The 5th Eastern Economic Forum ended yesterday. Although the main attention was attracted by the Indian delegation, the Russian-Chinese negotiations held within the framework of the WEF were traditionally productive. Special importance was attached to them by the figure of the deputy Chinese Prime Minister Hu Chunhua, who is expected to succeed President Xi Jinping. About the key areas of cooperation between China and Russia in the Far East, as well as about the prospects for combining the Eurasian Union and the Chinese initiative “Belt and Road” in an interview with the portal ” Eurasia.The expert ” was told by Xu Wenhong, Deputy Secretary General of the One Belt, One Road Center at the Academy of Social Sciences of the People’s Republic of China.

– The trade turnover between China and Russia in 2018 exceeded $100 billion, and now the goal of “$200 billion by 2024″has been set. How do you estimate this figure?

– Yes, the trade turnover between China and Russia in 2018 exceeded $100 billion, and there is also a good trend in the previous months of this year. The annual increase is almost 30%. Nevertheless, the goal to reach a turnover of $200 billion by 2024 also depends directly or indirectly on the growth of the world economy, the growth of the economies of Russia and China. In general, the set indicators are not easy, but, with efforts from both sides – they are very achievable.

– What areas do you consider the most promising for cooperation between Moscow and Beijing?

– Both sides can and do complement each other with their capabilities, and achievements in the development of the Far East in a short time can be very productive.

Such products as soy, corn, and milk from Russia have already appeared on the Chinese market. Russian ice cream, presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Chinese representative Xi Jinping in 2017 at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, is in particular demand.

High-quality goods from Russia have created a good image for themselves and laid a strong foundation for further development of the Chinese market.

The advantages of China are labor, capital and the market, the advantages of Russia are vast untapped territories, rich natural resources, etc., and it is unlikely that any other country in the development of the Russian Far East could replace China in its capabilities. The role of China in the development of the Russian Far East is unique and irreplaceable.

As for bilateral cooperation, cooperation in the energy sector and natural resources is traditional and basic. Cooperation in higher education, humanities and agricultural fields has been added to the new priorities – and its huge potential has not yet been exhausted, and cooperation in satellite navigation, nuclear energy, 5-generation [mobile communication] technologies, and the space field has recently been launched. Cooperation in these areas between the two great Powers is always in the focus of the attention of the world community.

– How do you assess the investment climate in the Russian Far East? What are the Russian authorities doing to increase its investment attractiveness?

– The development of the Far East is a cherished dream of Russia. To this end, the Russian government is taking a number of measures. Detailed laws and measures for the overall development of the Far East and strengthening mutual understanding between Russia and the North-Eastern region of China were taken by China in 2009. In 2014, serious steps were taken by the Russian government, including the creation of a free port in Vladivostok, the creation of special economic zones, etc. Compared to previous years, the investment climate between the countries has improved significantly in recent years.

But in practice, of course, everything is a little more unpredictable and the cases are different. For example, on the one hand, Russia has its own peculiarities, and this means that Chinese investors need to deepen their knowledge about this country. On the other hand, all relevant organizations from the Russian side have something else to work on. Only in practice, the advantages of China (labor, capital and the market) and the advantages of Russia (vast untapped territories, rich natural resources, etc.) are mutually adapted, and thus, the appearance and development of the Far East of the Russian Federation and the North-Eastern region of China will greatly change for the better in a short time.

– At a meeting with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Hu Chunhua, Putin noted the contribution of Chinese investors to the development of the Far East. In your opinion, what is the special potential for Chinese investors in the region?

– This time, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua met with President Putin at the 5th Eastern Economic Forum. As you know, the importance of the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia is on a par with the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, and thus demonstrates a special place in the development of the Far East for Russia. The Forum provides a platform for investors from all over the world, demonstrates the determination of the Russian government to develop the Far East.

At the meeting, Putin noted the contribution of Chinese investors to the development of the Russian Far East, gave the highest assessment to Chinese entrepreneurs, who attract more and more other investors from China, give them a chance to take part in this great cause.

As I know, the Far East has a huge potential in the construction of roads, bridges, ports, expanding trade facilities, and infrastructure construction. It provides Chinese businessmen with opportunities in many areas.

– Russia is a partner of China in the implementation of the “One Belt, One Road” program. What challenges does it face? In general, what do you see as the importance of China’s cooperation with Russia?

– Both countries are important powers on the Eurasian continent. Development, peace, stability the prosperity of China and Russia is a promise for prosperity, a guarantee of development, peace, stability, prosperity of the entire Eurasian continent, and even not only the Eurasian one. This is the importance of cooperation between China and Russia.

The main possible challenges in the implementation of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative from the Russian side, as I personally believe, are the picture drawn in the Western media about the possible competition and struggle between Russia and China in Central Asia.

Recently, there has been a tendency in the Western media to divide the relations between China and Russia, criticizing the friendship between the countries. Especially, the allegedly growing competitive struggle between China and Russia in Central Asia is very actively portrayed.

I myself consider such pictures very illusory. First, on the basis of a high strategic understanding, on May 9, 2015, President Xi and President Putin signed official documents on the partnership of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road Economic Belt in Moscow, and thereby laid a reliable foundation for cooperation between China and Russia in the implementation of projects.

Secondly, the “One Belt, One Road” initiative is a purely economic model, without geopolitical and military meaning. No one should be afraid of such an initiative of economic development. And the path to partnership within the framework of the initiative is open to everyone, everyone has the opportunity to take a direct part in it and experience for themselves whether there is a reason for fears or not.

Thirdly, as you know, there is still a lot of instability, terrorist threats and other hotbeds of tension in Central Asia. And real projects within the framework of the” One Belt, One Road ” can bring practical results to all participants of the initiative and thereby help to stabilize the situation in Central Asia. Both development and stability in Central Asia are also beneficial to Russia’s interests.

Fourth, it is the fact that some projects and routes within the framework of the” One Belt, One Road ” connect Russia and Central Asia, or pass through Russia, and thereby also benefit Russia.

China supplies only project builders to Central Asia, and does not create military bases. And Russia sees these advantages of Chinese initiatives and easily chooses friendly ideas of China as partners.

That is why I believe that all the ideas about the fierce competition and struggle in Central Asia between China and Russia are an artificially created illusion.

Published by the Center for the Study of China with the author’s permission.

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