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MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. China’s proposed concept of a Silk Road Economic Belt project poses no risks to Russia. On the contrary, Russia may derive tangible benefits from it, if it uses it competently enough to safeguard its interests, Russian experts have told TASS. The more active Russia is in this project, the better.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2013 came out with an idea of a strategic megaproject for creating what he described as a Silk Road Economic Belt and a Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century, encompassing the creation of new transport corridors and corresponding infrastructures. Beijing believes it is called to more tightly connect the Asia-Pacific countries and to provide a transport corridor from China to Europe. As the Chinese authorities said just recently, they regard the project as a new platform for developing Chinese-Russian relations.
"There are some hard facts. China’s economy is second in the world and it will take first place soon," a senior research fellow at the Centre for Strategies and Technologies Analysis, Vasily Kashin, has told TASS. "Its role in the economic affairs of the adjoining regions is enormous. It is not an effect of conspiracies, but a reality. The Chinese have been trying to create their own integrated structures and institutions and in that respect they are by no means different from the United States, Japan or the European Union."
For Russia the specific benefits from Chinese initiatives will depend on how successful it will be in negotiating its participation in them, Kashin said. "The Chinese project is beginning to be filled with real content. In a year or two to come Russia will have to conduct talks on further cooperation within the framework of that project. If we manage to negotiate normal conditions accommodating our interests, including those within the Eurasian Economic Union, we shall gain tremendous benefits." "The question is how we shall be able to come to terms. As is known, China is a tough negotiator hard to do business with," he remarked.
Kashin is certain that China’s mega project meets Russian interests. "True, such projects do have a political side to them, but it contains no great political risks. In the political sphere Russia and China share a common stance."
Assistant lecturer at the world economy chair of the Higher School of Economics, Pyotr Mozias, does not believe that an exaggerated geopolitical significance should be attached to the Chinese project, but he disagrees with speculations that China seeks domination.
"China has shown no intention to seek domination," he told TASS. "True, economically stronger countries enjoy greater political influence, but no expansionist plans are on the agenda."
For Russia the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Belt open up really vast opportunities, Mozias speculates. "For the time being the rapprochement between Russia and China is rather political, while the level of economic cooperation is not very beneficial for Russia yet. Russian raw materials are exchanged for Chinese manufactures, while mutual investment is insignificant.
The Chinese have been very active in promoting their projects and inviting Russia to participate. "If Russia shows little or no interest, the Chinese may get the impression that it deliberately slows down this process so as to avoid getting under China’s influence. Not that we have been slowing down the process deliberately. We just have no sensible policy in that field. If we become dependent on China or not will depend on ourselves and on how firm we are in safeguarding our interests.
"If we stay out of this project, we will just see it drift past," the deputy director of the RAS Institute of the Far East, Andrei Ostrovsky, has told TASS. "The more active we are, the better for us."
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