Responding To Western Sanctions: A Strong Belarusian-Chinese Relations – Analysis

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko met in Beijing on Monday, December 4. Lukashenko described the visit to Beijing as “working”, and Xi received him at the Diaoyutai state residence in the western suburbs of the capital. The “working lunch” lasted for three hours of talks between the two leaders.

The great importance of the meeting is shown by the presence of high-ranking Chinese officials, First Secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, Cai Qi, as well as Foreign Minister Wang Yi. It was another pompous manifestation of the two countries’ increasingly strong comprehensive strategic partnership, which is growing exponentially as Western pressures grow. As everyone who follows the media knows, there is an intense Western media frenzy against Belarus and China due to Belarus’s open support for Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s tacit support for Russia’s war effort.

Xi pointed out that Lukashenko is his “old friend” with whom he reached an agreement on the further development of Sino-Belarusian relations at a high level, and that the two countries will increase cooperation in many fields from industry to international transport. The December meeting is confirmation of the continuation of cooperation and represents a logical sequence of events considering that Lukashenko was also in Beijing in March this year. Then the Belarusian president was solemnly welcomed by an honorary Chinese state guard and 21 platoons, and Xi declared that the Chinese-Belarusian partnership was “unbreakable”.

Xi and Lukashenko signed a joint statement on the further development of the “China-Belarus all-weather strategic partnership” and attended the signing of several bilateral documents on cooperation in the fields of trade, industry, agriculture, customs, science and technology, health, tourism, sports. Then the two presidents called for the signing of a peace agreement as soon as possible in order to end the bloody Russo-Ukrainian war. Since then, the two countries have strengthened mutual trust and cooperation in the international arena.

Strategic partnership

The December meeting is an indication of the intention to strengthen the partnership even more. The Chinese leader pointed out that the Chinese view their relations with Belarus from a strategic and long-term perspective and at the same time firmly support Minsk in seeking a development path that best suits its national interests. The Chinese, of course, oppose external interference in Belarus’ internal affairs. Xi pledged that his country will continue strategic coordination with Belarus and will promote cooperation with the aim of deepening relations. He highlighted the important role that Belarus has in China’s New Silk Road, which has been signed by more than 150 countries.

Xi called on the two sides to focus on the implementation of projects such as the China-Belarus Industrial Park, put more effort into industrial cooperation, facilitate trade exchange and the exchange of professional personnel. Xi pointed out that China is willing to strengthen coordination with Belarus within multilateral organizations such as the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and at the same time work on the implementation of the UN Global Development Initiative as well as Chinese initiatives – the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative. “China and Belarus are important forces in the reform and construction of the global governance system,” the Chinese president said.

Lukashenko arrived on a two-day visit to China, his main (Asian) ally (except Russia) to discuss “trade, economy, investment and international cooperation”. He stated that the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of President Xi has made great achievements in its development and that over 1.4 billion Chinese are living a happy life, making important contributions to world development. Belarus sincerely hopes that China will grow stronger, which is conducive to peace and progress in the world, Lukashenko added. The Belarusian leader emphasized that his country wants to develop strong relations with China through mutual cooperation in international bodies and through the strengthening of bilateral strategic partnership.

2013 as a turning point in relations

Minsk has maintained friendly relations with Beijing since the Republic of Belarus gained independence in 1991. Lukashenko has been Belarus’s president since the summer of 1994. Since the beginning of his rule, Lukashenko has advocated that Belarus adopt an approach of “understanding China, learning from China, and getting closer to China.”

Official Minsk was one of the early supporters of China’s New Silk Road initiative since Xi launched it in 2013. The initiative seeks to build modern transportation infrastructure to give China access to foreign markets while expanding its political and economic influence. Belarus supported the initiative to improve its own economy. More tangible economic cooperation started only in 2013 after Xi came to power, who correctly understood the great importance of Belarus for China’s foreign policy strategy.

The New Silk Road and the China-Belarus Industrial Park

Due to its geographical proximity to the European Union, well-developed railway network and membership in the Eurasian Economic Union, Belarus is considered one of China’s key partners in the framework of the New Silk Road. Within the framework of this initiative, in 2014, the two countries began to build the China-Belarusian industrial park Great Stone. It is located 25 km from Minsk in the Smolevichi district with an area of 112 square kilometers. The industrial park provides easy access to international highways M1/E30 and M4, the international airport, international railways and the city of Minsk. The park has great scientific and work potential. The industrial park is intended for high-tech industrial and business activities, including research and development, production and assembly, warehousing and logistics.

Also, with the status of a special economic zone – the industrial park provides tax breaks, a free customs regime within the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, including Russia and Kazakhstan, and opens up the market for the organization’s 183 million inhabitants. It is the largest industrial park in Europe built by China. Until the Western sanctions against Belarus in 2020, it served as the main hub for Chinese goods entering Europe. In July 2015, Belarus became an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an indication of Minsk’s commitment to the ideas of multipolarism, with Russia and China as main patrons.


Several agreements were signed between the China Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of China, Development Bank of Belarus and the Belarusian government with the aim of modernizing the Belarusian railway infrastructure and developing projects along the New Silk Road. Over the past decade, the trade volume between China and Belarus has grown steadily, with China replacing the European Union to become Belarus’ seventh largest trading partner and second largest import partner after Russia. Trade exchange in 2021 amounted to about $6 billion. In the first three quarters of the current year, there was an increase in trade exchange by as much as 83.6% and it amounts to 6.45 billion USD.

