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Cooperation Across the Continent: How Russian-Chinese Relations Evolved in Recent Years
23.09.2019 17:45

Russian-Chinese relations have been actively developing in various fields and are characterised by a strong legal framework and extensive organisational structure.

The People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations on 2 October 1949. The Soviet Union became the first foreign state to recognise China.

On 24 December 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Chinese government recognised Russia as a legal successor of the former Soviet Union's international rights and obligations.

The basic principles and directions of bilateral cooperation are reflected in the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between Russia and China of 16 July 2001.

Both sides officially identify current Russian-Chinese relations as a comprehensive, equal and trusting partnership and strategic cooperation.

Top-Level Talks

The two states maintain intensive political dialogue. Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been meeting at least five times a year.

In 2018, Putin paid a state visit to China from 8-10 June. On the first day of his visit, Putin held talks with Xi. Besides that, Xi awarded the Order of Friendship of the People's Republic of China to the Russian president. The leaders visited the city of Tianjin. As part of his state visit to China, Putin also met with Li.

On 26 July, Putin and Xi held a private meeting in the South African city of Johannesburg on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) summit.

From 11-12 September, at Putin's invitation, Xi for the first time took part in the work of the Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok. The two leaders held a meeting and visited a photo exhibition dedicated to the history of Russian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation.

On 15 November, Putin met with Li on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Singapore.

The next meeting between Putin and Xi was held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires on 30 November. The leaders of Russia, China and India also held a tripartite meeting.

From 25-27 April 2019, Putin paid a working visit to China to take part in the events of the second Belt and Road Forum. He held talks with Xi and, in addition, received an honorary doctorate diploma from one of the leading universities in China, Beijing's Tsinghua University.

On 13 May Putin received Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his presidential residence of Bocharov Ruchey in the Russian resort city of Sochi. Prior to that, Wang held negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

On 5 June, Xi travelled to Russia for a state visit and negotiations at the highest level took place. At the end of the Russian-Chinese talks, Putin and Xi arrived at the Moscow Zoo to take a look at a pavilion for big pandas, as China's government had previously decided to transfer two pandas there.

On the same day, Putin and Xi visited the Bolshoi Theater to attend a gala evening dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and China. The next day, Xi met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.

On 6 June the two leaders visited St. Petersburg State University, where Xi was awarded an honorary doctorate degree. A day later, Putin and Xi took part in the session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and met with the participants of the second Russian-Chinese energy forum.

On 14 June 2019, the two presidents met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek. After the summit, the leaders of Russia, China and Mongolia held a meeting.

A trilateral meeting of the leaders of Russia, China and India took place in Japan's Osaka on 28 June 2019 on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

On 5 September 2019 Putin met with Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua on the margins of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

The countries' heads of government have been meeting regularly since 1996.

From 5-7 November 2018, Medvedev paid an official visit to the PRC to take part in the 23rd regular meeting between the heads of government of Russia and China. During the visit, he was also received by Xi.

On 17 September 2019, the 24th regular meeting of the two countries' heads of government was held in St. Petersburg.

An interparliamentary commission for cooperation between Russia's Federation Council and the State Duma with China's National People's Congress is in operation. Both countries arrange a regular exchange of delegations through special parliamentary committees and commissions, as well as lawmakers' groups.

The two countries also hold regular consultations on strategic security issues, with the last one taking place in Moscow in August 2018.

The Chinese and Russian foreign ministers exchange annual visits and regularly meet on the sidelines of international events, including the events within the United Nations, G20, APEC, BRICS, and SCO. There is a system of scheduled consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers and heads of departments between the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries.

Russia and China voice coinciding or similar approaches toward principal issues on the international agenda, including the situation in Ukraine, the Korean peninsula, the Middle East and North Africa. It represents the foundation of their close cooperation in international affairs. Russia’s position on the Taiwan issue is set out in the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation and implies that there is only one China, with Taiwan being its integral part.

Economic Cooperation

Russian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation is a highly important element of bilateral relations. China has been Russia's largest trade partner since 2010.

The two heads of state set a goal of inc

reasing bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020 and bringing direct Chinese investment in the Russian economy to $12 billion.

At the end of 2018, China ranked first among Russia's top 5 trading partners.

Russian-Chinese trade in 2018 exceeded $100 billion for the first time in history. According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, the volume of bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $108 billion, showing an increase of 24.5 percent when compared to the previous year. Russian exports to China amounted to $56 billion, while imports totalled $52 billion.

In the first seven months of 2019, trade between the two countries amounted to $59 billion. Russia exported $30.9 billion worth of goods, while imports from China reached a value of $28.9 billion.

Russian exports to China mainly consist of mineral products; wood, pulp and paper products; food and agricultural raw materials; machines, equipment and transport vehicles; chemical products; metals and metallic products.

Russia's imports from its partner include machines, equipment and transport vehicles; textiles and shoes; chemical products; metals and metallic products; as well as food and agricultural raw materials.

Active investments are one of the priorities for the development of Russian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation. So far, mutual investment volumes lag behind those of bilateral trade. At the same time, China's investment in the Russian economy is much higher than Russia's investments in China.

There are currently about 30 investment projects with the participation of Chinese partners and Chinese capital in Russia. The projects total $22 billion, and a significant part of that money is invested in projects in the Russian Far East — $3.5 billion.

The Intergovernmental Russian-Chinese Commission on Investment Cooperation is implementing over 70 priority projects worth over $20 billion.

China primarily invests in Russia's energy resources, agriculture and forestry, construction industry and the manufacture of building materials, trade sector, consumer goods industry and the manufacture of textile.

The main spheres of Russian investments in China are goods-producing industries, the construction industry and freight shipments.

Cooperation in Fuel, Energy Sectors

Russian and Chinese companies jointly implement a number of large-scale projects in the following areas: fuel and energy, the nuclear power industry, the manufacture of civilian aircraft, the manufacture of rocket engines, satellite navigation systems, the construction of infrastructure facilities and others.

Russia is the largest exporter of fuel to the Chinese market. Russia delivered 71.4 million tons of oil to China in 2018, which is 20 percent more than in 2017.

Russian and Chinese energy companies jointly participate in the Yamal LNG (liquefied natural gas) project for producing and liquefying natural gas.

Chinese companies are actively involved in the work of the Free port of Vladivostok and the priority development areas in the Far East, participating in 30 projects. According to data for 2017, the total investment in these projects amounted to more than $4 billion. They cover agriculture and forestry, the manufacture of building materials, light industry, energy, mining, trade and other areas.

Military Cooperation

Russia remains a major supplier of military goods and services to China. In November 2018, the head of the Russian Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugaev, said that contracts with China in this area had amounted to $7 billion.

Culture, Tourism

Russia and China continue to actively develop cooperation in the areas of education, research and culture.

The two states also cooperate in tourism. According to Russia's TurStat analytic agency, 1.6 million Russian tourists visited China in 2018. Meanwhile, the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) reports that the number of Russian tourists to visit China in 2018 reached 2 million.

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