Vladimir Putin: Thank you, dear friends.
First of all, let me reassure you so that you do not get scared: I am not going to read the whole book, because I have already read all of it. It is a book by a person who commands respect not only in his own country, but in Russia as well; a man who is loved in many countries of the world, President Jiang Zemin. It is a book about socialism with a Chinese face, published in Russia. And before I speak I would be glad to present a Russian translation of the book to the rector as a gift to your university.
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I must say that when we welcomed President Jiang Zemin in Moscow a year ago, he also agreed to speak at Moscow University. His speech was in Russian. I must apologise to you, unfortunately, I cannot reciprocate and address you in Chinese. Honestly, I wish I could. Anyway, allow me to give an overview of how we in Russia see the present-day world and the future of our relations, the relations between Russia and China.
The rector and President Jiang Zemin have just briefed me on the history of your university.
Beijing University is not just the most authoritative and oldest educational establishment in your country. Beida, as Beijing University is called here, is a symbol of the history and the present-day dynamic development of China.
We in Russia know that the students and professors of Beijing University spearheaded the May 4 Movement, as President Jiang Zemin told me this morning. And the national patriotic upsurge generated in those days went a long way in determining the historical breakthrough that China made in the 20th century.
Graduates of your university are known not only in your country, but far beyond it. They are modern highly-educated specialists brought up in the traditions of the millennia-old Chinese culture. And today they influence the shaping of China’s policy, its economy and science. And they contribute a great deal to the shaping of its relations with the world community, strengthening your country’s position in the world.
I am aware that there are graduates of Soviet and Russian education institutions in this hall, and it gives me particular pleasure to welcome them. I know that many of you share not only fruitful cooperation, but personal friendship with your colleagues in Russia.
Your joint creative and business successes are examples of effective cooperation and partnership. And the accumulated reservoir of good will is a serious basis for this work.
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A landmark event in the life of China, the 16th Congress of the Communist Party of China, has just ended. The Congress outlined the programme of the country’s modernisation for the coming decades and formulated its foreign policy course. It confirmed the continuity of the policy of the PRC in the relations with the Russian Federation.
And today I would like to share my ideas about the key problems in the present-day world with this audience, a very demanding and interested audience. And of course I would like to speak about the opportunities opening up for cooperation between Russia and China.
Russia and China are two unique world civilisations. That is how we are perceived in the world. That goes a long way in determining the content of our bilateral relations and the place of Russia and China in the modern world.
Our peoples have a rich thousand-year-old culture and spiritual heritage. We are loyal to that heritage in this rapidly changing world.
In the 20th century both Russia and China experienced major historical trials. They experienced profound social transformations. And today the two countries are tackling tasks that are in many ways similar.
On the one hand, we have to work hard to modernise the economy and make it more effective. On the other hand, we are strengthening our national positions in the international economic and financial systems. And I think we can and must mutually support each other in these matters. We spent some time discussing these issues with the Chinese leaders yesterday, and I think those who say that our potentials can effectively complement each other are right.
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We have covered a long road during a historically short time span proceeding from the perceived real interests of the two countries. We have covered the road from stereotypes to mutual understanding and a high level of trust, from general agreements to relations of true strategic partnership.
At the end of our talk yesterday President Jiang Zemin summed up the results of ten years of cooperation. His assessments are absolutely correct. I fully agree with him.
Russia knows about the successes achieved by the Chinese people under the leadership of President Jiang Zemin. It is not by chance that this period in China’s recent history is called the great era of innovation and renaissance. I think innovation and renaissance would be an appropriate description of the last decade in the relations between our two countries.
We are not just good neighbours. We are equal partners who respect each other’s interests. And proceeding from these principles for relations, we signed the Treaty on Neighbourly Relations, Friendship and Cooperation last year.
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Our countries, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, bear a special responsibility for the maintenance of global peace and stability.
That responsibility is particularly great today when the processes of globalisation change and lend a new structure to the political, economic and financial relations among states in the world. These processes should be made more governable and predictable. Otherwise, short-sighted egoism can pose a danger to even the most powerful states in the world.
Today Russia and China have important common tasks: the fight against extremism and separatism, the prevention of regional conflicts and countering cross-border crime. Ensuring stability in Asia is a serious task. It looks as if this region has increasingly been the target of the criminal designs and actions of international terrorists.
In connection with this, I believe we should improve our coordination in the fight against terrorism. It is necessary to continue joint work to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of nuclear and other sensitive technologies.
It is necessary that not only the states, but the business and scientific communities and social groups unite their efforts. In short, what is needed is a concentration of the intellectual potential to work out comprehensive solutions to key contemporary problems.
