China is building an entire city in the forests near the Belarusian capital Minsk to create a manufacturing springboard between the European Union and Russia.
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko allotted an area 40 percent larger than Manhattan around Minsk's international airport for the $5 billion development, which will include enough housing to accommodate 155,000 people, according to Chinese and Belarusian officials.
Lukashenko, who's led his former Soviet state of 9.5 million for two decades, is turning to China to help revive a $60 billion economy that's needed $6.5 billion of bailouts from the International Monetary Fund and Russia since 2009. 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.