[Essay] Seminar “The New Silk Road and the Eurasian Union: two visions of a regional order” on March 7, 2017

On March 7, 2017, a seminar entitled “The New Silk Road and the Eurasian Union: two visions of a regional order” took place at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center. The seminar was given by Dr. Marcin Kaczmarski (Assistant Professor at the University of Warsaw) as he shared the results of the scientific research he has been conducting at the SRC for six months. In his lecture, Dr. Kaczmarski addressed several issues concerning differences between China and Russia’s regionalism and visions of a regional order. Even though these two major powers have been challenging the West for the last decade, their approaches to regional order differ significantly.

Discussing the goals of their regional projects, the “New Silk Road” and “the Eurasian Economic Union,” he distinguished a crucial difference between the regional politics of Russia and China. In his opinion, China looks at regionalism in functionalist rather than territorial terms, while Russia considers the Eurasian Union to be a protectionist measure against globalization. Consequently, they have designed their regional projects in different ways. China constructs a new network of economic corridors with itself at the center, which will facilitate political cooperation. Russia has chosen a typical integration structure for the Eurasian Union, aiming to connect post-Soviet space with both Europe and Asia under the slogan of a “Greater Europe,” later replaced with that of “Greater Eurasia.” At the same time, we should not forget the similarities between these projects – their ambitions to improve their instigator’s international status and the use of economic benefits as a tool for luring new participants.

At the end of the session, Dr. Kaczmarski concluded that these regional organizations will play a really important role in Russian-Chinese relations, preventing open competition in Central Asia.  But he also raised the question: “To what extent do Russian and Chinese practices of building regionalism differ?”

The discussion continued with a number of questions from the floor. These touched upon the future of Russian-Chinese relations and perspectives on cooperation in constructing new regional order, as well as concerning the methodology and analytical framework of the research.

We would like to give our thanks to Dr. Kaczmarski for his brilliant seminar!

(Written by Aleksandra Kuklina)