RUDY Kiryl, Belarus’ ambassador to China, has been living in China for eight years. Born in the 1970s, he not only has his doctorate in economics and was a university professor, but also has abundant experience as a diplomat.
Rudy Kiryl, Belarus' Ambassador to China, accepts the interview of China Today.
Intimate Contacts with China
It was back in 1992 that Kiryl first came in close contact with Chinese culture while living with a Chinese family in America during a one- month exchange program at an American high school.
“Although it was my first exposure to the Chinese culture, the kind-hearted Chinese people positively impressed me. That was also my first experience to get to know the United States through a Chinese family. That was very interesting.” That experience, though short, left a long lasting impression on Kiryl.
From 2007 to 2012, Kiryl was appointed as commercial counsellor of the Belarus embassy in Beijing. After that, he become the deputy-general-manager of Huawei Technologies Co., and the economic advisor of Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko. During this time he got acquainted with lots of people in the fields of business and politics, as well as gained diplomatic experience.
Kiryl recalled, China was then developing very rapidly and had begun to learn from other nations, and the number of foreigners in China continued to increase. In those days, Chinese people often took pictures of foreign visitors on the street, since everything was new to them.
In 2016 Kiryl was appointed as the Belarus’ ambassador to China. “The first time when we came to China, it was more about getting to know something new. The second time when we came, we made a very sensible decision to have our children learn the Chinese language.” Rudy Kiryl said. “We saw that this language was widespread and Chinese companies had projects all over the world. Now, the language’s influence is increasing. If you can speak Chinese, it will be very easy for you to find a job not only in China, but also in some other countries. The best time to learn a foreign language for your children is when they are in an environment among Chinese kids. So my little boys can easily communicate with Chinese kids and make friends with them.” His elder son Anton, a pupil in Fangcaodi International School, can now speak fluent Chinese after three years of studying here. Most of the boy’s classmates are international students whose parents once lived or worked overseas, but have returned back to China.
“It's a good experience for my children to make friends with Chinese who have traveled all over the world. This will help them better understand the diversity of cultures and have some international values which we think is very important. We like their learning environment, which is very open, and their studies all consist of enjoyable activities.”
Kiryl clearly remembers that the first time his family stayed in China they stayed for five years and three months. This time the family plans to stay longer. “This time, three years have already passed by, and we expect to stay for a long time,” he said.
Impressions of China
During his eight-year stay in China, Kiryl has been to many cities. He joked that he could only name out the cities that he hasn’t been to.
The moment Kiryl visited Chinese cities he immediately fell in love with them. “Belarus is an inland nation with vast plains. The highest peak is merely 300 meters tall. Therefore, we long for great mountains, oceans and big bridges. For example, Chongqing is famous for its bridges and mountains, the like of which cannot be seen in Belarus. And there are also many other beautiful places, such as Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province, and the tranquil lakes in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Every city and every province in China has its own unique beauty, but they are all developing rapidly.”
To Kiryl, the thing that has impressed him most over these years is the speed of China’s development. “Everything is changing, not even every month, but every week. If you leave one city, when you come back, it will not be the same, absolutely different.”
The second thing that has impressed him is that everything is possible in China. “I still remember that in 2008 during the Beijing Olympic Games, signs that said ‘nothing is impossible’ were everywhere. That slogan reflects the mentality of Chinese people. They really believe that they can do anything, just as they have been encouraged by the fruitful achievements and prosperity that China has made.”
The third impression is that Chinese people have become more straightforward. “In the past, Chinese people looked like they were hiding something. They used to cover their real thinking and not share their ideas directly. But only a decade later, you can see that they tell you exactly how they see things. And that certainly saves time. This attitude has broken through cultural barriers and makes it easier for us to have closer relations.”
A Bridge between Europe and Asia
As the president’s economic adviser and a diplomat in China, Kiryl has accompanied Belarus’ president to multiple bilateral events, and has witnessed the robust and pragmatic cooperation between the two nations.
On January 20, 1992, Belarus and China established diplomatic relations. Since then, the bilateral relations have made remarkable achievements. In July 2013, President Lukashenko paid a state visit to China, and signed a joint statement declaring that the two nations established a comprehensive strategic partnership. Three years later, he visited China again, and the two nations announced their intention to build a comprehensive strategic partnership that is based on mutual-trust and win-win cooperation. Now, China has become the third trading partner of Belarus, and the biggest one in Asia.
