Russia and China: New Horizons for Cooperation
by H.E. President Vladimir Putin, Three-time President and Former Prime Minister of the Russian Federation
June 5, 2012 (TSR) - I am pleased to have this opportunity on the eve of my state visit to China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit to address the millions of readers of one of the world’s most influential newspapers, Renmin Ribao. I value this chance to share my views on the future of our countries’ partnership and the role Russian-Chinese relations play in today’s world, which is in the midst of complex transformation, faces big global and regional security challenges, attempts to dilute the principles of international law, and economic and financial upheaval.
All of these issues are the subject of much discussion and attention at the big international forums and summits that take place, and I am confident that reason and collective approaches will prevail in tackling today’s problems. The main thing is that all clear-headed politicians and experts in economics and international relations realise that it is not possible to set the global agenda today behind Russia’s and China’s backs and without taking their interests into account. Such is the geopolitical reality of the twenty-first century.
In this context, we are aware of our common responsibility for the Russian-Chinese partnership’s long-term development and the importance of our common efforts within the United Nations and other multilateral organisations and regional bodies.
We therefore have high hopes for the intensive programme of meetings we have planned with the Chinese leadership, and we also hope for fruitful work at the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit that will conclude China’s successful presidency of this organisation.
Russian-Chinese relations have been deservedly called an example of the new type of relations between states. Our relations are free from prejudices and stereotypes and this makes them stable and not subject to short-term considerations, which is valuable indeed in today’s world, where stability and mutual trust are so clearly lacking.
The 2008-2009 global financial crisis showed us how important it is for us to understand and listen to each other and pursue common, consensus-based policies. Joint infrastructure and energy projects, big contracts and orders, and reciprocal investment are the resources that enabled our countries and our business communities to overcome the difficulties, create new jobs, and keep factories and businesses working.
Russian-Chinese bilateral trade reached the record mark of $83.5 billion in 2011. We have now set the medium-term target of $100 billion by 2015, and will work towards reaching $200 billion by 2020. If we keep up today’s dynamic, we will be able to reach these targets even earlier.
What must we do to achieve these goals? Above all, we need to optimise our bilateral trade structure and improve its quality by increasing the share of high value-added goods. We have the objective conditions we need for this. Our national markets have big capacity and growing demand for modern goods and services. We have good fundamental positions in education, science and technology, and a wealth of experience in production cooperation.
We will actively develop big joint projects in civilian aircraft manufacturing, space, and other high-tech sectors. We will also pursue projects in techno-parks, industrial clusters, and special economic zones in both countries. In my view, what we need here is a genuine technological alliance between our two countries, a genuine interweaving of our production and innovation chains so as to forge the links between our companies and our research, design, and engineering centres. We need to continue these efforts by working together in other countries’ markets too.
We need to build a modern infrastructure for our financial and investment ties and our bilateral business relations. It is clear now that we must make quicker progress in moving over to using our national currencies to settle reciprocal trade, investment and other operations. This will also insure us against various currency risks and will strengthen the ruble and the yuan’s positions.
The energy-sector dialogue between our two countries also has a strategic dimension. Our joint projects have a big impact in shaping the global energy market’s entire configuration. They offer China more reliable and diversified energy supplies for its domestic needs, and offer Russia the chance to open up new export routes to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.
Among the results already attained, I note the launch of the Russian-Chinese oil pipeline that delivered 15 million tons of oil last year, and the conclusion of a long-term contract – 25 years – for electricity supplies to China. Russia also increased its coal exports to China to 10.5 million tons in 2011, and have plans for joint development of coal deposits. I hope that we will soon begin large-scale deliveries of Russian gas to China.
Our cooperation in the nuclear energy sector also offers many opportunities. Russia took part in building the first section of the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant, which the stress tests results show to be the safest in China. Last year, our specialists helped to launch China’s first fast-neutron experimental reactor, thus making China the fourth country, after Russia, Japan and France, to possess this technology. Construction of the fourth section of a uranium enrichment plant was completed ahead of schedule. We hope to continue our cooperation on building the Tianwan power plant’s second and subsequent sections, and to take part in building other energy sector facilities in China.
