Author: Yana Grigoryeva
Yana Grigoryeva, Intern at the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research - special for InfoBRICS
The high level of the world economy instability forces regional power centers to look for additional opportunities in the field of international cooperation, largely determined by geo-economic mechanisms. Eurasian integration, in fact, is the cooperation of economic, political and social interests of the Eurasia countries (China, Russia and the countries of Central Asia with the prospect of including India).
In recent years, Eurasia has seen so much implementation of the Euro-Atlantic community interests by military-political (NATO), economic (TNK, WTO) and financial institutions (IMF, World Bank). At the same time, the control of such geopolitical centers as Russia, China, the Middle East and Central Asia determines the effectiveness of governance. The countries of Eurasia face common external and internal challenges (religious extremism, environmental threats, lack of drinking water, drug trafficking). It is necessary to improve social and economic stability and maintain the achieved growth rates. The main unifying idea is the sustainable socio-economic development of the Eurasian States on the basis of effective use of natural, human and infrastructural potential.
Currently, Russia is represented in several regional integration associations with the participation of Eurasian States: SCO (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan), Eurasian economic Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia), BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Despite the fact that the BRICS, in addition to the Eurasian countries, covers Brazil and the Republic of South Africa, this platform acts as a mechanism for strengthening economic ties, peaceful relations and cultural understanding between neighboring countries. Also, there have been created financial institutions to support joint projects: the Eurasian development Bank, the Asian infrastructure investment Bank, the BRICS Bank, the Silk Road Fund, etc.
Active discussion of common development goals is supported by the research of historians, economists, political scientists in the framework of specially created research centers: The National Committee of BRICS research (Russian Federation), the Eurasian Club of MGIMO, the Eurasian National University. L. N. Gumilyova (Kazakhstan) etc. The formation of BRICS reflects the objective trend of world development towards the formation of a polycentric system of international relations and the strengthening of economic interdependence of States developing and implementing the integration process at the state level.
BRICS States as large and super-large regional powers seek to structure the regional political and economic space, as well as take responsibility for its development, actively participating in other regional integration groupings (SCO, MERCOSUR, APEC, AU, IBSA). However, along with the trends of integration, it is necessary to identify the existing differences between the States: contradictions between China and India on border issues, Russia and Brazil in the agricultural sector; competition between Brazil and China for resources in South Africa, etc.
BRICS can be presented not only as a model of civilizational unification and new value orientations (freedom in choosing the ways of development, sovereignty of historical traditions and cultural diversity), but also as a tool for constructing an alternative decision-making center based on the principles of equal partnership and the concept of justice. China plays a special role in the BRICS, because this country is located on the second place in the rating of the Eurasian Economic Union trade partners. Currently, the EEU States main trading partner is Russia, and for the BRICS States it is China. The orientation of the Russian Federation as Eurasian power opens up new economic opportunities for the integration development. Russia is interested in creation of regional development coalition - "circle of friends" or " circle of trust" - friendly States, that will help to make the development tasks be solved and security challenges be stopped.
Regional integration is a mandatory stage in economic globalization. Joining the transcontinental regional economic associations initiates the development of new multilaterally mechanisms for regulating world trade and investments. According to the Chinese megaproject "One belt, one road" (2016), it will be provided transport, energy and trade corridors between the countries of Central, South Asia and Europe to renew the idea of economic and cultural ties between East and West on the historical Great Silk Road.
According to experts, the construction of the system will take more than 10 years. The megaproject combines two major infrastructure projects. The first one is "Maritime Silk Road of the XXI century", it is a network of routes connecting Chinese ports with the ports of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia. The second one is " Economic belt of the Silk Road " that is based on the infrastructural development of the Northern, Central and Southern economic corridors between Asia and Europe, including the construction of high-speed transport networks (auto and railway) in Eurasia. The projected highway will reduce the time of goods delivery from 40-50 days to at least 10 days and increase trade, for example, between Russia and China by 2020 to 200 billion dollars. As a result, Eurasian cooperation will reach a new level of development.
To this date, China has already built the highway of about 3.4 thousand km, connecting the business port of Lianyungang and Shanghai in the East with Khorgos in Kazakhstan in the West. The Kazakh highway of 2.8 thousand km will shorten the way to China from 15 days to 50 hours and will open an access to the South Asia countries through Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. The "Silk wind" project, that will link China and Kazakhstan with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, and then with Europe via the Caspian Sea, is partially funded by the Transport Corridor Europe–Caucasus–Asia (TRACECA) program. The development of transport infrastructure will strengthen the mobility of the population of the region and increase the number of trade contacts. At the same time, the promotion of economic cooperation requires the development not only of transport networks, but also of energy and industrial infrastructure.
Threats to the Eurasia development come from inside the region (economic downturn, separatism, smuggling of drugs and weapons, environmental problems, internal conflicts), as well as from outside (the presence of the United States in the region, the growth of terrorist groups, extremism, nuclear arms race). Nowadays, there is political instability and certain conflicts in Eurasia – for example, the possibility of exacerbation of regional conflicts between Afghanistan and the Central Asia countries. Such threats have the potential to cause unpredictable consequences and require the leading Eurasian countries to have greater consolidation and solidarity. While the integration of Eurasian countries increases dependence on economic risks and crises, it also provides opportunities for new sources of growth and development models.
Eurasian integration is a politically conceived process based on civilizational complementarity, peaceful coexistence of peoples and the formation of "Zone of interaction". Modern processes taking place in the Eurasian region with the participation of Russia, China, Kazakhstan and other countries show the formation of the following trends. It seems that the Great Silk Road is a promise not only for the revival of the economic potential of the States of the region, but also for strengthening Eurasian integration.
The Chinese project of The Great Silk Road helps to unite the efforts of regional integration organizations and creates the image of Eurasia as a holistic political and economic education, economic and cultural "bridge" between Europe and Asia. The future of the Great Silk Road project depends not only on the economic policy of States and the ability to resist external destabilizing factors, but also on the involvement of the Eurasian countries population in integration processes and intercultural dialogue.