President Vladimir Putin: Dear friends, allow me to wish you all a warm welcome to this meeting. I think it is highly symbolic that our meeting is taking place here in this ancient Chinese capital, the city of Xi’an. It is here that historical traditions and today’s rapidly developing China have come together most strikingly and harmoniously. Here we also find the pride of China, a part of its culture that is now listed in the UNESCO world heritage register – the imperial-era terracotta army. Here we can also see the skyscrapers of major banks and companies.
Russian-Chinese relations, too, go back through the centuries and combine a rich history with today’s successful and dynamic bilateral partnership. We place great importance on developing partnership relations between the Russian regions and the People’s Republic of China.
I would like to stress from the outset that one of the main aims of our two countries’ political dialogue is to foster broad cooperation between our business, scientific and education communities and to develop direct contacts between our citizens.
As you know, we had substantial and fruitful talks yesterday and today in Beijing with the President of the People’s Republic of China, Comrade Hu Jintao, and with other top Chinese officials.
I can say with utmost confidence that we have achieved much together. Above all, as Deng Xiaoping wisely put it, we were able to “close old problems”, in this case, the settlement of the border question.
Moreover, President Hu and I approved two major documents – a political declaration and a joint action plan for implementing the provisions of the Agreement on Good-neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. These documents set out a programme of concrete action for 2005–2008. Their aim is to strengthen our partnership and strategic cooperation in political, trade and economic and social and cultural areas, as well as to ensure closer coordination of our work together.
We set ourselves the ambitious goal of tripling our bilateral trade by 2010. What is important here is not just to increase the growth rate, but to change the quality of our trade itself, primarily through stepping up mutual investment and supplying high-added-value and science-intensive goods. We value Beijing’s decision to invest $12 billion in the Russian economy over the next 15 years.
The conclusion of bilateral talks on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation opens up substantial new opportunities. China is one of the first countries to sign an agreement of this kind with Russia. I am sure that having both our countries in the WTO will make our bilateral business ties more intensive, more productive and of greater use for both countries.
Dear colleagues and friends, the regional leaders gathered here are all involved in establishing direct trade and economic ties. You, of course, know well what the problems are here and what opportunities we have for expanding our cooperation.
It is obvious to all of us that this cooperation brings us mutual and real benefits. It is not by chance that the number of twinned cities and regions is growing. In Russia, 60 cities and regions have now established such ties.
Regional cooperation is growing fast as a share of the overall volume of trade and business ties. Direct contacts developed actively in the Siberian, Far East and Central Federal Districts over 2003–2004. Of course, to make this cooperation even more productive we need to coordinate the work of the central and regional authorities and the business community. The results achieved by regional cooperation will certainly have a positive impact on resolving tasks in the regions and also at national level.
Our meeting today is taking place in the administrative centre of Shaanxi Province. This is not by chance. Along with other Chinese provinces and autonomous regions it is part of China’s national programme for large-scale development of its western regions.
I believe there is every opportunity for a number of Russian regions and also Russian state authorities and business circles to become involved in this programme. By cooperating on this strategic programme to be carried out over fifty years, we would be doing much to help develop the entire economic, infrastructure and transport configuration of the vast Eurasian region.
In particular, we could look at Russian equipment and machinery producers taking part in tenders for such major projects as the construction of the world’s highest-altitude railway – the Qinghai-Tibet railway – or the series of hydroelectric power stations in Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces and also oil and gas infrastructure and energy projects in the western part of China.
Geological exploration and transport of mining, energy and hydrocarbon resources also offer many opportunities for work together. Russia has the great experience, technology and specialists needed for this kind of work.
Moreover, the western regions of China traditionally produce consumer goods and medicines, and not only the Russian Far East but also Russia’s central regions could be of interest to it as a market.
China’s western provinces are home to a well-developed scientific and production complex working in both civilian and military areas. This also opens up opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in scientific developments, high technology and training specialists.
We also have considerable resources to draw on in tourism, sport, culture and the arts through “people’s diplomacy” programmes and exchanges and through youth cooperation. Our foreign policy officials should work rapidly on examining the question of opening new consulates, in particular in Urumqi and Novosibirsk. In this respect the integration mechanisms of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation offer us many possibilities.
Dear friends, I have just given a brief outline of the main areas in which we can develop inter-regional cooperation. I am sure that you know the real prospects better than I. Of course, we need to be more active in holding various information events, organising forums, meetings and conferences and more actively communicating with each other.
I want to assure you that this work will receive the political support it needs both from the Russian and the Chinese authorities. I have no doubts on this point given the nature and level of the relations we have achieved between our two countries.
Thank you for your attention.