søndag 21. juli 2019

Over Local Objections, China Muscles Into Belarus

There are no banners, no slogans or even raised voices, never mind fists. But, for more than a year now, hundreds of protesters have gathered each Sunday to feed pigeons in Lenin Square and, in a heavily camouflaged show of dissent, to display their hostility to a Chinese-funded lead-acid battery factory that they say will spew deadly toxins into the air and groundwater.

The factory, already built on the outskirts of the western city of Brest but waiting permission to start production, has become a symbol of what its opponents see as an unhealthily close relationship between Beijing and the government of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has held power in Belarus since 1994.

Like President Vladimir V. Putin of neighboring Russia, Mr. Lukashenko brooks little dissent. He has also, like the Russian leader, looked increasingly to China for money and inspiration: Europe has lost of much of its sheen as an economic model, but China offers an example of how authoritarian politics can mix with robust economic growth.