Military Review

Silent successes of China in the post-Soviet space ("Open Democracy", UK)

The steadily growing economic expansion of China around the world is a cause of concern for many governments. Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia are no longer so dependent on Moscow, and China quietly provides credit lines and investments in this region. Time to wipe your eyes and pay attention to it, says Michael Sesire.

The quiet but obvious penetration of China into Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia, into the region, which is an ingenious mixture of former empires, ambitious hegemons and opportunistic small states, may well become an unexpected variable. This is not an expanded trade mission, it is a presence that has the potential for cultivating and projecting influence on space, which is fragmented and subject to active rivalry, and this presence may well lead to the collapse of Western hopes for regional democratization.

After the end of the Cold War, the main regions of the former Soviet Union ceased to be a meeting place between the West and the Eastern Bloc and turned into a zone of rivalry. Despite Russia's relative rebirth under Putin, Moscow no longer has a monopoly on power in this vast region. Together, this vague post-communist territories have become important points of interest for a number of already established and emerging powers, that is, for Russia, the European Union, Turkey, the United States and more and more for Iran. China, which recently surpassed Japan and became the second largest economy in the world after the United States, is increasingly showing itself as a serious player in this vast area, quite remote from the traditional spheres of influence of Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region and in Central Asia.

Diversification and geopolitics

Silent successes of China in the post-Soviet space ("Open Democracy", UK)

China’s interest in this region is linked to Beijing’s global economic ambitions. Its strong trade relations and investments span the entire globe, from copper mines in Africa to recently received positive pecan nuts in North America, so Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia represent the last frontier for Chinese economic expansion. China’s foreign currency reserves now exceed 3,2 trillion dollars, and Beijing is seeking to diversify its global investment portfolio and is trying to create a key link in the trade route from China to Europe along the New Silk Road route. In the past ten years, trade between China and Central and Eastern Europe has grown by an astounding 32% per year, reaching 2010 a billion dollars in 41,1 year, and he hopes to increase this figure to 100 billions by year. Beijing actually invests its money where it has its interests, and thus continues its investment and credit boom. Belarus, which is largely isolated in Europe because of its authoritarian regime, enjoys Beijing’s generosity in the form of a recently issued loan worth over 2015 billion dollars. In Moldova, China bypassed both the European Union and Russia, giving the country a royal loan of 1,6 a billion dollars at a low interest rate. Ukraine has also benefited from the flow of Chinese investments in infrastructure, agriculture and energy projects. Even the Caucasus causes more and more interest in China. But perhaps the most impressive is the opening of a 1 billion-dollar credit line by Beijing to support Chinese business investment in this region.

The entry of China into Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia does not impress the geopolitical power game. At least for now. At the same time, Chinese investment — usually free from hidden human rights requirements and government positions made when receiving Western dollars — can often be problematic because of its foggy nature. Moreover, sometimes global Chinese investment served as a "losing leader" for gaining less tangible values ​​in the form of geopolitical influence and corresponding leverage.

In Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia, where regional power dynamics is largely multipolar, China's high costs can create a platform for a real geopolitical role in the future. Other elements of interest to China in Eastern Europe can also be surprising. Technological cooperation with Russia in the defense sector, apparently, is today on a downward trend, but China has managed to maintain awareness of the development of Russian military equipment through the establishment of closer relations with countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. At present, China has shown interest in demonstrating its flag at the regional level, and this is being done both with the help of unexpected airborne exercises and due to the increasingly frequent appearance of ships of the Chinese naval forces in the Mediterranean.

Of course, China currently has neither the resources nor the political will to move to Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia as a contender for the role of the hegemon. However, the presence of Beijing in this region is unlikely to be endlessly only economic in nature. In fact, given the predominance of strong states and associations in the region, the role of China will inevitably have international implications. As the stakes of the Middle Empire increase in this region, the same will happen with its political role and desire to act more directly to ensure its interests. In the long run, current economic investment can help shape China’s significant influence, including in the capitals of Eastern European countries.

