Xinhua News Agency Correspondent Ju Mengjun: Dear Dmitry Anatolevich, I am a correspondent from the Xinhua news agency.
First of all, on behalf of the Chinese media we would like to congratulate you on being sworn in as President of the Russian Federation. The Chinese people paid close attention to this event and the Chinese media actively covered it, so now you are well-known in China.
As you know, a strong earthquake occurred recently in the Chinese province Sichuan. You and the Russian people have expressed their sympathy, and Russia sent timely rescue teams and humanitarian assistance. This bears witness to the deeply sympathetic feelings the Russian people hold with regards to the Chinese.
Today, as representatives of the Chinese media, it is our greatest honour to have the opportunity to interview you personally. We thank you for this opportunity.
We would like to ask the first question in Chinese. You may begin.
Chinese Reporter Ma Li: In recent years Russian-Chinese relations have developed very well. The people and authorities of our countries agree that our current relations are as close as they ever have been.
What is your assessment of the prospects for the development of relations between Russia and China? What issues are on the agenda of the upcoming Russian-Chinese summit?
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Before I start to answer your question, I would like to once again express our sincere condolences to the leadership of People's Republic of China and all Chinese people in connection with the natural disaster which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Chinese citizens, much destruction and occasioned difficult problems.
We sincerely empathize with you at this time and we believe that China and the Chinese leadership is coping with this catastrophe. Unfortunately, people do not return, but it is possible to eliminate the material effects of the disaster. The Russian side really did send through a number of aircraft to help, so that rescuers could work, and there were some other measures taken as well. We will continue to do everything we can to help the fraternal Chinese people.
As to the state of Russian-Chinese relations, I believe that today they are at the best possible level and act as an excellent example of strategic cooperation between two major states, who cooperate and collaborate as they go about their business.
Some years have passed since the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and China in 2001. And this was a very good period which witnessed the growth of cooperation in all directions. This plan, which was prepared and signed by our countries' leaders for three years, has already been executed. And now we are anticipating of the creation of a new plan, one which will give additional impetus to our relations.
The closeness of our relations and the level of our interaction reflect two brilliant events in our history. I am referring to the Year of Russia in China and the Year of China in Russia. Both of these years — and they included some 500 events — demonstrated the friendship and special warm feelings that link the Russian and Chinese peoples. They were characterized by very interesting programmes and simply allowed Russians to become better acquainted with life in China and allowed Chinese citizens to do the same for life in Russia.
I myself was involved with the planning and I can say that these were very interesting events. Now it is important to make sure that these years translate into decades of economic and cultural cooperation, and that the tradition we inaugurated be preserved. There are some very interesting events that will take place in the near future: the Year of Russian Language in China and the Year of Chinese Language in Russia. In fact, this is the continuation of what we started two years ago.
I am going to visit the People's Republic of China in the near future. This will be my first official visit in my new position. And I believe that we can discuss all the issues that concern China and Russia today. I hope to conduct good negotiations with the President of China Hu Jintao and with other Chinese comrades. I am confident that these negotiations will result in new and interesting projects, new and interesting ideas. The Joint Declaration we are planning to sign will reflect our common approaches to major development issues in the international arena.
Overall, I am looking forward to my visit to the People's Republic of China. I am confident that this visit will be full-value and productive.
Ju Mengjun: I wish you a successful visit to China.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Ju Mengjun: A question concerning Russian-Chinese trade. As we know, currently Russia is also reorganising and restructuring certain sectors of its economy. How could this affect bilateral trade between Russia and China? What is the role of foreign trade in Russia's economic development?
Dmitry Medvedev: It is obvious that Russia and China are very large trading partners and every year our volume of trade is increasing. The benchmarks that we have set for ourselves — to reach a trade turnover of $60 billion and then $70 billion per year – are, I think, absolutely achievable.
China buys Russian energy and a number of technical products from Russia. We are working in the field of aircraft manufacturing and in the space sector. The Russian Federation buys many products from China. Today, therefore, our task is not only to increase total trade turnover – though that is also important — but rather to optimize it. That is, to make the structure of our trade reflect the current respective states of the Russian and Chinese economies and to make our trade helpful for the development of our nations.
The Chinese economy is developing very quickly and vigorously, and we observe its development with great interest and enthusiasm. The products that the Chinese economy requires today are different from those which were needed, say 10 to 15 years ago. But for us this represents a definite incentive, a positive thing, because we must, therefore, also develop competitive industries, create products that use higher-quality technology, as well as higher economic and technological standards. And, in fact, such mutual cooperation drives the development of the two economies. I believe that this is very important.
I am sure that in terms of cooperation between Russia and China the twenty-first century will not simply be a period in which Russia provides China with energy resources and the People's Republic of China provides simple goods in return. Rather, it will be a century of high-tech cooperation: cooperation in space sector, in the high-tech sector, in nanotechnology, in shipbuilding, and in the automobile industry. That is, in precisely those sectors that will help our economies to grow.
