Question: How do you assess the current state of relations between Russia and China, and what are the prospects for their development? What are your expectations with regard to your upcoming visit to China?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Relations with the People’s Republic of China are one of the key priorities in Russian foreign policy. Our strategic partnership is based on the strong foundation of the 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship, and Cooperation, and has been developing ever since.
I should note that never before have our relations had such a strong component of mutual trust. And what’s fundamentally important is the very clearly expressed desire by the peoples and leaders of both nations for close, constructive cooperation. Practical achievements in our cooperation strongly confirm this. It is enough to remember the final settlement of the long, very difficult unresolved border issues. The positive momentum of Russian-Chinese trade is also impressive; since 2001, it has been growing by over 30 percent annually, and this year, in just the first six months alone, it has grown nearly twofold reaching approximately $25.5 billion.
The strong momentum of bilateral strategic partnership is spreading to every sector, without exception – the political, trade, economic, social, and humanitarian areas. We are closely coordinating our actions on the global arena, maintaining common approaches to forming a just, multi-polar world order, founded on unconditionally following the principles and norms of international law.
Another factor that demonstrates the high level of interaction between our nations is the fact that today, Russia and China are resolving many similar challenges while advancing on their way to comprehensive modernisation. And as Confucius said, “those whose courses are different cannot lay plans together”.
Thus, my upcoming visit to China is very important for me. I will begin it by visiting the city of Dalian. Dalian, in the region of Lushun, is home to a memorial for Soviet soldiers who gave their lives for China’s freedom and independence. It is symbolic that it has been built through the joint efforts of Russian and Chinese organisations. I plan to participate in an opening ceremony for this monument.
As you know, 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II. This event unites our countries, which were allied in our fight against Nazism and militarism.
In Dalian, I will also meet with teachers and students at the Dalian University of Foreign Languages who are specialising in the study of Russian. In this regard, I would like to note the positive development of Russian-Chinese humanitarian ties, particularly, the successful implementation of the Year of Russian Language in China and the Year of Chinese Language in Russia. The upcoming opening of the first Russian cultural centre in China’s capital, which will take place during my visit, is also an important event.
The Beijing part of my schedule includes talks with PRC leadership regarding a wide variety of issues on the bilateral and international agenda.
Serious attention will be given to the development of trade and economic ties – first and foremost, cooperation in the energy sector. I intend to discuss other subjects as well, including cooperation in research and development, joint efforts in environment protection, and broadening contacts between regions. I know that a great deal is being done in China to advance the north-eastern provinces. Last year, President Hu Jintao and I approved a Cooperation Programme between the Far East and Eastern Siberia Regions of the Russian Federation and the North-Eastern Region of China through 2018, stipulating the implementation of a range of highly promising projects. Examples include the construction of a plant to produce bottled Baikal drinking water in the Irkutsk Region, and the construction of the Yerkovtsy Power Station in the Amur Region to export electricity to China.
A number of important events are scheduled in Shanghai, pertaining to Expo 2010. September 28 has been declared Russia Day at the global exposition, and naturally, I will be present. I invite our Chinese friends to visit the Russian pavilion.
In other words, we have some serious work ahead of us to more fully expand the rich potential in our cooperation.
Question: During your visit to China, you will visit the Expo Park in Shanghai. What significance does Russia’s participation have in an event of that scale? How do you assess the work done by the Chinese side in organising this event?
Dmitry Medvedev: World Expo 2010 is among the largest global forums, and participating in this event is a great honour for any country. I suppose that in terms of scale, it can be compared to the Olympic Games or the Football World Cup. The Expo format allows nations to show themselves and demonstrate what they find to be most interesting and relevant, as well as things that may yield practical results.
For Russia, Expo 2010 is an excellent opportunity to tell the world about a very important process launched in our country just recently, but which is already yielding noticeable benefits. I am referring to the modernisation and innovative development of the Russian economy. A significant portion of the Russian pavilion in Shanghai is devoted to this topic, where these achievements are described by such ‘pioneers’ of modernisation as the RUSNANO (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) and Rosatom (State Atomic Energy Corporation) and other companies, as well as Russian regions.
I believe that it is very important to have an exhibition devoted to the Skolkovo innovation city at the Expo. We have just begun launching it, but for me personally, and for many Russians, it is already a symbol of Russia’s modernisation and its future breakthrough into the ranks of the leading innovative powers.
The motto of this world exposition is Better City, Better Life. And when designing the architecture, interior appearance, and exhibits in the Russian pavilion, we did so first and foremost with children and their parents in mind. We want them to enjoy themselves and be comfortable there. I read on the Internet that the Russian pavilion at the Expo is one of the most popular, that you can only get in after standing in an enormous line, and that children absolutely love it. That means our efforts have not been in vain.
