Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen! Distinguished colleagues!
We regard today’s Russian-Chinese summit as ushering in a new stage in bilateral relations. We have achieved the main goal of President Jiang’s visit by signing the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. With this, our positions on equal bilateral partnership and strategic interaction has received a reliable legal basis.
Just as in all our previous contacts, President Jiang Zemin and I met in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and friendly understanding. We confirmed once again our shared goodwill for ever closer bilateral partnership and cooperation in international affairs. Russia and China have for a long time—traditionally, I would say—shared stances on key contemporary issues. This point concerns maintaining international peace and global security, and our approach to settling regional problems. Economic cooperation is a firm basis for our partnership.
During the summit, we discussed in detail not only the prospects for stepping up our trade and economic contacts but also ambitious energy projects, the development of partnership in high technologies, etc. The Moscow Statement, which sums up the summit, charts practical ways to implement the treaty, and fixes the signatory countries’ stances on all topical matters.
President Jiang invited me to pay an official visit to China next year, and I gratefully accepted his invitation.
Question: The Presidents of China and Russia have had fruitful negotiations summed up in a treaty of tremendous importance for the further development of bilateral relations. Can you tell us about the content and meaning of this major instrument?
Vladimir Putin: President Jiang, my Chinese colleagues and I discussed the broadest possible range of issues. We talked about trade and economic contacts, human partnership, and coordination of efforts in global affairs. I agree with Mr Jiang’s opinion of the treaty we have signed today. It was Mr Jiang’s idea. It appeared as I was visiting China a year ago. At first, as we were informally exchanging opinions, President Jiang, who is certainly an expert on Sino-Russian relations, told me that analyses of our recent cooperation and of its legal basis showed that the time had come to draw up and sign a fundamental document.
After that, the Chinese delegation officially confirmed its opinion at the negotiation table, and we agreed, as could be expected. The treaty mainly concerns relations between two countries—China and Russia, but it will also be an important part of the whole of contemporary international relations. Predictable and resting on neighbourly contacts, the basic principles of international legal relationships between such powers as China and Russia will benefit international affairs as a whole. So the treaty will objectively promote world peace and stability. That is what we proceed from.
Question: What is the present state of Russian-Chinese trade and economic relations? Are there any problems in this field? To what trade turnover can our two countries aspire in the near future? As follows from the treaty signed here, our countries have no territorial claims on each other. Does this mean that the remaining border issues will be settled quite soon?
Vladimir Putin: Trade and economic contacts are certainly the basis for the development of our relations in all other fields. Our bilateral trade turnover slightly exceeds $8 billion today. It increased by 4.4% in 1999, as against 40% in 2000. We expect a 43–44% increase this year. We are realistic about the situation, and we know not only these inspiring statistics but also others, quite different. We know that Russia accounts for a mere 2% of China’s entire foreign trade turnover—but we have fine prospects. In what spheres, you may ask? Energy, most of all. China needs reliable energy imports, and Russia is willing to cooperate. I am grateful to the Chinese leadership and President Jiang for their prompt positive response to a question recently posed in Shanghai. It concerned the admittance of Gazprom to one of the most ambitious projects for the construction of gas networks in China. This is a good token. But, I repeat, we have even more ambitious plans based on shared interests.
We are willing to cooperate in the electrical energy industry, in particular, nuclear. We have major interests in engineering, high technologies and the peaceful use of space. Russia is offering China partnership in aircraft building. Russia is the world’s largest aluminium producer. Our contacts in all these fields must be practical to the utmost—and this is a far from exhaustive list of the spheres in which we can effectively cooperate for the benefit of the Chinese and Russian nations.
As for border issues settlement, the two Foreign Ministries have done a huge job, so 90% or even more of the issues have been settled by now. There are only two small stretches of border left. Both Russia and China are determined to bring the settlement to a successful conclusion. Many experts attach tremendous importance to border settlement problems. I agree with them. But then, I want to stress that we never use such terms in official documents, and this is correct. What we are concerned with here are not problems but questions still to be solved. They do not defy solution, and we have set deadlines for doing so. We have come to an accord on many issues, and I think we shall come to an accord here, too. As we were discussing those themes today, we quoted a known phrase of Deng Xiaoping: “Put an end to the past, and open up the way to the future!”