文｜季莫菲·博尔达切夫（Timofei Bordachev）瓦尔代国际辩论俱乐部项目部主任 翻译｜许钦铎
当地时间2016年5月31日，哈萨克斯坦阿斯塔纳，欧亚经济联盟(Eurasian Economic Union)会议在当地举行
Silk Road to Peace China and Russia Assemble Eurasia
by Timofei Bordachev, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club
May 8 2015, one day before the Victoryparade in Moscow, the Chinese and Russian Presidents signed a joint statementon the “pairing” of the Eurasian integration (EAEU) and the Silk Road EconomicBelt. In turn, the leaders of the Eurasian Five (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan, and Russia) confirmed at their October 16 summit in Astana,Kazakhstan their intention to cooperate with China and in May 2016 instructedthe EAEU Commission to coordinate the actions of the national governments. Theformal negotiations have started in August same year. Russian-Chineseinteraction is central to the “pairing” and constitutes its high-level supportbase.
The “pairing” concept originated fromawareness that Russia could no longer – nor should – look atEurasia as its “backyard”; one that must be guarded, but not necessarilydeveloped. Being hermetic and peripheral provokes outside forces into trying todestabilize the outskirts of Russia and China, to drive a wedge between Moscowand Beijing, or to force other Eurasian states to make a choice between what isalleged to be mutually exclusive alternatives. While the EAEU defines the legalframework for a transport and logistic infrastructure and joint development,the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) should give it a huge trade and investmentimpetus. China’s unique record in creating inner economic belts will come inhandy as efforts to organize new international and transcontinental economicbelts capable of pooling resources, means of production and markets come underway.
The SREB initiative was announced by PRCPresident Xi Jinping at Nazarbayev University in Astana in September 2013. Itsaim is not only to solve China’s domestic economic problems but also to ensureregional political and economic stability on the basis of large-scaleinvestment and infrastructure projects and a policy to include the region’scountries in common production chains. The SREB is seen in Russia as an offerof economic development for a number of states, complete with numerousinfrastructural production, trade, and services projects. If implemented, thiswill make it possible to provide a stable and secure environment for thedevelopment of both western China and the whole of Central Eurasia by unlockingits full potential. But despite the clarity of objectives, the Chinese idea wasinitially devoid of specifics, something that led to its controversialinterpretations by other players.
Eurasian integration is the flagshipproject that Russia and its partners have mapped out for the next few decades.Launched on January 1, 2015, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is laying thefoundation for legal frameworks enabling a joint breakthrough. It is alsocreating a tool for preventing and settling interstate disputes. The EAEU hasbeen established to enable comprehensive modernization, cooperation, andgreater competitiveness of national economies. The union is also meant tocreate conditions for stable development and better living standards in themember-states. Accordingly, the EAEU provides for free movement of goods, services,capital, and workforce and works to coordinate and synchronize economicpolicies in different areas. Kazakhstan’s and Kyrgyzstan’s EAEU membershipcreates a situation where there is just one customs border between China andthe EU market.
These legal instruments can create hugepractical opportunities for border trade within the EAEU and on its externalborders. But for this to materialize, it is urgent to expedite the developmentof a wider EAEU-China agenda. The EAEU Treaty offers a roadmap for progresstowards a common market and possible exemptions. It is planned to consolidateregulation of pharmaceutical industries in 2016, to create a common power andenergy market in 2019, to institute common financial mega-regulators in 2022,and to form a common market for oil, gas and petroleum products between 2024and 2025. This in itself will facilitate the development of related clusters inEurasia.
Russian motivation behind the decision towelcome the Chinese initiative is very clear. In the contemporary internationalenvironment Russia is interested in ensuring that opportunities for itsdevelopment are geographically diversified. Russia wants to promote theEurasian integration project and eventually open it to new members andobservers. It is in Russian interests to build regional developmentinstitutions that would complement the already existing international financialand economic institutions. Particularly it is important in the region ofCentral Asia. One of Russia’s crucial national objectives is to maintain acourse for boosting the economic and political importance of Siberia and theRussian Far East and to create conditions for making its strategic partnershipwith China irreversible.
As it is seen from Moscow, China’s has adirect interest in building a system of cross-border trade, economic andpolitical cooperation in Eurasia. This cooperation would secure a transportcorridor between the Chinese and European markets, and be comparativelyindependent of the traditional maritime routes. It can also create favorablepolitical conditions for implementing investment projects in Kazakhstan,Central Asia, Siberia, and in the Russian Far East; minimize the risks andthreats posed by Islamic extremism and optimize efforts to develop western China,one of the strategic objectives confronting the state.
