Question: Your Excellency, Mr President, your upcoming visit to the People’s Republic of China coincides with the Year of Russia in China. During your visit you and President of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao will take part in the opening ceremony of the Year of Russia. What expectations do you have of your visit and of the Year of Russia in China?
Answer: First of all, I would like to give my greetings to the people of friendly China and wish our great neighbour peace and prosperity.
We in Russia highly value our relationship of close and genuine partnership with the People’s Republic of China. We have sincere respect for your visible economic achievements, your rapidly developing science and education and your growing international authority. We intend developing our bilateral relations with your country in all areas.
Our partnership today is underpinned by a solid legal foundation, above all by the Agreement on Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. This is the foundation upon which we are actively building our political dialogue and our cooperation in the areas of security and the economy.
We have great prospects indeed for joint work in the cultural and educational areas and for developing a broad-based information exchange. To speak frankly, our general impressions of each other are still based to a large degree on our past experience. This is why it is so important for the public in both our countries to become closer acquainted with life in today’s Russia and today’s China and to learn about the immense, positive achievements we have accomplished over these last years.
This fits in perfectly with the objectives underlying the joint decision to hold the Year of Russia in China and the Year of China in Russia. Genuinely memorable, big events will be held as part of these National Years. Their principle goal is to bring our citizens even closer together and enrich the Russian-Chinese palette of constructive cooperation with new projects and ideas. Ultimately, the goal is to take the strategic partnership between our two countries to a new level.
We place great significance on this initiative and we plan for the opening ceremony of the Year of Russia in China to be the central event of our upcoming visit to your country.
Of course, as complex and multifaceted a task as strengthening the understanding and friendship between our peoples cannot be limited to the events organised as part of the Year of Russia in China. This work must be an ongoing activity aimed at all-round development of our scientific, cultural, sports, youth, tourism and other exchanges. We already have experience of this kind of cooperation and we are already seeing the real benefits it brings.
Regarding my upcoming visit to China, it is always with pleasure that I meet with President of the People’s Republic of China Hu Jintao and with other Chinese leaders. I greatly value their warm and friendly attitude towards Russia and its people and their firm desire to develop our cooperation. I therefore expect new important and concrete results from this visit, results that will enable us to make the strategic partnership between our countries even stronger. I have no doubt that the upcoming talks will be a success.
Question: Last year saw the all-round development of the strategic partnership relations between China and Russia. Both sides believe that relations between our two countries have never yet been at such a good stage of development. How do you view the prospects for Russian-Chinese relations?
Answer: The positive development of relations between our countries is convincing proof that pragmatism and constructive dialogue are far more beneficial than making claims against each other and endlessly turning back to controversial moments in our history.
Together we have succeeded in resolving all the major political issues that lay between our two countries, including the border issue, and have moved on to an overall new level of mutual trust. Our countries work together actively on the international stage, cooperate closely in the global and regional organisations and are allies in the fight against terrorism and other modern threats. Our trade and economic ties are showing very positive growth and our investment cooperation is on the increase, as is our work together in the high-technology sphere.
As we see it, the outlook is most favourable for relations between Russia and China in every area. And we will continue to make every effort to ensure their consistent and ongoing development. We will patiently resolve all the questions still to be settled and will not let any difficulties stop us.
I am sure that as close a strategic partnership as ours is in the long-term interests of both countries and peoples. Our partnership is also a positive factor in the world order and it works towards the goal of modernisation, which both our countries are pursuing.
Question: As permanent members of the UN Security Council and as major powers that have an immense impact on the world, China and Russia have common or similar positions on many important international issues. The solid relations between our two countries have already become an important factor in maintaining international peace and stability. What impact will deeper and closer strategic cooperation between Russia and China in international affairs have on the structure of international relations in your view?
Answer: Russia and China follow similar principles in their foreign policy – pragmatism and a consistent stand in support of their national interests.
Once again, I say that the experience of cooperation between our two countries shows very clearly that coordination and cooperation between Russia and China is a stabilising factor in world affairs. What lies at the foundation of this positive influence, in my firm belief, is the very approach our two countries take to resolving the problems facing modern civilisation and global and regional policy issues. Rather than imposing our point of view by force and flexing our muscles, we consistently support a political and diplomatic approach to conflict resolution. We respect our partners’ interests and we seek in turn respect for our interests and our sovereignty. Finally, Russia and China are both firm supporters of building a genuinely democratic system of international relations based on equality of opportunity for all countries, large and small.