As for my assessment of how the World Expo is organised, I suppose it would not be entirely right to assess it before my visit to Shanghai. However, I have no doubt that the Chinese side has done a fantastic job of organising everything. The People’s Republic of China has a rich experience in holding major international forums. The memory of the Olympics in Beijing is still fresh in all of our minds, having become a benchmark for organising the Olympic Games. I hope that we will be able to use your experience in our preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Question: Holding the Year of Russia and Russian Language in China and the Year of China and Chinese Language in Russia has caused a boom in the study of these languages in both countries. What steps does the Russian side intend to take in order to deepen mutual understanding between the two nations’ peoples?
Dmitry Medvedev: Indeed, in 2006 and 2007, we successfully held two unprecedented projects in the history of our relations: the Year of Russia in China and the Year of China in Russia. I had the honour of heading the Russian Steering Committee for these events. Today, I still recall with pleasure my close, well-coordinated work with Chinese partners, which allowed us to ensure that these events were very successful.
Last year, your country held the Year of Russian Language, which got millions of citizens from both nations involved. They received the opportunity to expand their knowledge about history, culture and traditions, and to become better acquainted with one another’s modern lives. It is certainly extremely important that young people, who will relay the baton of Russian-Chinese friendship, participated actively in all of these events.
Many of the more than 800 events have been continued on a regular basis. These include cultural festivals, film festivals, youth sports events, student festivals, recreation camps for pupils and students, and forums for university provosts.
Right now, the Year of Chinese Language is underway in Russia, which has garnered a great amount of interest and resonates with the general public. This is a natural outcome; after all, the citizens of our nation – particularly the young citizens – want to know more about China, its history and its culture. Today, in Moscow and in many regions of Russia, there are schools providing intensive courses to teach the Chinese language. President Hu Jintao visited one of these schools during his trip to Russia. Chinese is also being taught in some of our leading universities: Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the Institute of Asian and African Studies, the Moscow State Linguistic University, the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia, the Russian State University for the Humanities, the Institute of Practical Oriental Studies, the Higher School of Economics, the Finance Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation, and many others.
I know that interest in China toward Russia and the Russian language is equally profound and serious. It was a pleasure for me to receive a letter last year from a group of pupils in Shanghai. I believe this is direct proof that Chinese schoolchildren are sincerely interested in studying Russian, and I happily wrote back to them. I have also read that there are Russian language departments and chairs in 60 universities throughout your country, and that the biggest of these is Beijing University.
In China, you have a saying that words are the key to opening the heart, and you are absolutely right: today, we can talk without hesitation about a true ‘burst of interest’ toward the Russian and Chinese languages in our nations.
Russian-Chinese cooperation in the humanitarian sector has great promise, including by way of the regions and NGOs. We think it is imperative to broaden contacts between the young citizens of both countries.
We are interested in having as many Chinese students as possible study at leading Russian universities, and having Russian students study in China. Currently, there are already over 18 thousand Chinese citizens studying at Russian institutions of higher education, and about 9 thousand Russian citizens studying in China. I think that with active support from both governments, these figures will constantly grow.
One important humanitarian project will involve a thousand of Russian schoolchildren visiting China this year and next, following an invitation by PRC President Hu Jintao.
Russian-Chinese relations will undoubtedly receive fresh momentum in the humanitarian sector following the opening of cultural centres in Beijing and Moscow.
Question: You have consistently advocated for the creation and development of an innovation economy in Russia. In this context, what possibilities will be opened for expanding cooperation between Russia and China?
Dmitry Medvedev: The lessons of the global crisis have shown that the imperatives of modernisation have become common for all states with no exceptions, including our two countries. We are carefully monitoring global experiences and following the path of creating alliances for modernisation, both with individual nations and groups of states.
Here in Russia, we have determined five priority areas for modernisation: computer technologies, telecommunications, nuclear technologies, medicine, space, as well as the creation of an energy-efficient economy.
I have already noted that we are creating a major innovation centre in one of Moscow’s suburbs, Skolkovo. This city will enjoy preferential conditions for taxes, customs, and other matters. A comfortable environment will be created for commercialising the newest ideas and inventions. We count on these conditions to also be attractive for foreign scientists and businesspeople.
As far as cooperating with China is concerned, the implementation of our plans will have a positive effect in many areas of bilateral cooperation. I will give just a few examples.