In implementing these solutions we will proceed from the norms of international law, the goals and principles of the UN Charter. We will make active use of the universal character and potential of that organisation and its institutions. And in resolving crisis situations we will give priority to political and diplomatic methods within the framework of the UN Security Council resolutions.
Neglect of international agreements and understandings is absolutely unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is the practice of “double standards” and attempts at the uni-lateral use of force. On that issue, our foreign policy approaches and priorities are absolutely identical with those of China.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
We see this Russian-Chinese summit as a milestone in the relations between our two states.
Today millions of people are involved in cooperation between China and Russia. It is a multi-level system of contacts, exchanges and links in the most diverse areas. We must constantly feed new ideas and initiatives to this living organism.
We already have many interesting programmes, including in the spheres of energy, high technologies and transport. These projects do not only bring tangible benefits and create new jobs. In fact they are changing the configuration of the economic infrastructure in Eurasia. That is our common contribution to the development of integration processes in the world.
I believe that scientific and technical cooperation between the two countries is opening up new opportunities. All the more so because we have a solid base, a rich experience of decades of joint work in diverse areas of science and technology. Modern joint developments in the sphere of high technologies have a big future. Given proper support on the part of our governments they can well occupy a worthy place in world markets.
Coordinated efforts in the protection of the environment are very important. The scientists of our countries are well equipped to coordinate their actions in fighting the diseases that threaten the health and the very future of humankind.
The benefits of joint work are manifesting themselves in the regions of Russia and China. I believe that direct cooperation between regions can be a key element in our bilateral ties. It is not by chance that the Russian delegation today includes the Presidential Envoy to the Siberian Federal District and the heads of some regions of the Russian Federation adjacent to Chinese territory who are actively cooperating with their colleagues, the governors of these Chinese provinces.
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The pace of the development of our humanitarian cooperation is highly indicative. Early results of the work of the inter-governmental commission on humanitarian issues at the level of the deputy prime ministers of the two states are already apparent.
Centres for the Russian language in China and for the Chinese language in Russia are developing. A decision has been taken to create cultural centres and hold annual festivals of the two countries’ cultures. Our plans include the promotion of cooperation in sports, tourism, cinema, and the mass media. China won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, and we are sure it will be a highlight of international life, of international sporting life. I am sure that China will prepare well for that major event. And we wish success to the Chinese athletes.
Finally, we have started creating joint educational establishments. It is heartening that Beijing University is a leader in this effort. As your rector told me a few minutes ago, Beijing University and Moscow University have jointly set up a post-graduate school.
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I had a meeting with the General-Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Comrade Hu Jintao, yesterday. I believe there is every chance that our relations with the representatives of the “fourth generation of leaders” will be as good and personal as with their predecessors.
The scale of the tasks we are contemplating today is very large. Many of them will have to be tackled by young people, above all, the young people of Russia and China.
Chinese philosophy is full of wise sayings. One of them goes like this: “May the descendants enjoy the cool in the shade of the trees planted by their ancestors”. The saplings of friendship planted by our peoples have already grown into powerful trees. And I am sure that you will not only give due credit for what has been done, but will yourselves initiate many good deeds which will benefit our great peoples.
In conclusion I would like to thank you for the warm reception and wish success to your university, and of course prosperity and happiness to all the Chinese people.
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Question: Mr President, I am a teacher of the Russian language and literature. We are aware that our country’s leaders have a keen interest in Russian culture. For example, during the visit to Tsarskoye Selo our President Jiang Zemin recited Pushkin’s poetry. Can you tell us what are your usual means for becoming acquainted with the Chinese culture and China in general? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Speaking about President Jiang Zemin, he does not only read poetry in Russian, he also sings Russian songs. He also speaks and sings in English and in Italian.
And I must say that in the club of the heads of state who are constantly “schmoosing” with one another, as our young people say, and gathering to solve various issues President Jiang Zemin is regarded with great respect and affection. I can hardly keep up with him. I am not even trying.
As regards Chinese history, culture, philosophy and literature, I can tell you that there has been genuine and great interest in all this in Russia throughout the history of the Russian state.
We often use the expression “great country”, “great nation”, “great state”. If there is one country to which these terms are fully applicable, it is China on account of its great culture.
Our school and university curricula have references to Chinese culture, although not as many as there should be. It is always a presence in the intellectual environment in Russia.
Today young people in our country show a growing interest in China in general and in the Chinese language and Chinese culture in particular.