Ju Mengjun: Thank you.
How does Russia's foreign trade affect the Russian economy and in what percentages?
Dmitry Medvedev: Naturally, we are interested in increasing foreign trade with our Chinese partners and with other countries, because an external trade surplus means that an economy is competitive and modern. And of course, a significant portion of the foreign currency that the Russian Federation receives comes from selling products to other countries, exporting various types of commodities.
But of course we are also interested in establishing a domestic processing sector, domestic production so that the volume of government revenues generated by exports is absolutely comparable with the amount of income generated from domestic sources.
Ju Mengjun: Thank you.
China Central Television Correspondent Sun Binzhuan: I am very pleased to have the opportunity to ask you a question. I represent China Central Television and my name is Sun Bin-Zhuang. I would like to know how you see the prospects for cooperation between Russian and Chinese energy companies in the Far East and Siberia, particularly the prospects for the implementation of projects concerned with laying the Chinese branch of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline and gas pipelines between Russia and China.
Dmitry Medvedev: Russian-Chinese energy cooperation represents a very important component of our business ties. We are going to strengthen and build on this type of cooperation.
Just two figures. In 2001 the total amount of energy supplies from Russia to China was valued at $0.5 billion and I would like to bring to your attention the fact that in 2007 this amount exceeded $6.7 billion. This is huge, unprecedented growth. We will continue to develop these ties.
Regarding the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline and the corresponding branch in the People's Republic of China, we now have basic agreements about this and today Rosneft and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) are in the final stages of negotiations on this issue. We expect that all major provisions and all basic parameters of future cooperation will be agreed on.
But cooperation is not limited to the prospects of creating pipelines and their corresponding branches. There are a number of projects in Russia where we are working very productively with our Chinese partners. We also hope to create a number of new projects designed to process petroleum products. This represents extra money, extra worth, and mutually beneficial projects. I am referring to the prospect of creating oil refineries and a network of gas stations, including on the territory of the People's Republic of China. We are paying increased attention to all these projects and they are now being discussed by the Russian and Chinese parties.
Now with regards to cooperation in the gas sphere. As you know, there are two projects here. One of them involves deliveries of gas from eastern oil-producing provinces and the second from western ones. Accordingly, there will be two pipelines. We see both of these projects as very interesting and very promising. We are currently agreeing on technical details. In addition, negotiations on the harmonization of methods to calculate the prices at which Russian gas will be supplied to Chinese consumers are underway.
I am confident that as a result of today's negotiations Russian energy will become a key element in our energy relations with a friendly China.
Ma Li: Dear Mr President! You have four national projects on the go and from what we have been able to gather the people of Russia are impressed by what these projects have achieved. We would like to know in what directions you foresee further economic and socio-economic development in Russia, and which of these four areas you think necessary to develop first?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you for your interest in our projects and in what is going on in the Russian Federation more generally
Indeed, some time ago we determined four national priorities: health, education, agriculture and the housing problem. All these areas are important for a large number of our citizens. And we have tried to deal with these problems by addressing a number of very complex tasks.
The first part of the work is over and some results have been achieved. We would like to see these results as very preliminary, because there is still a great deal of work to be done. The process of establishing a modern, good-quality education system and a good level of health care will require additional years of hard work, not to mention that the housing problem in general is an ongoing challenge for any nation, because in general the number of citizens who wish to improve their housing conditions increases faster than the number of construction opportunities in this field.
Incidentally, in this respect we have much to learn from the People's Republic of China: the pace of construction in China is very impressive. In general, these are tasks with a long-term perspective and we will work on them. These priorities have not been removed from the agenda. And I am sure that in the coming years we will reach new heights in addressing these problems.
As to what is the most important thing in the very near future, I would not like to differentiate between tasks: they are all very important. Everyone wants to live in their own home, eat good food – preferably food produced in their own country – enjoy good health care services, and be sure that their children will receive a good education. That is why we are working on these projects.
And when these problems are resolved then we can relax and drink green tea.
Ju Mengjun: I would like to ask one last question on international policy.
Currently Russia benefits from increased status in the international arena. Since you have assumed office in which areas of international life will Russia seek to play a greater role?
In your opinion, how will the planned deployment of elements of a U.S. missile defence systems in some European countries affect relations between Russia and these countries?
Dmitry Medvedev: The situation in our world is not tranquil. It is clear that foreign policy should be a priority for the state, for the head of state. Naturally since taking office I have dealt with international issues and will deal with them in the future.
