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International relations

China's support for Belarus' Lukashenko masks Belt and Road qualms

Embattled strongman undermines his usefulness to Beijing by alienating West

A protester in Minsk on Sept. 13: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has used his security forces to withstand two months of demonstrations against his rule. (Photo by David Saveliev)

MOSCOW/MINSK, Belarus -- China's interest in Belarus looks to be cooling despite its warm words for embattled strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who is attempting to withstand unprecedented protests and intense geopolitical pressure.

Over the past several years, China has emerged as a major patron for the small Eastern European nation of 9.5 million people, lending hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. China also established the Great Stone Industrial Park, a 112-sq.-km business center outside Minsk that has generated $1.2 billion in investments since 2012.

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