China’s One Belt–One Road trading and commerce initiative has seen China extend high speed rail and modern highway networks in its own country as well as in that of neighbouring Pakistan. The ever expanding China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a testament to the power of modern infrastructure projects to unite Asian partners.
Transporting goods across Russia’s expansive territory is a further goal of One Belt–One Road. The practical realities of easily achieving this are largely predicated on constructing ultra-modern railways which would begin in China, travel through Russia, with a terminus in Europe.
With BRICS members discussing the feasibility of using investment capital from the BRICS Development Bank to jointly finance Russian High Speed Rail, it becomes ever more clear that the BRICS bloc functions best when cooperating with other regional endeavours including One Belt–One Road, the Eurasian Economic Union which was founded by Russia as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation which aims to create enhanced security cooperation between member states.
The CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Kirill Dmitriev has stated,
“We discussed the Eurasia high-speed railway project with partners within the framework of the (BRICS) summit. We are now looking at it more actively, and see that RZhD (Russian Railways) already has significant progress on the model which shows more interesting yield now. We see investors’ growing interest to this project”.
Speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok which officially begins tomorrow, Dmitriev added,
“…we see that there is a big focus on transporting not only passengers but also cargo through Russian territory. Additionally, the project is connected with e-commerce between China and Europe, it greatly improves the business model of the HSR and makes it more reasonable”.
This is an illustrative example of just how interconnected the major economic blocs, security bodies and long-term infrastructure projects of the wider global east and south have become. This inter-dependence will only help to wider the scope of participation in such endeavours. Such a development will more than compensate for the fact that BRICS member India has been reluctant to actively participate in One Belt–One Road. If India refuses to cooperate, the Belt and Road will simply circumvent India via both Russia and Pakistan.
Sputnik reports on the investment implications of the project in the following way,
“Capital costs for the construction of the Russian part of the high-speed railway are estimated at 3.58 trillion rubles ($61.75 billion), 2.66 trillion rubles for the Kazakh stretch, 850 billion rubles for the Belorussian portion, and 760 billion rubles for the Chinese section, Russian Railways said in a presentation seen by Sputnik. According to the presentation, RDIF, Silk Road Fund, BRICS Bank, Eurasian Development Bank and Russian-Chinese Fund may be involved in financing the establishment of the HSR”.
The project is set to be discussed in depth at the Eastern Economic Forum, a fact which itself indicates that the EEF is in many ways a continuation of the BRICS summit in terms of ethos. The EEF includes BRICS members China and Russia as well as Japan, Mongolia, South Korea, North Korea and Vietnam. In this sense, there is every possibility that a wider East Asian and South East Asian BRICS Plus format could well become something which attains official statues in the coming years.
During his opening remarks at the BRICS Summit in Xiamen, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about an outward looking BRICS that would welcome cooperative endeavours with new membranes.
The EEF will be a crucial forum that will put to the test both China and Russia’s willingness to extent the BRICS ethos to non-member states throughout Asia.