Photo taken on April 17, 2017, shows the "Great Stone" standing at the entrance of China-Belarus Industrial Park. (Xinhua)
BEIJING, April 23 (Xinhua) -- In the eastern suburb of Belarus's capital city Minsk sits the China-Belarus Industrial Park. Founded in 2010 at the joint proposal of Chinese and Belarusian presidents, it is the largest foreign investment project in the country and is hailed as a "pearl" along the Belt and Road. Conveniently located as an important node of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the industrial park is right at the juncture between the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union, making it a transportation and logistics hub of Europe and Asia.
In July 2013, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko chose a grand name for China-Belarus Industrial Park — Great Stone. President Lukashenko expressed many times his hope "to develop China-Belarus Industrial Park into a cornerstone for the friendship of the two peoples."
Three presidential decrees for the Great Stone
The Belarusian government has attached great importance to the development of China-Belarus Industrial Park. In 2012, 2014 and 2017, it issued three presidential decrees, all with great significance. Notably, a presidential decree is more than an administrative order, but represents a form of supreme law in Belarus.
In 2012, Belarus rolled out the first president decree to introduce a series of preferential policies for the park. To name a few, resident companies can enjoy an exemption from all corporation taxes in the first 10 years and a reduction of tax rates by 50 percent during the subsequent 10 years, and can obtain land use rights in the park for up to 99 years since they are registered as residents of the park.
Two years later, President Lukashenko signed another presidential decree with a view to accelerating the development of the Great Stone and enhancing protection for resident companies with more concrete laws. Under this decree, the director of the management committee of the industrial park will be entrusted with the responsibility of park management and the appointment and removal of the director will be left to the discretion of Belarusian president. Since then, the Belarusian government has been in full charge of the park.
To ensure solid law and policy safeguards for the park and speed up its development and operation, the Belarusian government issued the third presidential decree in 2017. Following seven official joint conferences and about ten expert-level symposiums that lasted for about one year and a half, the third presidential decree was released. This decree includes resolutions to expand the coverage of the park's leading industries, lower registration threshold for resident companies and increase tax preference categories. Furthermore, under this decree, resident companies can enjoy a tax exemption during the first 10 years since they begin to reap a profit, yet not since they are registered as residents of the park as the first president decree stipulates, and a 50-year period in which resident companies can enjoy a reduction of tax rates by 50 percent, in other words, till 2062.
Notably, the Belarusian government specially invited Chinese representatives to attend the discussion, so the decree has fully incorporated advanced experience from China. The notion of "one-stop" service is just an example, which has made it much easier for resident companies to go through miscellaneous procedures.
"In terms of preferential policy, our China-Belarus Industrial Park not only tops Belarus, but the Eurasian Economic Union," Kirill Koroteyev, first deputy director general of China-Belarus Industrial Park Development Co., Ltd. said with confidence.
Supported by the law and policy offered by the three presidential decrees, China-Belarus Industrial Park has stayed in the fast lane since its launch in 2015. At the end of 2018 when construction of the infrastructure project phase I was completed, the park made progress in investment promotion, resident companies started production successively, and the park became more attractive to investors. A vigorous green park both life- and business-friendly is taking preliminary shape.
After going through check-out procedures at the Minsk National Airport, the journalist drove to the park. But to his surprise, the park was just five minutes' away, which gave him a first-hand experience of "China-Belarus speed". In addition to the Minsk National Airport, the park is also conveniently located nearby an under-plan railway freight station and the Port of Klaipėda (one of the Ports of the Baltic Sea) which are only over 500 kilometers away. As to the site selection, the park's design team made up by Chinese and Belarusian experts took a very cautious approach. They surveyed five plots of land, conducted deliberate comparative analysis and thought in big-picture terms before deciding on the current site.
Efficient "One-stop" services are another symbol of "China-Belarus speed". "Resident companies can solve all administration things in one building," said Wang Yuhang, vice president of China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd. (CAMCE), a subsidiary of SINOMACH, and former general manager of China-Belarus Industrial Park Development Co., Ltd.
On September 13, 2017, the MAZ-Weichai engine factory was founded in Minsk as a joint venture of Chinese diesel engine manufacturer Weichai Group and Belarusian automobile engineering company MAZ Group, becoming the 20th resident company in the China-Belarus Industrial Park. Construction for this 34,000-square-meter factory broke ground in early April 2018, and finished on November 18, 2018. Such a short span of seven months has again demonstrated the amazing "China-Belarus speed".
