The transformation of the world order in the period of global turbulence is accompanied by numerous complications of various kinds. The degree of uncertainty in interstate relations increases, new risks appear, and uncertainty increases. In the context of globalization, these factors make the world system very sensitive to geopolitical fluctuations. At the regional and global levels, building a more successful model of integration and cooperation is being actualized. A kind of struggle begins between existing approaches to global integration and alternative models. In view of these general processes, the growing experts' interest to the High-level 'Belt and Road' Forum for International Cooperation seems more than normal.
Moreover, after the first high-level 'Belt and Road' Forum for International Cooperation, which took place in May 2017, foreign partners had several questions about the prospects for the 'One Belt, One Road' (OBOR) initiative. These questions related to the attempts of China to create geopolitical alliances or military blocs, to form on this basis a closed political 'Chinese Club' and thereby to conduct an ideological watershed. In fairness, we note that these questions did not appear out of the blue.
In recent years, Beijing signed cooperation documents with more than 150 countries from various regions of the world. Among them there are European countries too. Experts believe that such an expansion of the geography and composition of the project participants makes its content more vague, which, in turn, calls into question the initial statements of the Chinese leadership regarding the objectives of this project. Specifically, politicians and experts talk about the geopolitical and military plans of official Beijing.
Of course, it is impossible to imagine this initiative out of the geopolitical context. And the project participants themselves openly talk about it. Against the background of the well-known thesis of Z. Brzezinski that the center of global geopolitics began to move from the West to the East, the concerns of some politicians and experts have more than serious grounds. Moreover, the leaders of various countries are talking about China’s initiative in the context of the unsuccessful attempt of the Western model of globalization. Allegedly, taking into account Western mistakes in this matter, China offers an alternative globalization model, and it should lead to the “co-development and prosperity” of many countries.
In his speech at the second Forum, the Leader of the Nation, the first President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, especially emphasized that since the beginning of the XXI century '... the past version of globalization itself has cracked. The world community appeared not prepared for accelerated universality'. (1) This led to a loss of hope for the formation of a single, prosperous global world. Moreover, in the modern world regionalism, trade wars, sanctions have become realities. It seemed that '... there is no alternative to an increasingly divided world. But the Silk Road model proposed by China in 2013 became not only viable in modern geopolitical conditions, but also successful, as the past five and a half years of its progress demonstrate'. (1)
Developing his ideas, N. Nazarbayev gives a more specific description, in his opinion, of the 'successful globalization model': “Globalization ... transforms into a new format', 'the One Belt - One Road initiative introduced a new model of globalization with an oriental face', 'the historical cycle once again returns the global center of gravity to the East', 'and already now the trend Easternization offers new cooperation guidelines'. (1)
If politicians speak of a new model of globalization, then logically this implies a concrete attitude of this model to the existing one. And this automatically leads to competition, the clash of alternatives and sorting out of relationships between superpowers. Yet in August 2018, at a seminar devoted to the five-year anniversary of the proclamation of the OBOR initiative, the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, tried to becalm everyone. He assured that the OBOR initiative is openly inclusive, and any interested country can join it. And at the second Forum, the Chinese leader, delivering a keynote speech, focused more specifically on certain aspects of the OBOR project. (2) His ideas can be narrowed down to the following theses.
The OBOR project opens up new opportunities for various countries, including it has 'opened new horizons in openness and development of China'. Project participants should be oriented towards the future as well as be guided by the principle of 'joint consultations, joint construction and joint use', 'to achieve the development goals characterized by high standards'. (2)
The head of China promised to make efforts to provide ' the developing countries with more opportunities and space, to assist them in eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable development', he called for 'active building bridges of mutual learning of different civilizations, strengthening humanitarian cooperation in various fields and shaping the structure of diverse humanitarian exchange'.
Finally, he announced that at a new historical start, China will 'step forward on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and adhere to a comprehensive deepening of reforms, high-quality development, expanding openness to the external world, a path of peaceful development and promoting the formation of a common fate for humanity”. (2)
Thus, China intends to develop cooperation with any country that accepts the conditions of cooperation under the OBOR project. China opens itself to the outer world for the sake of high-quality development of all partners. The announcement of this principle at the 2nd high- level Forum for International Cooperation under the OBOR project is also attractive for us from the perspective of the high-quality development of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine in the framework of this initiative. Do new opportunities open up for us in this direction?
Azerbaijan, as a geopolitical hub of the South Caucasus, is actively involved in the implementation of the OBOR project. Azerbaijan is among the 13 countries in which 35 OBOR projects are financed. Baku intends to increase its participation in the implementation of this project. In particular, Azerbaijan can be a link between China and Central and Eastern Europe countries through neighboring Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and through Georgia. In this context, we note that a mechanism has already been established for the functioning of international railway routes between China and Europe. Experience shows that Kazakhstan is actively involved in this process. The leader of the nation, the first president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, spoke about this at the second Forum. 'The shortest land routes connecting Asia and Europe pass through' namely Kazakhstan. (1)
In order to implement its successful transit potential, the country's leadership implemented the 'Nurly Zhol' national program. In addition, 'over the past 10 years, Kazakhstan has invested about $30 billion in infrastructure development, transport and logistics assets and competencies. 2.5 thousand kilometers of national railways and 12.5 thousand kilometers of highways were modernized or commissioned. Local sea and air harbors were reconstructed. As a result, a modern and competitive transit hub was created in the country in a short time'. (1)
Finally, Kazakhstan is doing a lot of work outside its borders within the OBOR project. New routes have already been launched, linking Kazakhstan with the world by land and sea. In particular, the high-end intercontinental highway 'Western Europe - Western China' connects Europe with China through Kazakhstan. The ports of Aktau and Curyk serve the 'transshipment of goods from China, Central Asian countries, to the South Caucasus, Turkey and further to Europe'. (1)
So the economic corridor China - Central Asia - Western Asia and further towards Southern Caucasus and Europe under the OBOR project passes through Kazakhstan, and this can be used by Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Ukrainian neighbors -- Belarus and Poland -- can join this project. Even more so, they are already signatories to the agreement on deepening the cooperation regarding the container transit 'China-Europe'. 'As of the end of 2018, the 'China-Europe' railway route had already united 108 cities/towns and 16 countries of the Eurasia continent; in total, more than 13 thousand trains had been dispatched which moved over 1.1 million standard containers with various cargos'. (3)
China has signed 38 bilateral and regional agreements on sea freights with 47 countries. 16 of them are the Central and Eastern European countries. Under these agreements, Ukraine has good opportunities within '16+1' formula (China-CEEC Trade Index, CCTI, Chinese trade index and 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe) regarding more active participation in the OBOR project's implementation. In view of the increase of direct Chinese investments in countries situated along the OBOR, the mentioned opportunities have great importance for the development of China-Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan-Ukraine cooperation. Worth noting is that according to the preliminary estimates the overall volume of direct foreign investments in countries along the OBOR is to increase by 4.97%. (4)
So, despite some doubts in expert circles, there are good opportunities for cooperation of many countries within the OBOR project. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine can take their rightful places in this process. And the fate of this project, as an alternative globalization model, will take shape over time. But already today, experts see benefits of this initiative. It seems to us that our three countries (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine) can take this favorable opportunity and use these advantages.
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Azerbaijani Republic in Ukraine