But there are problems as well. Manyelements of the EAEU transportation infrastructure are underdeveloped,undermining cooperation in the transportation industry. For instance, theAlmaty cargo port in Kazakhstan is not as well equipped as the Urumqi inlandport in China, which affects service quality and timeframes. This situationcould be explained in the following manner. While it is true that land routeslinking Europe and Asia provide for shorter transit times compared to shipmentsby sea at 14 days to 30-35 days, respectively, transportation by land is muchmore expensive. Consequently, it is used only by few market segments, where thespeed of delivery really matters. This could be goods with high added value perkilogram of weight, specific types of food products, and premium textiles.However, transportation rates for sea and land routes, for example the Shanghai– St. Petersburg – Moscow and the Shanghai – Russia’s Far East –Moscow routeshave been recently converging. This inspires hope that in the futuretransportation by land could become competitive.
The available data illustrates thatEurasian economic belt can be potentially relatively cost efficient. Eurasiaoffers unique opportunities for developing transport and logistics corridorsand hubs, including air cargo traffic, for matching Europe’s and Asia’smanufacturing and consumption potentials. Implementing the SREB will make itpossible to reduce cargo transportation distances on par with those realized byutilizing the Suez Canal route. The corridor is 8.4 thousand kilometers long,of which 3.4 thousand kilometers has been built in China and 2.8 thousand and2.2 thousand kilometers are being built or modernized in Kazakhstan and Russia,respectively. An important advantage in this respect is that there is just onecustoms border – that between China and Kazakhstan – to be crossed. Ifall the necessary initiatives are implemented, such as adding tracks in somesections, crossing loops, interchange yards, improving maintenance, this couldadd 10%-15% to the transit capacity.
Nevertheless, the “pairing” cannot be onlya transport project. It must be about expanding trade and economic ties withinthe region, including between Russia and China. So far, the situation in thisarea has been ambiguous. On the one hand, huge resources are available andthere is a great potential, while on the other hand, existing disparities haveto be recognized. That said, Russia and the EAEU’s trade with China is morediversified than with any other trade partner. On top of hydrocarbons and coal,EAEU members supply to China equipment, uranium, timber, petrochemicals, andalmost all customs commodity codes, except for silk and cotton.
Accordingly to the Chinese trade statisticsexports from EAEU to China in Jan-Feb 2017 reached the value of $6.95 bn,growing by 40% in comparison to the corresponding period last year. Importsfrom China experienced slighter increase of 19% hitting the benchmark of $7.4bn. This contrasts to the previous period – in Jan-Feb 2016EAEU exports to China dropped by 15%, while imports decreased by 14% incomparison to the corresponding period in 2015. In physical volumes EAEUexports to China grew by 18%, while imports fell by 5% in Jan-Feb 2017. This isalso better than the last year (Jan-Feb 2016 compared to Jan-Feb 2015) whenboth exports and imports fell by 3 and 5% respectively.
The major problem is that Central Asia iscausing increasing concern among neighbors and major foreign powers. Itdirectly borders on one of the most dangerous hotbeds of radicalism,Afghanistan, where a considerable number of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks live.After its inevitable defeat in the Middle East, ISIS may well try to establisha new Caliphate in Central Asia. Tensions in Afghan regions bordering onCentral Asian states are already rising sharply. Experts are warning ofincreased infiltration of extremists from Afghanistan and the Middle East,primarily Central Asian natives. According to the most conservative estimate,over 10,000 natives of Central Asia, Russia and China fought for ISIS in late2015.
Despite the considerable success of theexisting regimes in stabilizing the Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan after the Soviet Union’s collapse, now theprospects of domestic stability are much less assured in practically all ofthem. The mechanisms for transferring power after the inevitable departure ofthe political patriarchs are not entirely clear to foreign analysts. Sometimesinternal stability is compromised by flashes of violence. According to officialreports, there have been 19 terrorist attacks in Kazakhstan alone since 2010,leaving 49 people dead, most of them police. The authorities also killed 59terrorists over this period.
The SCO’s June summit in June 2016 inTashkent and the Russian President’s visit to China immediately after offeredgood opportunities to discuss how greater multilateral cooperation, primarilybetween the regional superpowers China and Russia, can improve regionalsecurity. Potential instability in central Eurasia represents a kind of idealcommon challenge for these two countries and can only be solved through arational positive-sum game. This is likely for several objective reasons.First, the region’s countries are prone to social and political upheavals athome. In Central Asia internal tensions are due to the instability of some ofits government institutions, poverty, religious radicalism, and finallyAfghanistan’s proximity. The combination of these factors has made the region afocus for both countries, thereby increasing their potential for cooperation.