As to our foreign policy priorities, they are fairly obvious and we have talked about them repeatedly. We are in favour of the free, peaceful, democratic development of countries and peoples, in favour of resolving all contentious issues within the existing system of international law and by using institutions that have proven their effectiveness: especially the United Nations as well as a number of other institutions that work and help humankind to resolve disputes. We advocate that all disputed issues be resolved through agreements, through negotiations, and first and foremost we are in favour of the development of negotiating processes with countries in which there are conflicts. In general we believe that Russia should pursue an independent foreign policy in cooperation with friendly nations and for the benefit of Russian citizens.
Our foreign policy must be reasonable, pragmatic and, at the same time, friendly and open. And we absolutely consider the People's Republic of China to be one of our most important foreign partners.
There are two very important points in international relations: predictability and fairness in international politics, and protecting the interests of one's citizens. That is the foreign policy that Russia has conducted in recent years.
As for the problem that you raised, namely creating a so-called third position area by positioning missile defence radar in a number of states in Europe, of course we do not really like this idea. We consider it abnormal, we see its implementation as a threat to Russian interests, and we have said this frankly and clearly to our partners.
The installation of an ABM system is an additional source of tension, particularly when a state which has expressed its desire to participate in the creation of collective responses to threats is refused admission to the programme. We suggested to our European partners and the United States that they consider establishing a system of collective responses to such threats, a system of joint monitoring of these threats. But, unfortunately, we have not received a positive response, although consultations are continuing. While the situation in this sphere is not completely hopeless, let me repeat that we are not happy with the decisions that have been taken and we will be forced to seek appropriate answers to them.
This situation shows how useful collective security measures and collective ways of responding to existing problems are compared with unilateral actions. And I believe that humankind as a whole and those who live in Europe in particular are ready to establish universal protective mechanisms, to agree on coordinated work in this area, rather than trying to develop new unilateral mechanisms that effectively undermine the current security system.
But the worst thing to do would be simply pull up the drawbridge and abandon talks altogether. Of course we are ready to continue negotiations in all these areas, in any way, shape or form as they say, with our European and American partners, including the missile defence issue.
Sun Binzhuan: In a lighter vein, I wonder if I could ask a question that is certainly of great interest for our audience and for everyone in China.
We know that you're a big sports fan. We would like to know what you are hoping your Russian athletes will achieve at the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, so that we can tell the Chinese public about this.
Dmitry Medvedev: Let me begin by saying that you have saved the most interesting question for last. More seriously, I am confident that the People's Republic of China will make sure that the summer Olympics go off without a hitch, and we are confident that in this sense our Chinese friends are going to enjoy a splendid success.
We love sport in Russia and a large number of our fans, a large number of our people, will be supporting our athletes and gluing themselves to their television screens. Some of them will go in the People's Republic of China to cheer for our athletes. I think that at least half the country will be very interested in following the developments of the Chinese Olympics. In this sense, there is no doubt that during this period sports programmes will have the highest television ratings.
Russia has an important sports tradition and we built many sports schools decades ago during the Soviet period. Suffice to say that there are 500 Olympic champions in our country today. That is quite a lot.
Sporting rivalry is the best kind of competition, the most peaceful, the most honourable. Now, I am sure our athletes are at the peak of their form and have been training to achieve the best results in Beijing. It's amazing to think that the Olympics begin in 80 days.
I won't specify the number of medals or those sports that we feel we'll do best in, so as not to create any false impressions. But I am sure that our athletes will be able to rise to the occasion and acquit themselves admirably. In any case, a number of recent sporting achievements have convinced our fans that Russian sport is enjoying a renaissance, and this is very good because such achievements at the highest levels automatically lead to more people getting physical exercise, which in turn improves the health of the nation. And what could be more important for a country?
In general, we will be cheering on our athletes as enthusiastically as possible, so that we can at least provide them with moral support.
Once again I wish our Chinese friends every success in holding the summer Olympics in Beijing: its significance for the whole planet is what makes it such an important event.
Ju Mengjun: Thank you, dear Dmitry Anatolevich, for finding time in such a busy schedule to answer our questions. We wish you success in carrying out your important new job and in improving the lives of your people and the development of your country.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much for those kind wishes.
I am now preparing to visit the People's Republic of China. Once again, I would like to convey my best wishes to all our Chinese friends. I am confident that the visit will be a very cordial encounter that will lead to excellent results. This cordiality has been a feature of Russian-Chinese relations in recent years, which is very important for the development of our countries and our peoples.
Ju Mengjun: I thank you.
Ma Li: The Chinese feel they know you very well.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Ma Li: You have already done an interview on the Internet for Chinese users.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I did an Internet press conference some time ago.
Ma Li: I would like to use this occasion to ask you to express your best wishes to the Chinese people, which we will pass on to them via the People's Daily [Renmin Ribao].
Dmitry Medvedev: With pleasure.
I wish all readers of the People's Daily and all our Chinese friends success and prosperity!