The source and driving force of our relations is the friendship and mutual understanding between our peoples. We held very successful reciprocal national years and language years. Now we are holding the Year of Russian Tourism in China, and next year our attention will be on the Chinese Tourism Year in Russia.
I think the time is ripe for us to draw up a long-term action plan for developing our bilateral cooperation in the humanitarian sphere.
Naturally, current international affairs will be on the upcoming visit’s agenda. They include strategic stability, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and countering the threats and challenges to sustainable development, and our peoples’ lives and wellbeing, including terrorism, separatism, organised crime, and illegal migration.
Russia and China share very similar positions on all of these issues, positions based on the principles of responsibility, commitment to the basic values of international law, and unconditional mutual respect for each other’s interests. This makes it easy for us to find a common language, develop common tactics and strategies, and make a constructive contribution to international discussions on the most serious issues we face today, whether the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the problems in Syria and Afghanistan, or the Korean Peninsula and Iranian nuclear programme issues.
I stress that the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership plays an effective part in strengthening regional and global stability. This is our guiding logic in our efforts to develop cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which marked its tenth anniversary last year.
I was one of the people at the origins of this group. Time has shown that we made the right decision in transforming the Shanghai Five into a full-fledged cooperation organisation.
The SCO today is a rapidly-developing multilateral organisation. We have yet to realise its full potential, but looking back at the road travelled so far, we can say for sure that the organisation has already earned itself an influential place and speaks with a confident voice on the international stage.
The SCO has brought much that is new and useful to global politics. Above all, it offers a partnership model based on genuine equality between all participants, mutual trust, mutual respect for each people’s sovereign and independent choice, and for each country’s culture, values, traditions, and desire for common development. This philosophy best embodies what I consider to be the only viable principles for international relations in a multipolar world.
The SCO and its members’ efforts and cooperation with a broad range of foreign partners have been highly instrumental in substantially reducing terrorist activity in the region. But the challenges we face today are becoming ever more diverse, complex, and change constantly. Those who spread the ideas of terrorism, separatism and extremism continue to perfect their subversive methods, recruit new fighters to their ranks, and expand their financing sources.
To respond to these challenges we must continue to develop the SCO’s capacity to ensure security and make our cooperation mechanisms even more effective. This is why the upcoming summit will pay particular attention to approving the 2013-2015 SCO member states’ programme for cooperation in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, and the new draft provisions on political and diplomatic measures and response mechanisms in situations that threaten peace, security and stability in the region.
The links between terrorism, drugs production, and drugs trafficking are another serious challenge. We must work together in coordinated fashion to combat this. We must develop this cooperation most actively through the SCO’s anti-drugs strategy.
The situation in Afghanistan is one of our common concerns. The SCO is making a big contribution to helping the Afghan people in rebuilding their long-suffering country. The decision to grant Afghanistan observer status in the SCO will be another concrete step that we will take at the upcoming summit. We will discuss the prospects for joint work within the SCO with Afghanistan’s leader, Hamid Karzai.
The SCO was established as an organisation tasked with ensuring stability and security across the vast Eurasian continent. We think that any attempts by other countries to pursue unilateral action in the SCO’s region of responsibility would be counterproductive.
At the same time, the SCO is an open organisation that is ready to work together with all interested partners. This is stated in the SCO’s charter. India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan are all involved in the SCO as observer countries. Belarus and Sri Lanka are SCO dialogue partners. Turkey will join us at this upcoming summit. Given the growing interest in the SCO’s activities, we are currently settling how to strengthen the legal basis for the organisation’s continued enlargement.
The SCO’s experience offers interesting and very promising solutions for the entire international community in terms of developing policies from below through a consensus-based process. Policies take shape within the different regional organisations first of all, and then become part of the dialogue between us all. Out of these regional ‘building blocks’ we can put together a more stable and predictable environment for global politics and the global economy.
