Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Urban planning meets the iron fist of Europe's last dictatorship.

We know that when it comes to city-building, autocracy has its advantages. That's why Patri "Democracy is not the answer" Friedman was so stoked to build Paul Romer's "Charter City" in the Honduran jungle; it's also why Saudi Arabia thinks it will be possible to construct a six-line Metro system in four years.

So it's no surprise that China, seeking to build a European industrial park to provide a manufacturing base for exporters, has settled on Belarus, Europe's last iron-fist dictatorship.

Aliaksandr Kudrytski, writing in Bloomberg, reports that China will invest over $5 billion to create an industrial city for 155,000 on the outskirts of Minsk, connected to the airport by high-speed rail:

The hub will put Chinese exporters within 170 miles of EU members Poland and Lithuania and give them tax-free entry into Russia and Kazakhstan, which share a customs union. It will also let them draw from a workforce that’s 99.6 percent literate and makes $560 a month on average, half the Polish wage.

The first phase of construction will be completed by 2020, and the city will be finished by 2030.

It's not a perfect solution, since the E.U. has a system of sanctions in place against businesses associated with the government of president-for-life Alexander Lukashenko, on account of his poor human rights record. It's not clear if companies in Shenzhen-on-the-Svislach (unofficial moniker) will be subject to those regulations.

But then China's efforts to establish a smaller such city, in Burgas, Bulgaria, were stalled by a political transition, Kudrytski reports. No such concern in Belarus, where Lukashenko has been President since 1994.

Top image: Reuters/Gleb Garanich.

HT: Marginal Revolution.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why We Need to Dream Bigger Than Bike Lanes

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  2. a photo of the Maryland Renaissance Festival
    Life

    The Utopian Vision That Explains Renaissance Fairs

    What’s behind the enduring popularity of all these medieval-themed living-history festivals?

  3. Maps

    A Comprehensive Map of American Lynchings

    The practice wasn’t limited to the South, as this new visualization of racial violence in the Jim Crow era proves.

  4. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  5. Design

    The New MoMA Is Bigger, More Diverse, and More Open to the City

    The renovated and expanded Museum of Modern Art looks to connect the museum to New York City while telling a fuller story about modernism.

×