It is widely known that over the last few years, your country has started manufacturing various types of industrial equipment of the best standards. It is no accident that there has been a rise in imports of machinery and technical products from China, which our entrepreneurs find appealing because of their price to quality ratio. The Russian economy’s demand for large-scale replacements of many pieces of outdated equipment and the modernisation of many sectors in the heavy and light industries, energy, and transport will only grow. In this regard, Chinese products could occupy their own competitive niche in our market, especially with effective loan support from Chinese banking institutions.
Recently the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and the Chinese Ministry of Industry signed a Memorandum on Promoting Bilateral Trade in Technical Equipment and Innovative Products. A similar Memorandum on Cooperation in Implementing Joint Projects in Priority Fields of Science, Technology and Technical Equipment was signed between the Russian Federal Agency for Science and Innovation and China's Ministry of Science and Technology.
We welcome Chinese investment in the high-tech sectors of Russian industry, including through mechanisms available in our technoparks and special economic zones, designed to promote technological innovation. Chinese experience in developing a network of high-speed railways as well as ports is of particular interest for us.
In this regard I want to mention a particularly obvious example of an important opportunity for enhanced cooperation: designing state of the art types of civil aircraft. By taking advantage of cooperation opportunities in this sphere, including joint investments, development, production, sales and maintenance, we can significantly reduce the cost and time required to create new aircraft. This would not only serve the needs of our two countries, but also allow us to profit from underexploited niches in the global aviation market.
Question: On September 13 joint anti-terror exercises, Peace Mission 2010, conducted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) began in Kazakhstan. In your opinion, what is the SCO's role in ensuring security and stability in the region and throughout the world? What are the prospects for cooperation between Russia and China within the SCO?
Dmitry Medvedev: By working together, Russia, China and our Central Asian partners have made the SCO one of the most authoritative regional as well as international organisations. I think it is no exaggeration to say that it is impossible to imagine resolving problems concerning stable and sustainable development in Eurasia without the SCO.
The continuous expansion of multi-level partnerships bears witness to the growing influence of the SCO. The organisation's observers are invariably highly active. They are joined by other countries that have the status of dialogue partners. In general, the network of cooperation with leading international organisations — the UN, CIS, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) — is becoming more effective. For example, the SCO has every reason for becoming the main platform for regional cooperation on Afghanistan.
Within the SCO we fight together against terrorism and separatism, transnational organised crime and drug trafficking. The organisation's joint counterterrorism military exercises help enhance its role in combating new threats and challenges. These exercises include those conducted in Russia in August 2010 and those entitled Peace Mission 2010 that were successfully completed just recently in Kazakhstan.
The main focus of our cooperation within the SCO is economic and humanitarian. I am convinced that sustained progress in all fields in which we work will contribute to further strengthening our organisation.
Question: Your speech at the meeting with Russian ambassadors and permanent representatives in international organisations was subsequently referred to as 'programmatic'. And some analysts drew conclusions regarding a shift in Russia's foreign policy focus. Do you agree with this, and what exactly will occasion changes in your country's foreign policy?
Dmitry Medvedev: In my speech at the meeting with ambassadors on July 12 this year, I said that the basic, fundamental principles of Russian foreign policy had not changed. These are pragmatism, openness, the nonconfrontational promotion of our national interests, as well as the multi-directional nature of Russian diplomacy.
We are convinced that excessive concentration on one aspect of foreign policy to the detriment of others does not lead to positive results. We aspire to a balance between the various facets of international relations. Incidentally, many of our partners say that, as the largest nation in the world, Russia is located at a crossroads between continents and civilizations, plays a stabilising role in international relations, helps achieve and retain a much-needed equilibrium between interests.
Today, Russia's foreign policy priorities include relations with CIS countries and the European Union, the United States and our partners in the Asia-Pacific region. Of course this includes China. Each of these areas has its own specific value for us. The same applies to multilateral diplomacy in forums such as the UN Security Council, G20, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), RIC (Russia, India, China) and the SCO, where we actively cooperate with China to promote regional and global stability, security and prosperity.
Along with this, naturally changes in our foreign policy do occur. The main point of these changes — one I also stressed at the meeting with Russian diplomats — reflects the fact that the very system of international relations is currently in flux. The international community is becoming more active and better able to coordinate the fight against common challenges and threats. The foundations of a new, harmonious system of global governance based on the principles of international law are being laid. Russia sees its goals as, on the one hand, facilitating as much as possible positive developments in global affairs and, on the other, using available opportunities to modernise and promote its innovative development.
We are ready to increase cooperation with all those who demonstrate similar interests. Today it is particularly important for us to use effectively foreign sources of new technologies and promote Russian high-tech products in foreign markets. This requires close collaboration with our partners in both the West and the East. I have no doubt that my forthcoming visit to China will open up new horizons for such interaction.