We think that this kind of network diplomacy will become a vital part of international relations. The SCO member states saw this trend in the making and have acted on it by developing a network of partnerships between multilateral organisations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Today, the SCO is working hard to develop cooperation with the UN, CIS, CSTO, EurAsEC, ASEAN, ESCAP, and other international bodies.
We see great potential in developing cooperation between the SCO and the Eurasian Economic Community, and in the future, with the Eurasian Economic Union. I am sure that these organisations can mutually enrich and effectively complement each other in their work.
There is no doubt that we must strengthen political cooperation within the SCO and step up our economic cooperation. The organisation is up to the task of implementing even the biggest joint projects. It would be in our common interests to make use of the obvious advantages offered by China’s fast-growing economy, the technological potential that Russia is developing as it modernises, and the Central Asian countries’ rich natural resources. I think we should concentrate particularly on cooperation in the energy, transport, infrastructure, and agriculture sectors, and in the high-tech fields, especially in information and telecommunications technology.
But this requires us to put in place genuinely effective financial support and project management mechanisms within the SCO. We need platforms for developing joint plans, places for assembling multilateral programmes. The SCO energy club, which we have almost finished establishing now, could serve as a good example in this respect.
Much of the SCO’s future development potential lies in developing direct ties between our countries’ business communities and companies. I am sure that the business forum in Beijing during the summit will demonstrate the broad range of opportunities for public-private partnerships in expanding our economic cooperation. It is important to actively involve our countries’ industrial and banking sectors in carrying out the plans we set. All of this requires more effective and intensive work from the SCO Business Council and Interbank Group. They already have quite a solid package of proposals.
It is also in our common interests to develop cooperation in healthcare, culture, sports, education, and science. The opportunities in these fields are most convincingly embodied in the Network University, one of the SCO’s most striking initiatives, which now brings together 65 different universities in the SCO member countries. The university will have its rector’s offices in Moscow. We are ready to do all we can to help develop this very promising and much-needed project.
As it enters its second decade, the SCO continues to grow and develop. It will hold firm in its work to its guiding principles and basic goals, and at the same time will continue to take account of the changing international situation. This is the approach that will be reflected in the basic agreement we are set to discuss and adopt at the summit – the Basic Guidelines for the SCO Medium-Term Development Strategy.
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We have high hopes for the Russian-Chinese talks and the SCO summit in Beijing. Russia needs a prosperous China, and I am sure that China needs a successful Russia. Our partnership is not directed against anyone, but is about construction and strengthening justice and the democratic foundations in international life. This partnership is thus something needed in today’s world.
An old Chinese saying states that common hopes require common efforts. We are ready for these common efforts in the interests of our countries and peoples. This work will certainly produce worthy results.
This article was first published and written for Renmin Ribao ahead of the state visit to the People’s Republic of China and the 12th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit from June 6-7, 2012 in Beijing.
AUTHOR: Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin is the current President of the Russian Federation as of May 7, 2012. Before serving as Prime Minister for 4 years, he was a two-time president. Putin also serves as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. During his presidency, the Russian economy grew for nine straight years, seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP (sixfold in nominal), poverty decrease by more than 50%, and average monthly salaries increase from $80 to $640. These achievements have been ascribed by analysts to strong macroeconomic management, important fiscal policy reforms, surging capital inflows, access to low-cost external financing and a several fold increase in price of oil and gas. The fast formation of the modern middle class in the country, the 2.3 times increase inreal incomes between 2000-2011 as well as improvements in healthcare and public order allowed Russia to achieve the highest level of life expectancy in its history. As Russia’s President, Putin passed into law a flat income tax of 13%, a reduced profits tax, and new land and legal codes. As Prime Minister, Putin oversaw large scale military reform and police reform. His energy policy has affirmed Russia’s position as an energy superpower. Putin’s leadership has enjoyed considerable popularity in Russia with continuously high approval ratings. As Russian Prime Minister, Putin’s approval rating was 52 percent in January 2012, according to the state-run pollster VTSIOM.