Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meets with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, capital of Belarus, May 10, 2015. Xi arrived here Sunday for a three-day state visit to Belarus, the first by a Chinese head of state in 14 years. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
Industrial park in Belarus will be key part of Silk Road, leaders say
Belarus gave a warm welcome to President Xi Jinping on Sunday as he was greeted at Minsk International Airport by President Alexander Lukashenko. [Special coverage]
In line with local traditions for visits by distinguished guests, local youths offered bread, salt and flowers to Xi and first lady Peng Liyuan, then watched as the couple dipped the bread into the salt before tasting it.
Xi, the first Chinese president to visit Belarus in 14 years, said the friendship between the countries "has a profound origin", and Beijing "feels satisfied about the development of China-Belarus relations" as the ties grow steadily closer.
Bilateral trade surged to nearly $4 billion last year, a year-on-year increase of 27 percent. Chinese investment in Belarus exceeds $400 million, and loans totaling $5.5 billion have been offered to Belarus by China.
The two heads of state signed a China-Belarus treaty on friendly cooperation and issued a joint statement on further developing and deepening the countries' comprehensive strategic partnership that was established in 2013.
China and Belarus are determined to make a jointly developed industrial park a flagship program of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the leaders said.
The China-Belarus Industrial Park is the largest cooperative investment project by the two countries.
Xi said the ties could be defined as a role model of two-way relations, and he noted that China has become Belarus' largest trade partner recently.
Lukashenko said the two countries have completed major programs including the China-Belarus industrial park, and these experiences are good for broader collaboration, such as in the Silk Road Economic Belt.
The Belarusian president said during a meeting in April with visiting Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan that the park "should be an important part" of China's efforts to build the economic belt that will connect Asia and Europe.
Yang Cheng, deputy director of the Center for Russian Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said new express routes connecting Europe and Asia are taking shape as the Silk Road progresses, and this will make countries such as Belarus become "better involved in the globalized market".
As one of the stops on the routes, "Belarus will get increasing profits from the flow of trade, and its new investments and industrial transformation will be achieved", Yang said.
The two leaders also witnessed the signing by departments and enterprises of a number of documents covering cooperation in areas including the economy, trade, customs, and agriculture.
Air China began direct flights from Beijing to Minsk on May 1.
Cui Qiming, the Chinese ambassador to Belarus, said the launch of the economic belt has "brought about major opportunities for developing ties", and "the unique geographic advantages of Belarus should be fully tapped into".
In an article by the ambassador in People's Daily, Cui confirmed that major programs between the two countries "have been progressing smoothly", and gave the industrial park and the development of power plants as examples.
There are "robust driving forces behind the developing bilateral pragmatic cooperation", Cui said.
Xi is also expected to meet Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov and other Belarusian leaders during the visit. He plans to attend the opening ceremony of the China-Belarus Local Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum and inspect the industrial park.
Xi's schedule also includes visit to the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum, and a meeting with the representatives of Belarusian veterans of World War II.
Xi's visit will also play a significant role in helping the China-Belarus comprehensive strategic partnership to build on the past, usher in the future and open up a new chapter, Cheng said.