Credits, investments and autocracy

The growing role of Beijing in this region will have another medium-term effect, in addition to economic development. Given the increase in investment in Eurasia, often associated with special conditions or rates, China has the opportunity to become the first in the list of lenders and investors in this region. Beijing is actively opposed to all kinds of reservations by the United States and the European Union regarding track record and democratic attestations, and therefore the set actively used by the West for democratization is likely to undergo additional tests.

“Developing countries seem to value contracts with China, especially if China offers investments that, with the exception of accepting the“ one-China ”policy, do not impose any conditions,” the research note published in the middle of 2012 says German Marshall Fund.

The penetration of China into this region may further complicate the situation due to the provision of a “lifeline” to autocratic regimes, which until recently could only rely on Moscow or on local sources in order to avoid receiving financial resources due to various demands. This can have very important implications for the region: Western economic development programs (at least from the outside) are aimed at supporting selective economic growth, while unencumbered funding only strengthens the status quo.

Even worse, the countries of this region can make a choice in favor of the model present today in different parts of Central Asia, and its meaning is that the existing regimes of strong power set Washington, Moscow and Beijing against each other in order to obtain the most advantageous investment packages and aid packages, while hopes for democratization or liberalization in the future remain weak. In a sense, a similar process is already occurring, since the increase in funding flows from Beijing roughly coincides with a period of stagnation in the democratic development of the Central Asian region.

The growing role of China in post-communist Eurasia has many potential benefits, not least of which may be due to greater economic growth. However, the fragility - and sometimes the complete absence - of democratic institutions in Eastern Europe and Eurasia makes it a worrying prospect in Chinese dollar diplomacy. The Chinese geopolitical influence in this region may not noticeably grow for some time, however, from the point of view of the West’s program of assistance to democracy, it is high time to start planning and re-equipping, given China’s great successes.

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  1. Ragnarek
    Ragnarek 4 March 2013 07: 50
    the Chinese need to dump giant stocks of green pieces of paper - and so they are buying up everything they can around the world
  2. Goga
    Goga 4 March 2013 08: 05
    Later Dusya drink Borjomi - China is already here - quote - "... the increase in funding flows from Beijing roughly coincides with the period of stagnation in democratic development ..." - well, how can the world "democratizers" bother where China has invested its pennies? Well, how can you carry out bombing (democratic of course) - the Chinese can arrange for their money and serious demand.
    But seriously - it would not hurt us to learn from our southern neighbor where to drain "excess" greens, in whose economy to invest - return back to USE or in the development of neighboring countries, and invest in our own too ...
    1. Ragnarek
      Ragnarek 4 March 2013 08: 11
      they do so. we buy a little gold slowly, the assets of enterprises are foreign
      1. predator.3
        predator.3 4 March 2013 08: 35
        Quote: Ragnarek
        they do so. we buy a little gold slowly, the assets of enterprises are foreign

        Zolotishko and assets are good, but it would not hurt to develop their infrastructure and regions and take control of the country's so-called corporate debt. According to the Bank of Russia, the volume of Russian corporate external debt as of July 1, 2012. amounted to $ 532,2 billion. Before the crisis of 2008-2009 corporate external debt wasabout $ 83,9 billion
        1. Son
          Son 4 March 2013 08: 53
          Without ernism, please enlighten, corporate is the state ..?
  3. fenix57
    fenix57 4 March 2013 08: 23
    Recently, we hear more and more often: China, China .... So far, China is a strategic partner of Russia. And it is beneficial to both us and China. Bye. But you have to pay for everything. The mood in China towards Russia is ambiguous and opaque. They need our territory. hi
    1. Algor73
      Algor73 4 March 2013 17: 04
      You correctly said "Bye ...". But the partner is for the reason that China sees Russia as a cheap storehouse of technology. But due to the neighboring location of the states, this will not last long. China will go to Siberia. He still considers Siberia to be temporarily lost northern territories. It will strengthen a little more and then ...
  4. nokki
    nokki 4 March 2013 10: 12
    Here is what an outstanding Sinologist and diplomat Sergei Tikhvinsky says about this:

    "Back in the late 1960s, an article was published by two authors - ours and a Chinese woman. They told how, in an interview with a delegation of Japanese socialists, Mao Zedong said: China claims one and a half million square kilometers of Soviet land. According to the authors, this was said as a joke But I thought differently and was right.

