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 photo of a tiny house in Oregon
    Design

    How Amazon Could Transform the Tiny House Movement

    Could the e-commerce giant help turn small-home living from a niche fad into a national housing solution?

  2. Environment

    What U.S. Cities Facing Climate Disaster Risks Are Least Prepared?

    New studies find cities most vulnerable to climate change disasters—heat waves, flooding, rising seas, drought—are the least prepared.

  3. The downtown St. Louis skyline.
    Perspective

    Downtown St. Louis Is Rising; Black St. Louis Is Being Razed

    Square co-founder Jack Dorsey is expanding the company’s presence in St. Louis and demolishing vacant buildings on the city’s north side.

  4. A portrait of Jay-Z.
    Equity

    The Roots of Jay-Z’s ‘Black Capitalism’

    Now partnering with the NFL, Jay-Z centers wealth-building in his activism, as many African Americans have before him—but without much success.

  5. A rendering of Oakland, California, that replaces Interstate 980 with a surface boulevard
    Transportation

    Here Are the Urban Highways That Deserve to Die

    The Congress for New Urbanism once again ranks the most-loathed urban freeways in North America—and makes the case for tearing them down.

×