Movement on the Asian track
Yuri Yarmolinsky: Asia should develop a diversified national infrastructure relying on local resources and opportunities
The emerging multipolar world with an Asian dominant represents a serious challenge. In the current geopolitical turbulence, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, it is crucial for Belarus to correlate with global trends the achievement of the goals of the national strategy for sustainable development and the formation of an image of the future.
Opportunities should be encouraged
In the strategic plan, the delay in deeper exploration of the growing Asia impedes progress in national development. In this regard, benefiting from the opening opportunities in this region is of national interest.
By all accounts, the structural and substantive completion of the national "turn to Asia" is gradually gaining clear contours and is approaching the point of no return. The concepts of basic prerequisites and parameters of the "maneuver" were clearly outlined by the President at a meeting on priorities of the foreign policy at the present stage. The low efficiency output from using the potential of Asian, African and Latin American markets and the inevitable "turn to Asia" were mentioned by belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko. The work on a new more active strategy for promoting Belarusian interests in the Asian and African markets was announced by Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.
The practical task is to develop a long-term comprehensive strategy, adaptive to the dynamics of the global environment, linked to other doctrinal instruments. Among other things, it should include a deeper country diversification of foreign economic activity, integration into the fastest growing markets, as well as into Asian civilizational space on the whole.
However, the strategy should not be limited to foreign trade — it should have a much broader context. This is a pragmatic strategic choice of a truly independent state in favor of a dynamically developing pole of the world. In today's international situation, this is a matter of ensuring national security and an anti-crisis measure. To a certain extent, this is a conscious exit of the Belarusian economic and expert diplomacy from the usual daily routine and comfort zone.
In fact, the strategy should be an extrapolation of the advanced achievements of our economy to foreign markets, which requires the consolidation of the efforts of the entire economic bloc (not only the Foreign Ministry) and the active involvement of the potential of private (small and medium-sized) businesses. This approach assumes the concentration of resources on the main areas - targeted initiatives, business projects, events and programs, which reflects the "main link" principle of the mobilization (anti-crisis) economy and is especially relevant given the sanctions pressure. It is clear that the "turn to Asia" is not a linear process. It is proceeding according to more complex laws, whose nature is the subject and object of scientific research. Therefore, it is not entirely correct to position it as a U-turn and an attempt to exit from European spiritual and cultural values and the path of development.
The Greater Eurasia concept is the optimal format
Our country has a unique set of competencies and identities, equally utilitarian for both the West and the East, which invisibly mentally binds the two geopolitical spaces. For this reason, the concept of Greater Eurasia, which also includes the western part of the continent, is seen as the optimal format for regional integration.
At this stage, we have to state the existence of the issue of intellectual justification of the need for an economic "turn to Asia". First of all, it lies in the plane of the traditional Eurocentricity of the collective consciousness of Belarusians, who for various reasons are more committed to diverse ties with the West. Therefore, the arguments for rising Asian markets, quite modern and rational (and at first glance, conditionally "pro-Western"), remain at the level of fashionable rhetoric, although the attractiveness and prospects of Asia are apparent to many.
That is why it is necessary to improve the level and quality of expert and analytical work at the level of government agencies and in the real sector of the economy, to reach an understanding of the importance of the Asian direction, taking into account its consolidating potential and current demands of the time. Culture and depth of expertise are an essential condition for increasing the competitiveness of Belarusian exports in Asian markets featuring tough competition. At the same time, it is important not to slip into ineffective image projects aimed only at the external effect and hollow effectiveness of a formal presence in Asia.
The effective entry and long-term consolidation in the far arc markets requires linking of our efforts and goals with strategic program instruments for the development of target states, including at the regional level. When interacting with Asian partners, Belarusian organizations and enterprises should take into account cultural and business disparities, as well as the peculiarities of local business practices. It is necessary to develop a diversified national infrastructure (presence) in Asia, relying on local resources and opportunities, and not only the classical subjects of the commodity distribution network. This will facilitate creation of extra communication channels to promote national interests, bypassing possible barriers.
The growth potential is beyond the distant horizon
Taking into account the trend towards fragmentation of international relations, there is an emerging importance of regions and regional studies. That is why each part of Asia is a potential object of scientific research, and Oriental studies should be a separate field of scientific knowledge; these issues must be studied in a substantive manner. A good help could be the creation of a domestic business school in association with leading scientific and educational centers of Asian countries, including the development of educational programs on the topic "business in Asian" with a targeted country specialization.
The state needs practitioners who are able to effectively implement state policy, taking into account the understanding of the importance of Asia for the economic future of the country. Today, more than ever, there is a demand for oriental scientists who not only have a deep understanding of the events and processes being the case in Asian countries, but are also able to offer concrete solutions to the challenges facing the state and business.
Effective promotion of national interests in Asia is directly related to the complex and interrelated use of all types of diplomacy, including the expert track. This work should be implemented on a coordinated basis from the standpoint of a single center. In this regard, creating a ¬permanent thematic discussion platform by BISR for further expert support of promoting national interests in the target countries and regions of the far arc, including Asia, is seen as a progressive step in the spirit of the times.
The goal of this "club of like-minded people" is to ensure the synchronization of the experience and efforts of state managers, entrepreneurs, the education sector and the expert community based on the synergy of their competencies and knowledge, which should be the key to the success of the Belarusian strategy of "turn to Asia". It seems that such a mechanism will ensure expert support and coordination of the process of preparing appropriate management decisions based on research potential and practical experience.
Geograph position makes it possible for Belarus to communicate with both the West and the East at the same time. That is why expanding the presence in the economic locomotives of Asia is an extra resource base for modernization and an advanced frontier of development. Without denying the importance of economic and civilizational ties with the West, mainly with its innovative leaders, the growth potential and economic future are just beyond the distant horizon. And this is not just a mechanical pivot in a specific geographical direction. This is a step forward and a good basis for a nationwide project.
Therefore, further delay in developing a proactive Asian strategy will further distance Belarus from understanding the nature of the processes being the case in that region, taking into account their dynamics and growing competition for influence and positions. That is why it is important to synthesize own design solution for Asia in a timely manner, including on the basis of historically justified anti-crisis models.
Yuri YARMOLINSKY, analyst at the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research.