Our basic approach is set out in the Joint Declaration on the International Order in the Twenty-First Century that President Hu Jintao and I signed on July 1, last year. This is a serious, system-building document that makes a significant contribution to creating the global security and stability architecture.
Like our Chinese partners, we are preoccupied by the fact that the construction of the new international order for the twenty-first century is taking place slowly and unevenly. On the one hand, globalisation, with the completely new dynamics of trade and economic relations and the scientific and technological progress it brings with it, is opening up unprecedented new opportunities for humanity. On the other hand, it is giving rise to acute contradictions that are making themselves felt in all areas of human life.
Countries have become far more interdependent and are now intricately bound together in their quest for security and prosperity. We face serious challenges that are cross-border and genuinely global in nature. The practice of double standards is having a negative impact on world affairs. Serious problems remain in the area of arms control and non-proliferation. The symptoms of a conflict between civilisations are becoming more and more apparent, provoked not only by terrorists and all manner of extremists but also by ‘one-size-fits-all’, ideology-driven approaches to international relations, attempts to ‘export democracy’ by force and to impose one’s own cultural and social standards and values on others.
Russia and China support strengthening the legal foundations of international politics and on this basis building better managed global development. We believe that we must develop a collective awareness of the contradictions of globalisation and its negative consequences for social policy, the unique national heritage of each country and the diversity of cultures and civilisations in our world. Our countries support international law and order and have spoken in favour of balanced reform of the United Nations and its Security Council on the basis of broad consensus among the organisation’s members. We have likewise spoken in favour of strengthening strategic stability and the international non-proliferation regime. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the international community’s efforts to prevent the threats to security and sustainable development posed by international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organised crime, drugs trafficking, environmental degradation, poverty and epidemics depends to a large extent on how Russia and China work together.
With their fast growing economies, Russia and China are having an ever greater impact on the formation of a new international economic order. We strive to make non-discriminatory principles the foundation for relations in the areas of world trade and finances.
Russia and China have traditionally promoted the ideas of interethnic and inter-religious tolerance and support concerted efforts by the international community to maintain peace and harmony between civilisations. Our two countries are themselves an example of an international partnership that is open and is not based on any closed groups or blocs. The strategic cooperation between Russia and China is transparent, is not directed against any other country, and makes a real contribution to improving the world order.
The vast majority of countries share these approaches and recognise the need for broad-based dialogue on the issue of the world order in the twenty-first century. I am therefore certain that Russia’s and China’s role in global politics and the need for our constructive positions that are in the interests of the entire international community are only set to grow, and that the number of those who share our views will increase.
Question: Bilateral trade between Russia and China exceeded the $20-billion mark in 2004 and came to $29 billion in 2005. How do you evaluate the current situation and development outlook for our bilateral trade and economic ties? Energy cooperation is an important component of our bilateral trade and economic cooperation. How do you assess our cooperation in this area?
Answer: Over recent years our bilateral trade with China has been growing considerably faster overall than the Russian Federation’s foreign trade in general. Trade between our countries rose by 37.1 percent in 2005 and Russia increased its share in overall trade with China and has solidly established itself as one of China’s top ten trading partners.
Our investment cooperation is also showing confident growth. A total of 557 Chinese investment projects are currently being realised in Russia. Two annual Russian-Chinese investment forums have been held and have resulted in preliminary approval of 19 Chinese investment projects in the Russian Federation for a total of around $2 billion. Practical implementation of most of these projects is already underway.
It is pleasing to see that capital is also flowing from Russia to China and that, according to various estimates, Russian investment in China now exceeds $500 million.
But this overall positive picture of trade and economic cooperation between our countries is nonetheless not all perfect. We cannot close our eyes to the problems that exist. Chief among these is that the structure of our bilateral trade, above all that of Russia’s exports to China, does not reflect our possibilities. Russian exports of machinery and equipment to China almost halved in 2005 and fell as an overall share of Russian exports. At the same time, we see a steady rise of this category of goods flowing from China to Russia.
Of course, we are happy for the successes of our Chinese friends, but we believe that we should make a more active joint effort to promote Russian machinery and equipment on the Chinese market, especially as concerns the segments in which our goods have undisputed competitive advantages. This goes above all for equipment for the nuclear and conventional energy sectors and for the mining industry.
