Xi-Lukashenko meeting carries on ‘unbreakable friendship’

Wang Qi

BEIJING : Chinese President Xi Jinping warmly received the visiting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Beijing on Wednesday, the main day of the latter’s three-day state visit to China, a continuation of friendship after the two nations upgraded their bilateral relations to an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership in September 2022.   

Following friendly talks which Belarus media disclosed went on “much longer than planned,” the two heads of state signed  a joint statement on the main principles of developing exemplary relations of all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership between Belarus and China in the new era.

A big package of documents on cooperation in various areas was signed as part of the two heads of state’s meeting, including economy and trade, industry, agriculture, customs, science and technology, health, tourism, sports and interregional cooperation. 

Xi said China highly appreciates Belarus’s firm support for China’s justified position on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and on human rights.

The two sides should firmly support each other’s choice of development path, support each other in safeguarding respective core interests, oppose external interference in internal affairs, and protect their sovereignty and political security, Xi said.

The two presidents agreed to expand economic and trade cooperation, do a good job in building the China-Belarus Industrial Park, and focus on the joint building of the Belt and Road to advance cooperation in connectivity projects such as the China-Europe Railway Express service.

Lukashenko expressed willingness to take an active part in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative, and would like to strengthen coordination with China on major international and regional issues.

Experts believe that the visit comes at an important juncture as China steps up efforts to enhance economic and international cooperation after overcoming COVID-19. The meeting between Xi and Lukashenko shows that heads-of-state diplomacy plays a crucial role in the further development of China-Belarus relations in the future.

With the growth of bilateral ties, China and Belarus have seen a boom in trade over the past years. Statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China show that two-way trade surpassed $5 billion in 2022, up by 33 percent year-on-year.

In the future, the two sides will further strengthen cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and diplomacy, filling the new status of bilateral relations with new content, analysts expected. 

‘Old friends’

Before meeting with Xi, Lukashenko met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Noting the visit is his 13th to China as president, Lukashenko hailed the growth of bilateral trade, stressing that Belarus “has no closed topics, no closed regions” for China.

During the meeting with Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Li Zhanshu, Lukashenko said expansion of contacts with China is a foreign policy priority for Belarus, according to BelTA, the country’s state-run news agency. 

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, upon Lukashenko’s arrival, a 21-gun salute was fired in Tian’anmen Square and salutes were lined up. Lukashenko, accompanied by Xi, reviewed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) honor guard.

Ahead of a meeting with Chinese leadership, Lukashenko laid a wreath with ribbons at the Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tian’anmen Square, a rare move for another country’s leader.  

Hailing the unbreakable China-Belarus friendship, Xi stressed that the two sides should further enhance political mutual trust and remain each other’s good friends and partners.

Meanwhile, BelTA disclosed that the two heads of states described each other as an “old friend.”

Yang Jin, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that China gave Lukashenko a very high level of reception. In addition, Lukashenko’s visit to the Monument to the People’s Heroes shows Belarus’s respect for Chinese history and national heroes.

It demonstrates the friendly relations and high political mutual trust between the two countries, Yang said. 

Zhao Huirong, an Eastern European studies expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that President Xi warmly received Lukashenko just three days before the annual two sessions are due to convene in Beijing, which shows that China attaches great importance to the friendship. 

The documents signed by the two sides on cooperation in various fields also show the huge potential of China-Belarus cooperation in the future, Zhao said. 

According to the joint statement, the two sides agreed to deepen comprehensive cooperation under the framework of the BRI, unleash the potential of cross-border transport such as the China-Europe Railway Express, steadily increase bilateral trade, expand direct investment and promote the high-quality development of the China-Belarus Industrial Park.

The two sides will cooperate in defense, judicial and other fields to jointly fight transnational crimes, terrorism and prevent color revolution. They will carry out all-round cooperation within multilateral frameworks, and China supports Belarus in becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as soon as possible.

In the last 20 years, bilateral relations between China and Belarus improved rapidly. The two countries entered a new stage of comprehensive development and strategic cooperation in 2005, and established a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2013. By 2016, the pair moved to a comprehensive strategic partnership featuring mutual trust and win-win cooperation, and by 2022, an all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership was established.

Head-of-state diplomacy plays a decisive role, which will promote the steady and long-term development of bilateral relations and continue to move toward a higher level, Zhao said. 

Lukashenko thanked China for its warm and friendly reception and invited Xi to visit Belarus at a time convenient to both sides.

Journey of peace

The leaders’ meeting also came after China issued its 12-point position paper for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, on the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.

In terms of the highly-anticipated discussion on the Ukraine crisis, President Xi told Lukashenko that China’s core stance is to promote peace talks, abandon the Cold War mentality and build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture. 

Lukashenko said Belarus fully agrees with and supports China’s position and proposition on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, which is of great significance for defusing the crisis.

In the joint statement, the two sides vowed to jointly uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core and oppose hegemony and power politics in all situations, including unilateral sanctions against other countries.

The two sides also expressed readiness to make efforts to avoid escalation of the crisis and restore regional peace.

Besides being a trip for “old friends to meet” and “deepening cooperation,” Lukashenko’s visit is also a journey of peace, said Zhao Huirong, noting that as a neighbor of Ukraine and Russia, Belarus has been greatly affected by the ongoing conflict, and China’s 12-point position paper is in line with Belarus’ interests.

China and Belarus have further strengthened consensus on the Ukraine crisis through Lukashenko’s trip, which is of positive significance for the parties to the conflict to sit down for talks on a political settlement at an early date, said Zhao. 

Yet some US media outlets, which describe Belarus as Russia’s “small ally” and smear China for allegedly considering sending Russia weapons, have used Lukashenko’s visit to attempt to further bind the three nations into a bloc that needs to be defeated.  

Some Western countries with a Cold War mentality are engaging in bloc confrontation with ulterior motives, said Yang Jin.

According to Yang, China has taken a neutral stance in the conflict, and has also provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine. While Belarus is not a direct party to the conflict, it needs to consider its own national security and interests.

The expert said that the relationship between China and Belarus is already at a high level before the Ukraine crisis, which comes solely out of the mutual need for development. China hopes to develop positive and healthy cooperative relations with all countries in the world for mutual benefit. 

“I think China’s position and principles can stand the test of history and international law and order,” Yang said. 

courtesy : (Globaltime)