Chinese exports dominate trade. China mainly exports industrial products. Belarusian companies, on the other hand, mainly export goods with low added value and therefore have difficulties in entering the highly competitive Chinese market. However, Belarus markets agricultural and food products in China, where they are very popular. On the other hand, in the area of joint infrastructural development, China adheres to the formal Belarusian condition for participation with at least 50% of its own share. As a result, at least half of the products, goods and services needed to implement such joint projects must be imported from China. Due to the inaccessibility of Western markets, Belarus considers China, along with Russia, a key market for its export of its goods. The Chinese market is a substitute for the EU market.

Chinese investments in Belarus

Chinese investments are another important area of economic cooperation. The year 2012 was very important for Chinese investments because the Chinese car manufacturer Geely opened a production facility in Belarus. Between 2013 and 2021, the annual inflow of Chinese direct investment into the Belarusian economy grew by an average of 19.7%.

Despite the impressive growth, foreign direct investment was not the main instrument of investment cooperation between the countries. The most important were financing instruments such as loans, grants and technical assistance from the Chinese government. It is estimated that the total amount of money with which China financed Belarus between 2000 and 2019 was at least 25.7 billion USD.

In addition to the financing of the Industrial Park, China has provided financing for projects in the energy, transport, industry and construction sectors. As debts to China grew, Belarusians tried to redirect financial flows from lending to direct investment. In 2017, the Belarusian government offered 25 state-owned enterprises for privatization to Chinese companies. However, none of these companies attracted Chinese interest.

Growth of political cooperation

Despite completely different approaches in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic (the Chinese applied a total quarantine approach, and the Belarusians introduced only minor restrictions), the pandemic further connected Minsk and Beijing. Belarus sent two aid planes to China at the very beginning of the pandemic, while China donated about five million doses of its vaccine against the coronavirus to Belarus.

Belarus was one of 53 countries that supported China’s Hong Kong National Security Law at the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2020. This law makes it possible to punish any public speech, verbal and any other promotion of ideas about secession of Hong Kong from China. According to that law, these actions are characterized as crimes of secession, terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign organizations. Hong Kong must extradite those suspected of these crimes to mainland China to face punishment. The law has come under fire from the international community and local residents in Hong Kong, who have argued that it threatens the principle of “one country, two systems” and reduces the autonomy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In addition, concerns have been expressed about the potential negative impact on human rights, freedom of expression and political pluralism in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, Lukashenko supported him. This is not surprising since in those days he himself found himself the target of attacks by democratic states.

Lukashenko won his sixth and current mandate in August 2020 in elections that many in the West consider rigged. After the elections, the pro-Western opposition launched several months of street protests, which the regime suppressed by force. Because of this, as well as because of the support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Lukashenko as a person and Belarus as a country came under various Western sanctions from the EU, UK, the USA and Canada. They found a solution by orienting themselves elsewhere, largely towards China. Beijing recognized the results of the Belarusian elections and Lukashenko as the legal and legitimate president of Belarus. Nevertheless, the anti-government protests in the summer of 2020 in Belarus worried the Chinese, who canceled or postponed some of their projects, but it turned out to be a tactical move because the cooperation continued.

Diplomatic renaissance

​ After signing the “China-Belarus Joint Declaration on Strengthening Mutual Trust and Establishing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for the Benefit of All Parties” from 2016 at the China-Belarus Summit in September 2022, the two countries agreed to establish an “all-time and comprehensive strategic partnership”. It is definitely a move for the history books that shows the importance of cooperation between the two countries.

In August of this year, in the midst of increasing diplomatic cooperation, Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said that diplomatic relations with China had reached an “unprecedented high level of cooperation”. According to Lukashenko himself, from his visit to China in March of this year until the beginning of December, 120 mutual visits of Chinese and Belarusian officials took place.

The importance of Belarus for China

The two countries support each other in all issues of international importance or issues that are politicized at the international level, such as the suppression of anti-regime protests in China and Belarus. Diplomatic support from Belarus is very useful to China in international forums when the agenda is to discuss tricky issues concerning China, which are usually the relationship to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and the South China Sea.

Here and there, the controversial question of the origin of the coronavirus has arisen, and Beijing is hindering attempts to launch an international investigation into the problem. This is where the support of Belarus comes in handy for the Chinese. In the 2022 Belarus-China joint declaration, Minsk emphasized its commitment to the “One China” principle and clearly opposed Taiwan’s independence. In the economic sphere, a regular supply of Belarusian potash – an agricultural and industrial chemical that China has difficulty obtaining due to Western sanctions, as well as Belarusian grain and timber – is still important to China.

The importance of China for Belarus

Beijing’s political support is crucial for Lukashenko’s Belarus. China is a superpower and a powerful ally that guarantees the survival of the current anti-Western and authoritarian political order, as well as territorial sovereignty and integrity of Belarus.

China supports Lukashenko’s foreign policy strategy and has repeatedly criticized Western sanctions. The Chinese do not condemn but, on the contrary, support the Belarusian approach to the war in Ukraine – ending the war through a compromise peace agreement. China is protecting Belarus not only from a potential NATO invasion, but also from a potential Russian invasion or possible Russian pressure that would lead to the integration of Belarus into the Russian Federation.


By relying on China, Belarus can have a better balance in its relations with Russia and not become overly dependent. Even with the best intentions, relying on one foreign policy partner is not good because it creates dependence and subordination. That is why it is important to have a balance which Lukashenko understands. All things considered, there is no doubt that intensive cooperation between the two countries will continue, at least as long as Lukashenko, Xi and their successors with similar political views are in power. In the context of global geopolitical dynamics, comprehensive cooperation between China and Belarus represents a significant development that may have long-term consequences for the balance of power and relations between East and West. Given the strong support that China provides to Belarus, we can expect continued strengthening of their strategic partnership in the years to come.