China and Zangazur corridor
    Expert Yuri Poyta comments on Middle Kingdom's interests

    ANALYTICS  29 September 2022 - 18:05

    Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov recently noted the importance of launching the Zangazur corridor as a link of the shortest overland route from China to Southern Europe. "The transport hub formed by restoring communications and implementing the Zangazur Corridor project will provide the shortest overland route between China and Southern Europe," Bayramov stressed, speaking at the 46th annual ministerial meeting of the "Group of 77 plus China" at the UN.

    But why didn't Beijing speak out about the very beneficial transport route and make any attempts to influence in any way the parties responsible for its opening? After all, the Zangazur corridor is a significant segment of the transcontinental road, which could freely use the flow of goods from Europe to China and back. That is, in itself, an issue of undoubtedly vital importance to China.

    So, is there a chance that Beijing will try to persuade Yerevan hindering the creation of the corridor that the route is not only in the interests of Azerbaijan and Türkiye but also a number of Asian and European countries as it will become an integral part of a global trade route between the Far East and Europe? Or the Zangazur corridor is of no use to China, it has an alternative to this route, and Beijing does not intend to break a lance over its opening?

    Yuri Poyta, Head of the Asia-Pacific Region Section of the Ukrainian Centre for Army Research, Conversion and Disarmament, presented his opinion on this topic to Caliber.Аz.

    - China's influence in the post-Soviet space is, in my opinion, quite exaggerated. That is, despite the fact that Beijing seems to have become the number one partner for many countries and seems to be interested in laying various logistics corridors, it nevertheless considers the post-Soviet space as exclusively a zone of influence of the Russian Federation. And at the moment, the Chinese leadership and the Russian authorities, according to many indicators, have reached a certain consensus on this issue. Namely, China will trade and build only if it does not conflict with Russian interests. Moreover, both sides have come to the conclusion that they do not need conflict situations over Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus, and so on. In other words, they will work synergistically here (according to the principle of joint activity)," Poyta said.

    According to him, everything is fine with Beijing in peacetime, it is ready to cooperate and achieve prosperity for itself and its partners, but when a conflict occurs somewhere nearby, it immediately steps aside.

    "We saw this in 2020 in Belarus, when there was an attempted revolutionary uprising there. China just stayed silent then, waiting to see what the outcome would be. It was the same during the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and all the way back to 2014 when relations between Russia and Ukraine became increasingly strained.

    It is therefore difficult to say whether China will push for the Zangazur corridor. And if it does, then only taking into account its relations with the Russian Federation. If this undermines Moscow's interests, then Beijing will not do it. It will not undertake any responsibility, act as a security guarantor, or protect its investments in the region, it is not ready for this.

    China's task is to become a global leader: technologically, economically, and militarily. And to gain credibility in competition with the United States. China's strategic competition with the United States is achieved without the serious participation of post-Soviet states. In other words, these are completely different dimensions.

    Moreover, as a whole, the Zangazur corridor can hardly be considered vital for China. With the intensity of its trade turnover, 90 per cent of it goes through seas and oceans and only 10 per cent by land routes. And until recently, these routes went through Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus. Now there are problems because of the war in Ukraine. China may try to develop other routes, but they will be much more expensive because they have to pay for transit across the Caspian, and then Zangazur is ahead - in general, the zone is unstable, conflict-ridden, and it is not clear who will control this route in five years, for example. After all, no one knows what will happen in a year or five years with the Russian Federation. And a lot depends on its presence in the South Caucasus. So when it becomes a reality and will function reliably, China will undoubtedly use this corridor, and if not, it will find other ways. This is not critically important for PRC," Poyta concluded.

    Samir Ibragimov



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