China’s influence in Belarus did not interfere with Russia’s interests

For Belarus and Ukraine, relations with China have become very important in recent years, and China’s involvement economically and politically has increased with those two states, a new study by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) said.China has increased its influence in Belarus in recent years, but it has done so against expectations and without challenging Russia’s interests in the regions, according to the study published on Wednesday. The study was led by Ryhor Nizhnikau, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.”Despite initial expectations, China’s growing influence in Belarus and elsewhere in the post-Soviet region did not lead to a crack in China-Russia-relations,” Nizhnikau said. “Instead, Beijing respects what it perceives as Russia’s ‘redlines’.””Belarus and Ukraine mean a lot to Russia but, although their relevance has increased, both states still occupy relatively low rungs in the hierarchy of China’s partners. Hence, China should not be expected to risk a potential clash with Russia over these states,” Nizhnikau, a Belarusian national himself, said.However, China’s political and economic presence is expected to grow in the region, which will, at some point, affect both Russia’s and the EU’s interests in the region, according to the study.Regarding the relations between the countries with China, China-Ukraine links are very different from China-Belarus ones, as the first are mainly about trade and have been flourishing in recent years as China became Ukraine’s main trade partner in 2019. The latter are primarily political, after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict when Belarus’s importance for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive infrastructure project to connect Asia and Europe, significantly increased.“The success of China’s BRI connections to Western Europe through Belarus and Ukraine depends on smooth cooperation with Russia. In its part, this certainly mitigates the conflictual potential associated with China’s influence in the region,” Nizhnikau said.According to the study, China’s importance became particularly acute after Russia-Belarus relations deteriorated and Belarus-EU relations did not achieve a breakthrough. The new regional environment and domestic instabilities meant that the ruling Belarusian elite started to turn more often to China for support. Source

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