China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus

China is building an entire city in the forests near the Belarusian capital Minsk to create a manufacturing springboard between the European Union and Russia.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko allotted an area 40 percent larger than Manhattan around Minsk’s international airport for the $5 billion development, which will include enough housing to accommodate 155,000 people, according to Chinese and Belarusian officials.

“This is a unique project,” Gong Jianwei, China’s ambassador to Belarus, said on state television May 17, after the project won regulatory approval. “Nobody will be able to build anything like this industrial park anywhere else in Europe anymore. The infrastructure is so powerful.”

The “modern city on the Eurasian continent,” as it’s called in marketing documents, will be built around the M1 highway that links Moscow and Berlin via Belarus and Poland. A speed-rail network will tie the airport to the center of the city, which will be powered by a $10 billion nuclear plant, Belarus’s first, which Russia agreed to finance and build by 2018. The first stage of the park is scheduled to be completed by 2020, with the second stage taking another 10 years.

“We aim to turn this place into an international business springboard,” Koroteev said. “We don’t want to build a dead city.”

Chinese leaders have been seeking to establish a manufacturing base for their exporters within the EU for years. Talks with Bulgaria on establishing a park similar to the one Belarus has approved, though much smaller, started in 2010 only to stall after a change in leadership in both countries, Valery Andreev, who heads the company overseeing Bulgaria’s industrial zones, said by phone from Sofia.

“Belarusian authorities want, a bit naively, to turn their country into China’s bulwark in Europe,” Alexei Pikulik, head of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, an independent research group based in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Full article: China Builds EU Beachhead With $5 Billion City in Belarus (Bloomberg)

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