crosses the South China Sea, passes through the Malacca Strait, and reaches the Indian Ocean, extending to Europe;
- the other starts from coastal ports of China, crosses the South China Sea, and extends to the South Pacific.
Based on the above five routes, and the focus of cooperation and spatial distribution for building the Belt and Road, China has proposed a framework including six corridors, six means of communication, multiple countries, and multiple ports. The “six corridors” are:
- the New Eurasian Land Bridge Economic Corridor,
- the China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor,
- the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor,
- the China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor,
- the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor,
- and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor .
At the same time Chinese authorities developed financial instruments to provide the implementation of the BRI – the Silk Road Fund (USD 40 billion) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with approximately USD 100 billion .
However, the problem is that according to different estimations the total cost of BRI ranges from USD 6 to 8 billion, where USD 140 billion makes up less than 2 percent. On the other hand, the Initiative is a huge long-term project. It cannot be excluded that financial flows will be provided according to successful or unsuccessful implementation of specific parts of the project.
In this regard, the following excerpt from the interview with Hungarian analyst brings more clarity into the discussed issue: “Silk Road is a new geopolitical concept of China, which is offering money, infrastructure for the countries involved. Actually, china is not even giving so much money, interestingly. For me it was a big surprise. They try to collect different private investors, big companies, big groups to invest in the Silk Road. So, China is mostly an organizer, of course they are also offering money, but they expect money from investors, from participating countries and private investors”.
This means that currently China provides or organizes a platform for cooperation for all interested participants, investing is either strategic for China or attractive from business perspective projects. This approach can be explained also by the decreasing interest in China towards BRI after US president D.Trump`s U-turn in “Pivot to Asia” strategy.
My interviewee explains the change in Chinese position in the following way: “The most important region is South-East Asia, if you control this region, you can control global economy. It produces altogether about 40% of global GDP, maybe a bit less… “Pivot to Asia” a bit frightened China, as it was designed to reduce their role in South-East Asia. As a result, China presented BRI as a “turn towards West”, however Trump`s suspension of the “Pivot to Asia” frees China`s hands in the region and brings the focus back to “East”. However, he continues that there is no way to start back now in BRI, but the core region will be South-East Asia, as it the most important region in the global economy.
Based on the above statement, a question can be raised, if the BRI is solely about economy. In this regard, analysts largely vary in their opinions:
“According to my perspective the world previously had one hegemon, US, because it has navy, which controled the most important trading lines in the global system. Because the most important trading lines were connected to the seas, with navy you have capacity to control global economy. The New Silk Road is something to introduce a new connections. And this is against the unipolar American system”, says a Hungarian expert on China.
His colleague argues, that BRI is more about geopolitics, than trade to really change the unipolar world, “so it is more about that some countries try to enlarge their territory by military and some countries try to do that through infrastructure and money”. His colleague makes it clear, that according to him, the BRI is a global geopolitical concept, which tries to unite the Eurasian region: “In China it is not allowed to say that it is a geopolitical concept, but it is, because it tries to move closer at least three regions: Europe, Asia and Africa, and this is geopolitics because this would be against the previous system with the hegemony of the USA and control of maritime trade roads. That is reason it is geopolitics. Intention is not to destroy the US or challenge it in conflict way, it is smarter: we build roads, not battleships, if you build carrier it is clear sign for the US that you want to challenge my position, when you build road, you can say it is against my system, but it is really hard to motivate people to mobilize people against China, which is building a road”.
Another Hungarian expert on Eurasian geopolitics, answering the question on the real nature of the BRI, told the following: “I think there are several reasons for BRI to be established. First of all it was a reflection to economic situation in the country. I mean the power accumulated in China should have its further development. At the same time the initiative is a response to Eastern Partnership and Eurasian Economic Union”.
At the same time the Lowy Institute analyst Peter Cai outlines three main interests of China in BRI:
- Strive to find new markets for Chinese goods and services, enhancing connectivity
and trade between Asia, Europe and Africa.
- Domestic economic development in China. According to the author, 16 out of 27 provinces in China are covered by BRI, which will become a unique opportunity to increase connectivity both among the Chinese provinces and with neighboring states. “For many less developed regions, mostly in inland China, the initiative is a clear opportunity to catch up with the more advanced provinces on China’s East coast. Central government also intends to bring more stability to the interior states (most notably Xinjiang) by establishing better connectivity with other regions”.
- BRI is also China’s grand strategy for spreading its leadership role on the international stage both regionally and globally .
Another important issue is the necessity to ensure secure energy supply routes and open up new market opportunities for both its established low-value and the increasing volume of high-value goods. Being an industrial superpower China needs stabile energy supply. BRI connects China with such oil and gas rich regions as Central Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Stephen Aris, a researcher at the Center for Security Studies, also points out huge currency reserves in China as a reason for the establishment of BRI. “One viewpoint is that holding on to these currency reserves is not of much strategic or economic benefit. As a result, Chinese policymakers are said to have been searching for a way to make productive use of these reserves to support the nation’s wider geopolitical interests” .
Thus, it can be concluded that BRI is a comprehensive long-term project which includes economic, political, geopolitical and other dimensions. The project is designed to become an impetus for domestic development in China, foster connectivity in Eurasia, as well as provide economic cooperation and energy security for China. At the same time, it aims at transformation of Chinese economic power into political influence and provide “place under sun” for China in the global and regional developing order.
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