The geographical neighborhood of thispotentially explosive region has great importance for both great powers.Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states border on the Xinjiang UyghurAutonomous Region with over a million Muslims, as well as on the Urals andCentral Siberia that are vital for Russia. It is clear for both states thatwere the security situation to deteriorate they would not be able to redirectthe issue towards the other power and would therefore be compelled tocooperate. Russia and China are equally interested in keeping out foreignpowers, no matter where they come from. Both Beijing and Moscow may offer theirneighbors rather different formats of cooperation for domestic stabilization.Russia and China are interested in the stabilization rather than thetransformation of Central Asian political regimes, combined with theevolutionary improvement of their economic and social conditions for as long aspossible. Russian-Chinese cooperation will play a role in countering inevitableattempts by regional countries to balance out the influence of the two greatpowers. Importantly, any format of Russian-Chinese cooperation on Central Asiansecurity should be transparent and multilateral, and should by all meansinclude the region’s countries, as well as – on a number ofissues – Iran.
Efforts to stabilize the region may uniteRussia and China in the broader international context. Both states have causeto be relatively calm about the political and economic components of theirstrategic cooperation. Now their task is to determine what institutional formswould be the best for making irreversible the development of the “community ofinterests and values”. To begin, internal security should become the mostimportant practical goal of this community and its institutions, including military,police and economic cooperation and coordination.
Currently China is providing some militaryaid – weapons and gear – for the destitute military in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But it’sunclear whether the scale of this aid is satisfactory for these countries toeffectively respond to terrorist threats. What will China do, if a number ofCentral Asian countries become a scene of dramatic internal upheavals? CanRussia be sure that in this event its military will not remain there alone? Fewserious analysts have any doubt that the sheer length of the Russia-Kazakhstanborder, let alone its proximity to the industrial base in the Urals, and therestless areas in the North Caucasus, will leave Moscow indifferent to thefight against radical threats waged by the Central Asian security forces. Underpresumed critical circumstances, China will most probably need to practice moreactive cooperation with Russia, which will certainly remain the main providerof “hard” security in the region. Flexible forms of interference – diplomaticsupport and economic recovery effort – will be in highdemand.
It is also important to foresee how China’sactive economic presence in the region may influence its readiness for a moreactive involvement if a crisis does occur. Since 2001, China’s accumulatedinvestment in Kazakhstan, according to its Central Bank, amounts to about $13billion (or 75% less than the Dutch investment – $64 billion – and halfthat of the US with $23 billion). In Tajikistan, direct foreign investment (DFI)amounted to $395.6 million between 2001 and 2012, with China as the maininvestor. Kyrgyzstan in the same period received DFI mostly from China ($299million) as well as Russia ($161 million). The important thing is whether thisrelatively solid investment can serve as an assurance that China will notremain indifferent to developments in the receiving countries. Prior to Libya’scollapse in 2011, China invested about $19 billion there but has seemed to putout of the mind its losses with relative ease.
To conclude, the potential for intensifiedinterstate and inter-regional cooperation in Eurasia is not only and not somuch a transport project as a co-development project involving countries in theregion. This macro-region possesses a huge potential based on its economicvigor, rich mineral resources, Chinese investments, and common institutionaland legal projects like the EAEU, the SCO, and the CSTO. All of this createsprerequisites for the revival of the original Silk Road as a continental beltof trade, economic, and cultural cooperation between adjacent states, whichenables them to gain wealth and prosperity.
Our aim is to make the strategicrapprochement and unprecedented trust between Russia and China unalterable. Ourrelations must become more transparent and their cooperative philosophy moremature. They need to assume a long-term strategic nature and rest on a firminstitutional foundation. It is also necessary to prevent external forces frombeing able to kindle distrust between Russia and China. Citizens of bothcountries need to expand contacts and this can be accomplished by introducingvisa-free travel. This will make it possible, as early as in the mid-term, tocome close to establishing in Eurasia a new international political entity basedon common interests and many shared values.
Major task for now is to determine whatinstitutional forms would be optimal to make the emergence of a community ofinterests and values in Central Eurasia irreversible. These institutional formsneed to be comprehensive and inclusive, combining politics and economics aswell as “soft” and “hard” power. They have to be palatable for the great,mid-sized, and small powers. China and Russia hold in their hands potentiallyexceptional institutions for international cooperation and development:Eurasian integration, financial institutions of the Silk Road and the AsianInfrastructure Investment Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, ASEANmultilateral formats, and much else. It requires more effort and furtherperfection to make them mutually complementary.