President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zhang Gaoli, friends, allow me to welcome you to St Petersburg.
I would like to begin by saying that the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership is actively developing in all areas.
In May our great friend, Chairman Xi Jinping visited Moscow. I know that June 15 was his birthday. Please convey my best wishes. We will soon be meeting within the framework of the BRICS and SCO summits in Ufa on July 8–10. In addition, as we agreed, I intend to visit Beijing on September 3.
Our economic relations are on the rise. This is largely due to the efforts of the Government of the Russian Federation and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, and we are grateful to you for that. All our Chinese partners are working with Russia actively and with great interest – we see this and value it highly. Thank you for your decision to come to the St Petersburg Economic Forum as well.
First Vice Premier of the State Council of China Zhang Gaoli (retranslated): Good afternoon, Mr President, Russian partners and friends.
Mr President, I am very grateful to you for finding the time to meet with me and my delegation despite your very busy schedule. This is a great honour for me to meet and talk with you again. The jacket with the inscription Sila Sibiri [The Power of Siberia] that you gave me last year is even more unforgettable.
Vladimir Putin: You were cold then because you did not come prepared.
Zhang Gaoli: When I returned home, I told President Xi Jinping and many of my friends that Mr Putin is not only a strong-willed man and a powerful leader but also a very friendly and attentive person. I remember as we were standing by the model you asked your colleagues to bring me a jacket. Although I told you I would not be cold, you insisted that I wear the jacket. I still remember the warmth.
Frankly speaking, I have a very busy schedule, but I came here to take part in the St Petersburg Economic Forum for your sake and for the sake of Russia.
First, I would like to convey to you, Mr President, the greetings and best wishes from President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
The relationship between you and President Xi Jinping is very close and friendly, and in the past two odd years, you have been maintaining close contacts. Today in the course of our talks and at the meeting of the Commission on Investment Cooperation I told Mr Shuvalov [First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia] that, as far as I know, there is no other foreign leader with whom President Xi Jinping would have such close contacts, such frequent meetings and such understanding.
It is thanks to the personal efforts of the leaders of our two states that Chinese-Russian relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation are developing at such a high level.
Last month President Xi Jinping made another successful visit to Russia to take part in the May 9 celebrations. I watched the television broadcast of the parade on Red Square on numerous occasions, when the Russian Armed Forces and the latest samples of armaments passed before you and President Xi Jinping. Many of our Chinese friends were very excited, and so was I.
President Xi Jinping and you have already set new targets for expanding and deepening our comprehensive strategic partnership. This would give a new powerful impetus to the development of our relations. The purpose of this trip is to implement the agreements between our two countries’ leaders and to prepare for the 20th regular meeting of prime ministers.