Silk Road Economic Belt will not damage Eurasian Union

By Zhao Huasheng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 8, 2014
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In fact, the Silk Road Economic Belt is so far just a proposal, not able to compete with the Eurasian Union. In July 2011, a customs union started to operate as a primary form of the Eurasian Union. Since then, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have unified their customs procedures, and achieved a free movement of goods. In January 2012, the existing customs union became a unified economic space, a higher level of integration. Modeled on the Schengen Agreement, the form provides coordinated policies and actions in many areas, including macroeconomic policies, rules of competition, technical specifications, agricultural subsidies, transport and natural monopoly industry rates and unified visa and immigration policies.

In December 2011, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan established the Eurasian Economic Commission, which is a supranational organization based in Moscow. In January 2015, the existing Eurasian Union is expected to turn into the Eurasian Economic Union. After that, there is only one step to go for Russia to build the highest form of the Eurasian Union.

In contrast, the Silk Road Economic Belt is still at a conceptual infrastructure stage. By now, it only has a soft objective and is far from the level of mechanism and system construction. Obviously, a low level and loose form of economic cooperation is not able to challenge a higher level and institutionalized economic union.

There is no doubt that promoting cooperation between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Eurasian Union cannot depend only on China, Russia is also a determining factor. It will be difficult if Russia does not change its way of thinking. In some of the Russian people's minds, Central Asia "belongs to" Russia historically. No matter what China intends to do, the Silk Road Economic Belt is stepping into Russia's "sphere of influence" which will surely harm Russia's interests.

Both China and Russia should adopt new ways of thinking about Central Asia. The two countries have already implemented multifaceted cooperation under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. However, in the economic field, they have made little progress. Actually, the Eurasian Union has reached out to India and Vietnam for free trade talks, but it still keeps China, the largest trade partner of Russia, at a distance. Only when the two countries untie the knot, can their bilateral relations meet the demands of a changing world.

The author is director of the Russia and Central Asia Center, the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University.

The article was first published in Chinese and translated by Lin Liyao.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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