    Confirmation of this is the trip of the USSR Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, and then Mikhail Gorbachev to Beijing. Recently, Shevardnadze's memoirs came out in Russia. And when you read about his conversation with Deng Xiaoping, you are simply amazed. If Mao Zedong swung a half million square kilometers of our land, the new leader of the PRC said bluntly: Russia chopped off three million square kilometers from China! Now, Deng Xiaoping said, we do not demand the return of the lost lands, but over time we will do this.

    Here's your answer. During that visit, Gorbachev and Deng Xiaoping agreed on a formula: close the past - open the future. But I'm sure the past is not closed. "

    Read further:
    1. SSR
      SSR 4 March 2013 12: 55
      Quote: nokki
      Confirmation of this is the trip of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Eduard Shevardnadze, and then Mikhail Gorbachev to Beijing. Recently, Shevardnadze's memoirs came out in Russia.

      These two traitors cannot be trusted at all .. when, on September 12, 1990, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev signed an agreement regulating the stay and withdrawal of troops deployed in Germany, they did not even take the then Minister of Defense .. everything without him .. decided ...
      338 thousand military and 115 thousand units of military equipment left Germany, including 4 thousand tanks, 11,5 thousand armored vehicles, 4 thousand guns and 2,5 million tons of material and technical equipment, as well as 90 thousand children of military personnel.
      ZGV real estate worth about 10,5 billion German marks passed to Germany.

      RIA Novosti

      and so that the Chinese and such thoughts do not arise .. it is necessary to restore the power of Russia .. and develop the infrastructure of the Far East, Siberia and indeed all of Russia .. there should be more railways including. and air communication should be established .. otherwise there are still cities to which airplanes fly only through Moscow.
  5. Kaa
    Kaa 4 March 2013 11: 30
    The most important thing is that they made a conclusion about the reason for the collapse of the USSR and seek to avoid a similar situation.
    “For the past 20 years, the collapse of the Soviet Union has been an important lesson for the entire palette of Chinese political thinkers, from conservatives to liberals. this experience was intensively studied and analyzed in party schools and institutions of the PRC Academy of Social Sciences, that is, in the true strongholds of Chinese Marxism, and all these researchers usually came to the same conclusion: the CCP must deal with corruption and other social problems before it is forced to do it from the outside. From the point of view of Chinese analysts, untimely reforms were indeed one of Gorbachev’s mistakes, but it’s much more important for them that under his leadership the party was unable to ensure economic growth in the country or propose an effective governance model. Li Jintse, a specialist in the USSR at the PRC Academy of Social Sciences, said in conversation with Shambo that the main reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union was his inability to change: “The collapse of the country was preceded by the collapse of the party. The Communist leaders of the Union did not understand the economy and stubbornly avoided reform, blindly believing in the vitality of their model. The CPSU was not updated, did not try to adapt to the realities of the new time. For seventy-five years of the existence of the party of the USSR, it did not begin to follow the path of greater democracy. When, however, under the leadership of Gorbachev, party leaders began to carry out democratic reforms, it was already too late, and the reform strategy was chosen incorrectly. All this only accelerated the collapse of the Union ” For most Chinese, Russia's transition to democracy is associated primarily with huge territorial losses and the appropriation of a mass of state funds and assets by a new class of oligarchs, and I must say that the inhabitants of a country in which the two largest provinces are known for their separatist movements have everything reason to perceive the situation that way. The experience of Korea and Taiwan looks much more attractive, where steady economic growth and the gradual expansion of the middle class allowed the transition to democracy to be made quite peacefully.
  6. Hort
    Hort 4 March 2013 11: 34
    how was the Chinese saying? : "..fear those who live in the north")
    I do not think that China will decide on any aggressive actions in our direction.
    At least until there is a threat of guaranteed destruction of all major cities on its East Coast
    1. vilenich
      vilenich 4 March 2013 13: 12
      Quote: hort
      I do not think that China will decide on any aggressive actions in our direction.

      The Chinese are far from fools to resort to open aggression, but they can organize hidden expansion!
  7. Kazbek
    Kazbek 19 March 2013 21: 59
    The Russians were in Beijing, but the Chinese were not.