China in a Belarus Pickle

08 Sep 2020

(China's Resource Risks) The massive ongoing protests starting in August 2020 in capital city Minsk and throughout the country, galvanized by President Alexander Lukashenko's fraudulent reelection, have Chinese leaders in a pickle.

Why is China interested in Belarus? Belarus' location puts it at the center of the crossroads of China's Belt and Road trade route to Europe. According to a German study, some 80% of Chinese trade to the EU goes through Belarus, mostly by road. China views Belarus as a key transit hub on the BRI, and the latter hopes to handle 10% of China-EU rail container traffic by 2022. While rail transport is more expensive than shipping by sea, the former is currently 20 days faster and could potentially reduce transit time to 14 days from China to Germany.

In 2019, container freight service began between Belarus and China, facilitating Chinese electronics, automobile parts, and clothing exports to Europe and agricultural exports from Belarus to China, including dairy and meat. Because of swine flu, China has sought to expand its sources of meat imports. [...]

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