How Azerbaijan established a link between Europe and Asian Belt? (Part II)

Hassnain Javed

NOVEMBER 30, 2019

Azerbaijan has previously purchased Chinese arms, including that of the Qasirga T-300, a defensive weapon system who used it to promote artillery units that reveal indirect / blind shots in all weather conditions against targets. Even the Polonez multiple launch rocket system was set up in collaboration with China, which Azerbaijan bought from Belarus.Russia’s weapons need not offer Azerbaijan a competitive advantage over its greatest rival Armenia since Russia supports Yerevan the same or even even superior weaponry. At the very same time, Baku sees full approval with China in the interest of helping with the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, primarily by fully supporting the cause of Azerbaijan at the United Nations.

In this framework, there are favorable developments in trade turnover between Azerbaijan and China. A number of negotiations were signed during Aliyev’s visit to China. For example, on the basis of these deals, the China National Electrical Engineering Company (CNEEC) will invest $300 million in a tire factory in Azerbaijan, an investment that guarantees to create 800 new jobs and increase the production potential of the plant to 3.3 million tires per year. Another multi-million-dollar deal would have seen investments in agriculture. Indeed, the signed agreement package increases the amount of Chinese investment in Azerbaijan to the incredible degree that developments can be considered a defining moment in relations between the two states.

Imports from China rose by 40% in 2018, with trade profit margin achieving $1.3 billion. Especially in comparison to Armenia and Georgia, Azerbaijan has now become China’s number one trade partner in the South Caucasus. Imports from China rose by 40% in 2018, and trade turnover rose to $1.3 billion. Similar to Armenia and Georgia, Azerbaijan is becoming China’s number one major trading partner in the South Caucasus. Around 119 Chinese-based companies operate in Azerbaijan. However, China’s trade with the region remains much behind its trade with, for instance, about $10 billion in Kazakhstan or about $6 billion in Uzbekistan (2018).The Chinese BRI initiative was passionately welcomed by Baku’s democratic establishment, although many of the Chinese projects are largely unaware of the public. Chinese investment helps to bring the financing gaps in the national development plan for Azerbaijan, allowing several projects to step forward that would have otherwise been challenging.

China’s geographical penetration can also create fanatical attitudes from traditional partners like Turkey and Russia. Turkey sees the region as an area of its geopolitical interests, but it would not, however, resist China’s investment

The first container to use the BRI route traveled over 4,000 km from China in a six-day record to the newly built Baku International Sea Trade Port in August 2015.With regional transport links, it marked a new era. It showed Chinese firms that, via this BRI transit, cargo could enter Europe much faster than by sea or Russia. These transport characteristics and developments were highlighted by both Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to incentivize Chinese businesses to invest more in their settlements. The Azerbaijani officials believe that some 300,000-400,000 shipments will be transported via the Azerbaijani route by 2020, resulting in revenues of billions of dollars.

Both the public and the political establishment in Azerbaijan argue that because of its geographical distance, China doesn’t even have a political agenda in the region. Therefore, Chinese projects are deemed exclusively from an economic perspective. Chinese investments seem to be supportive with falling oil prices and fewer cash reserves in the country. In addition, China is considered as a country that is quick to deliver and execute projects. Unlike the US and the EU, both hampered by bureaucratic obstacles, and Russia, which puts geopolitics ahead of economics, China is viewed as a trustworthy and sensitive partner.

Comparing China’s transnational interconnection program with Russian or EU integration projects, it appears clear, first of all, that China does not threaten the EU’s political ideology towards the region as much as the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) could. The Chinese initiative, like the EEU, doesn’t even have the narrow-term ideological position of exercising economic and political power / control over post-Soviet Eurasian states. In the longer run, China’s plan will provide political and economic support resources for countries to get closer to Beijing. As of now, Azerbaijani-Russian relations are also not overwhelmed by anything but problematic issues or events, but Baku was able to reschedule that decision despite Moscow’s push for Azerbaijan to join the EEU.

China’s geographical penetration can also create fanatical attitudes from traditional partners like Turkey and Russia. Turkey sees the region as an area of its geopolitical interests, but it would not, however, resist China’s investment. At that same time, while Russia has no resistance with China, in its sphere of influence, Moscow perceives the South Caucasus. Baku is well aware of this issue and hence continues to build on the economic front slowly and carefully relations with the “Eastern Giant” while maintaining friendly or neutral diplomatic relations with the other major powers involved in the region.

 

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