I have already said in my interview with the Chinese television that my daughters have taken up wushu, much to my surprise. And one of them recently began studying Chinese, and she does it very seriously. She meets her tutor several times a week. I must confess that it came as a total surprise to me, and that means that there is such a desire among our young people. She is 16 years old. Of course it indicates a growing interest in China. So, I am getting another very handy channel for obtaining information about your country.
Question: The process of reforms leads to a redistribution of interests. Mr Putin, when you introduce such bold reforms in Russia how do you solve and regulate the issues connected with the redistribution of interests? Especially when your actions and measures prevent certain groups of individuals from pursuing their interests?
Vladimir Putin: All reforms affect someone’s interests. The main thing is that the reforms contribute to higher economic growth, the development of the country, higher standards of living for the mass of the population, for the overwhelming majority of people. Then these actions will be well grounded and well understood.
And secondly, everything should be planned and implemented in the most transparent way possible. Then even insignificant miscalculations and mistakes can be identified and conclusions can be drawn not only by the planners and executors, but by the whole society in order to rectify them and move in the right direction. I don’t think it should be seen as some kind of tragedy. I repeat: the main thing is that all the measures should pursue the national interest and that all the measures should be implemented democratically, should be transparent and understandable for ordinary people.
Question: My question is about the relations between Russia, NATO and the United States. NATO is rapidly expanding to the east. We believe that the three Baltic countries will soon also become members of the NATO alliance. We know that these countries have always been a “buffer zone” between Russia and the NATO countries. Do you believe that Russia will be able to rebuild a “buffer zone” between Russia and NATO? And the second question is about the relations between Russia and the US in Central Asia and on the Caspian Sea. The character of the relations between your two countries is similar to your relations with NATO. In the current situation where Russia has certain questions for the US, how will Russia regulate its relations and links with the US in Central Asia and in the Caspian in connection with the development of oil there?
Vladimir Putin: As regards NATO. That bloc was created during the period of confrontation between the two social-political and world systems, the Warsaw Pact on one side and NATO on the other. That was the underlying reason for the creation of that bloc. During that period of time, there was a certain balance between the two blocs. That equilibrium largely ensured stability and international peace.
Now there is no Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, which used to be the core of that bloc, no longer exists. On the face of it, there is no reason for NATO to exist. So they are looking around for something to do. There is no enemy. So, who should they fight against? You are laughing, but in reality it is a very serious question.
At the same time new threats have emerged: international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, various kinds of extremism, including political and religious. They all existed before, but now these “diseases” have become particularly acute. They have become global and they threaten the whole world and international peace.
The leaders of the main NATO member countries more and more often speak about the need for transformation, a change of that organisation’s priorities.
We too believe that these are real threats today. It is to counter these threats that we have created together with NATO a joint organisation “at twenty”, that is, the 19 NATO countries plus Russia. We are pleased with the way our joint work in these areas is proceeding. We do not rule out that if our national interests are taken into account and if NATO really transforms itself, our relations with that organisation may expand.
As regards NATO expansion, our reaction is negative. We do not see why it should expand and believe that the very fact of mechanical expansion does not strengthen international security. But, to be absolutely frank and objective, I must say that any country has the right to choose the system of its own security as it sees fit. Secondly, I repeat, to be quite objective one has to admit that the countries which are joining NATO apparently feel that it creates a situation of belonging to the Western club, a situation of stability, and that it ensures better conditions for political and economic development.
As for the “buffer zone,” it is necessary if there is a hostile environment beyond that “buffer”. We wouldn’t like anyone to believe that the environment that lies beyond the borders of the Baltic states is hostile to Russia.
We will build relations of friendship and equal partnership with all the countries, including those in Europe, with all the NATO countries. We expect them to reciprocate. If we are met with a different attitude, Russia will react accordingly.
Regarding our relations with the US. It is one of our biggest trade and economic partners. It is our partner in the anti-terrorist coalition. Our joint actions in this area are quite effective.
At the same time I must say that we do not always see eye-to-eye with the United States on key issues. We believe steering our relations towards a confrontation would be absolutely counterproductive. On the issues over which we differ with the United States we will of course uphold our national interests, on all the issues and in all the regions.
As regards the Caspian Sea, of course, we have our interests there, both economic and political, and we will persistently work towards the goals we set ourselves. That applies to the Caspian Sea zone, which is rich in energy resources and oil. We may have some shared interests with the United States there. Interests change, especially in the field of energy, and some changes are happening due to the instability in the Middle East. The world economy is interested in having stable supplies of energy from new regions. One of the few regions that can provide the necessary volume, quality and logistics of supplies is Russia, Siberia, the Far East and the Caspian region. That is a large-scale project in which there is room for everyone, and everyone can make major gains. That is how we intend to proceed. We hope that our partners will respond in kind.