Kiryl felt it a great honor to participate and witness all these activities that have brought about fruitful achievements in the development of both countries. “Two years ago our president came to Beijing to attend the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. This year, he came for the second session of this forum and had a fruitful meeting with President Xi again, which has resulted in more bilateral cooperation.” Kirly said that he was surprised at the large number of leaders who attended the summit. “We participated twice. That proves that we are long-term friends and supporters of Belt & Road and other initiatives that China provides.”
The China-Belarus Great Stone Industrial Park is a landmark project of the Belt & Road Initiative, and has become a vital hub on the Silk Road Economic Belt linking Europe and Asia. It has been approved to be the first regional special economic zone in Belarus.
“It started as a political project, but now we see it is a business project. And we've witnessed the evolution of this project. It's the biggest industrial park that China has ever built abroad. It also has very attractive tax benefits for the companies who come there. Right now, there are 55 companies who are registered in this industrial park and they have already started production.” Kiryl continued, “Those companies come from the United States, Russia, Israel, and the European Union. Recently, we organized promotion activities in Japan together with the Chinese government, and the head of the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC attended too. The Great Stone Industrial Park is a bridge for cooperation not only between Europe and Asia, but also between Belarus and China, and other countries as well. At present, almost all the big nations have businesses in this industrial park.”
The friendship between China and Belarus can be traced back a long time. “The achievements we have made has laid a solid foundation for bilateral cooperation in the fields of business, education, and tourism.” Kiryl calls the two nations buddies.
Last year, the China-Belarus Year of Tourism, the two nations launched mutual visa exemption.
“Starting from August till the end of last year, we saw an increase of tourists coming from China by 40 percent plus. In May of this year, we saw a big group of Chinese tourists spend several days in Belarus. This group had more than 2,000 people,” Kiryl said. “We welcome Chinese tourists to enjoy our beautiful nature, lakes, forests, clean air, and the hospitality of our people.”
Education is another area in which China and Belarus have had many exchanges. 2019 is the China-Belarus Year of Education. There are over 2,000 Chinese students studying in Belarus, and more than 400 Belarusian students studying in China. There are also three Confucius Institutes in Belarus. “We are actively promoting educational cooperation. There are not only Confucius Institutes in Belarus, but also 10 Belarusian cultural centers in China, which can increase the knowledge about Belarus among Chinese students and their parents.”
“This year, Belarus and China have signed documents that recognize each other’s diplomas of higher education. It means that if you have a diploma from a Chinese university, you can apply for further studies in any university in Belarus. Your Ph.D. diploma will be recognized in Belarus as well,” Kiryl said.
A foodie himself, Kiryl always recommends Chinese delicacies to his Belarusian friends. “I would start with the Chinese hotpot. It is absolutely unique and interesting. For Europeans, one cannot find it in our country or nearby regions. I asked the government of Chongqing to open a restaurant of hotpot in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. Hopefully, it will be opened in Minsk this summer.”
Kiryl, with his doctorate of economics, can discover business opportunities everywhere. “The population of Belarus is around 10 million. It’s similar to that of some of Chinese cities or less. So we believe that even if China stops growing at such a fast speed, we still have a lot of opportunities. We are happy to see that more and more Chinese people are getting out of poverty. As soon as they are free from poverty, they will start drinking more milk and eating more meat. Belarus is very famous for milk products. And recently Belarus has become one of the top four sources of imported dairy products in China. Our beef and poultry can also meet the huge demand of the Chinese market.”
“We see that China represents its people. The Communist Party of China represents its people. As the income in China continues to grow, people will became happier and richer, and China will become more diversified and open.” Kiryl appreciates China for its remarkable achievements. According to his observation, more and more Chinese people are now living in big cities, and the gap between urban and rural areas has become narrower in the context of China’s urbanization. “Belarus is a middle-income country. We also have big cities and our young people can find common values and mutual understandings when traveling around China.”
When discussing about the common values between China and Belarus, Kiryl said that the two peoples are very friendly, while at the same time, the two nations are very different. “Belarus is a small country, while China is a big country with long-term goals and a long history. So we should cooperate together and combine your long-term goals with our short-term goals. This is something on the agenda. From diplomats to state leaders, we are all devoted to translating our differences into advantages in order to build up a community with a shared future for mankind, as the Chinese government proposed.”