We should not forget that the increasing raw materials bias of Russia’s exports to China carries with it the threat of potential instability of our bilateral trade. Six types of goods account for around two thirds of our export value: oil, lumber, oil products, fish and seafood, potash fertiliser and iron ore. But these goods’ value depends greatly on price fluctuations on the world markets. If prices fall this could have a negative impact on the growth outlook for our bilateral trade. I think therefore that changing the structure of Russian exports to China should become a priority for both sides. I hope that the implementation of the Russian-Chinese Trade and Economic Cooperation Development Programme for 2006–2010 will help resolve this problem. Russian and Chinese specialists are currently in the process of completing work on this programme.
I agree with you that cooperation in the energy sector is one of the most important elements of our trade and economic cooperation. I think that our work together in this sector is developing well and that the long-term prospects are very good. Supplies of oil from Russia to China are showing stable growth. The Russian Federation has taken the decision to build a pipeline system from Eastern Siberia to the Pacific coast and Russian and Chinese organisations are discussing the question of building a branch pipeline to connect this system to China. If this project goes ahead successfully it would considerably increase oil supplies from Russia to China.
Cooperation in the gas sector is another very promising area. This cooperation is already going ahead under the agreement on strategic cooperation between Gazprom and CNPC. I also wanted to note in this context the cooperation on building underground gas reservoirs in China. Practical work on these projects has already begun. This is particularly important to us because this cooperation goes beyond simply supplying Russian natural gas to China. We are also examining various options for building a gas pipeline that could link our two countries.
Our cooperation in the electricity sector is also showing good progress. Here we are seeing the conditions emerge for a transition from simply selling electricity to carrying out a major joint project that would involve attracting Chinese investment to the construction of a number of electricity generation plants and other facilities in Russia and subsequent supply of electricity, including to the Chinese market. I hope that our companies will succeed in agreeing all the conditions necessary for carrying out this project on a mutually beneficial basis.
Question: From the moment it was created the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has played an important part in preserving stability and facilitating regional development. How do you asses the organisation’s development prospects?
Answer: On June 15 this year we will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Shanghai Declaration together with our partners, including with our Chinese friends. From the perspective of history, not a lot of time has passed since the Shanghai Cooperation was established. I would like to note, however, that its members have not only reached the objectives they set at the time the organisation was created, but have gone far beyond the initially defined goals.
Today we can say that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has become a full-fledged regional integration organisation and is now expanding its work in the economy, in social and humanitarian affairs and in other areas. The organisation is making active use of its potential for strengthening regional stability and security and for combating terrorism, separatism and extremism. What’s more, we are expanding our cooperation to other countries in the region. Along with the six founding members, politically and economically important countries such as India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have been granted observer status and have expressed their desire to take part in our joint plans.
Today the organisation seeks to develop forms of cooperation that would have the most positive and tangible impact on the everyday lives of the three billion people whose countries have united under its aegis.
I think that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit scheduled to take place in mid-June this year will result in decisions that will not only confirm the innovative principles underlying the ‘Shanghai spirit’, but will also develop them further and reflect our commitment to a new kind of international cooperation based on openness and a willingness to work together with everyone who aspires to a fairer and more secure system of international relations. I am sure that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s members, including the People’s Republic of China, which is chairing the organisation in this anniversary year, will be up to this task.
Question: You have a happy family. We have heard that one of your daughters is studying Chinese. What level has she reached in her studies? Could you tell us a little about your family?
Answer: My daughters are studying Chinese martial arts and one of them is indeed studying the Chinese language. I completely understand her choice because it gives her the chance to get to know in the original your literature and your rich spiritual and philosophical heritage.
Interest in your country, in its unique history, traditions and culture, is growing in general in Russia. This is perfectly natural given modern China’s influence and its immense importance in world politics and the world economy. The rapid development of relations between our two countries and the establishment of bilateral relations in many different areas is also playing its part in this process. Knowing the Chinese language has become the key to success for many Russian businesspeople, opening up to them not just the market in your country but also enabling them to work effectively in many countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, where members of the overseas Chinese community have established strong economic positions. I am sure that the closer the partnership between our countries, the more people on each side of the border will study the Russian and Chinese languages and the better we will come to know each other.