At the entrance of the park's No.1 Road stands the slogan — "Time is money, efficiency is life". Those white words stand out against the bright red background. Actually, this slogan was first put forward by China Merchants Group about 40 years ago to inspire builders of the Shenzhen-based Shekou Industrial Zone. Now, this era-defining slogan appears in the Belarus-based China-Belarus Industrial Park to inspire again the builders of this industrial park.
Having witnessed first-hand Chinese builders' tremendous drive, and courage to innovate, Koroteyev came to realize why the industrial park can make progress nearly every day and why this world's second largest economy can grow in leaps and bounds. "I firmly believe that the Great Stone is bound to see greater development," Koroteyev said.
2018 saw the rapidest growth of China-Belarus Industrial Park. On average, 36.5-meter-long roads, 110.1-square-meter standard factories and 11.9-square-meter office buildings were completed every day, amazing the world how fast the industrial park is constructed. "No man ever steps in the same China-Belarus Industrial Park twice"! Throughout the year, the park introduced 19 new projects in total from five countries, and at least one resident company came on stream every month. Enjoying growing international influence, the park received more than 380 visiting delegations totaling 2,500 person times in 2018, of which nearly 90 delegations came from Europe and America.
As for now, the park is home to 43 enterprises from China, Russia, Germany, Israel, the United States, Lithuania and other countries, with total contracted investment hitting 1.1 billion U.S. dollars.
Looking into future
In early morning, Anna Alyushina got up while most people in Minsk were still sleeping. She caught the shuttle bus at 8:00 a.m., heading for the Great Stone Industrial Park, over 20 kilometers away from the downtown area of Minsk city. Alyushina is a Chinese translator at China-Belarus Industrial Park Development Co., Ltd, and gets used to learning Chinese on her commuting way.
Speaking of her career choice, she exuded confidence. Apart from decent salary and welfare, what attracts the post-90s girl is also the fact that this job promises her a brighter future, from which she can keep learning something new and improve her comprehensive abilities in a short time.
Thanks to the three presidential decrees, the Great Stone Industrial Park has been granted with an array of favorable policies, and has thus attracted an increasing number of Belarusian youths. Moreover, the park remains committed to introducing high-tech industries, which offers a good opportunity for young people to improve themselves and create a better future for themselves.
"We should build 'future-oriented' high-tech parks rather than traditional 'manual workshops' in Belarus," President Alexander Lukashenko said, "we hope that the industrial parks bring us products that will be in great demand 'tomorrow' and even 'the day after tomorrow'."
RecomBel JSC., an Israeli PV enterprise specializing in the production of solar panels, settled in the park in April 2018. It is expected to start operation in the second half of this year.
"We chose the Great Stone Industrial Park for two reasons. Firstly, it is adjacent to the airport, which secures more efficient logistics; secondly, we can enjoy relevant preferential policies in the park, which are the most attractive factors in the park," said Dobrovski Sergey, head of RecomBel.
At the military parade celebrating the Independence Day of Belarus on July 3, 2017, an electric bus, manufactured by Chengdu Xinzhu Road & Bridge Machinery Co., Ltd and OJSC Holding Managing Company Belkommunmash (BKM), a Belorussian state-owned enterprise, made its debut as a showpiece. Du Xiaofeng, vice president of Xinzhu, noted that this kind of new energy vehicle has helped the BKM turn profitable in a short time. The project is expected to facilitate new energy vehicles to become among the major products Belarus exports to the EU and the Eurasian Union.
As a vital platform for high-tech industrial clusters in Belarus, the Great Stone Industrial Park is projected to develop high-tech industries, including fine chemicals, electronic information, bio-medicine, new materials, machinery manufacturing, warehousing and logistics, e-commerce and big data processing. In the coming years, the park will attract more than 200 high-tech enterprises with over 120,000 employees. Finally the park will be built into a comprehensive development zone featuring reasonable layout, coordinated industrial development, advanced technology and remarkable social-economic benefits.
With the development of the Great Stone Industrial Park speeding up, a patchwork of six asphalt roads in the park is bustling with more and more people and vehicles. Since it was proposed, the Great Stone Industrial Park has translated ideas into action and vision into reality, and has been hailed as a "pearl" on the Belt and Road. The unique refined painting of the industrial park has started with its first line on the "Great Stone". (Contributed by Mao Lili, Wei Zhongjie, edited by Tong Wei, Yang Yifan)