A New Chapter in China-Russia Strategic Partnership

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-11-07 16:28
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President Xi Jinping’s choice of Russia for his first foreign visit as president demonstrated the significance that the leaders of both countries attach to Sino-Russian relations, coming as a sign that relations between China and Russia have reached a historic high. This was a fruitful, historic, and pragmatic visit that not only provided a significant boost to the China-Russia comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership, but also contributed positively to the safeguarding of peace and stability regionally and even globally.

I. A new era in China-Russia relations

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, the leaders of the two countries set out to take relations between China and Russia to a new stage, and thereby provide impetus to push the international order and system in the direction of greater fairness and equity. In his speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, President Xi said, “China and Russia are both at important stages of their national rejuvenation. Relations between the two countries have entered a new stage in which each provides the other with important development opportunities, and each regards the other as a principal and priority collaborative partner.” The China-Russia Joint Statement on Mutually Beneficial Cooperation and the Deepening of Comprehensive Strategic Collaborative Partnership also clearly states that the two countries will raise their comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership of equality, mutual trust, mutual support, common prosperity, and lasting friendship to a new level, and make this the priority direction in their diplomacy. This indicates that the upgrading of ties between China and Russia has become an important strategic consensus and a common desire that accords to the interests of both countries.


Performers take to the stage for the Chinese half of the opening ceremony of the Fourth China-Russia Cultural Festival, which was launched on Century Plaza in Heihe City, China, on August 7, 2013. The themes of this year’s festival were cultural trade, cultural exchanges, friendly cooperation, and thriving development. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Wang Jianwei

There are numerous meeting points between the blueprints that China and Russia have proposed for their national development. The “Chinese dream” is about achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Essentially speaking, it pertains to realizing the strength and prosperity of the country, the reinvigoration of the nation, and the wellbeing of the people. China has set out the goals of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the time the CPC celebrates its centenary, and turning China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the time the People’s Republic of China marks its centennial. Russia has set the goal of raising its GDP per capita to the level of developed countries, or close to that level, by the year 2020, thereby making strides towards its target of strength and prosperity. The realization of the Chinese dream will not only benefit the Chinese people, but also the people of the world; while a strong and prosperous Russia is not only in the interests of China, but also favorable to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world.

What effect will China’s rapid development have on Russia strategically? In early 2012, Vladimir Putin, then Prime Minister of Russia, gave a clear answer to this important question when he was running for president. He made the following assertions: First, China’s economic growth is by no means a threat to Russia, but a chance for Russia to catch the Chinese wind in the sails of its economy. Second, a developing China will not seek dominance in international affairs. Third, China and Russia have settled all the major political issues between them, and relations between China and Russia are an important model for the development of relations between major countries. These three assertions clearly demonstrate that President Putin firmly believes China’s development presents an opportunity to the world, and that he is willing to further promote the development of China-Russia relations. During a meeting with Russian guests at the end of 2012, General Secretary Xi Jinping highlighted two things that he said would not change: the policy of friendship towards Russia adhered to by the new central collective leadership of the CPC; and the strategy of giving priority to developing China-Russia ties, with China regarding Russia as its most important strategic collaborative partner. It is therefore evident that Chinese and Russian leaders have reached a consensus on further developing the comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership between the two countries.

President Putin once said, “Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and I am convinced that China needs a strong and successful Russia.” During his speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, President Xi Jinping made a positive response to President Putin’s assessment, pointing out: “The common development of our two countries will provide broader space for our comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership, and will provide impetus to push the international order and system in the direction of greater fairness and equity.”

II. Strengthening pragmatic cooperation is an important strategic task for China and Russia

At present, China and Russia are enjoying better relations than ever before. The constant development of political ties between the two countries is providing a political guarantee and foundation for cooperation in other areas. An important objective of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia was to convert the advantage of strong political ties between the two countries into solid achievements in cooperation, and to identify the expansion of pragmatic cooperation in all areas as a priority in the future development of bilateral relations, with a view to providing an important driving force for raising living standards in both countries. The leaders of China and Russia have made the important strategic assessment that the time and conditions are ripe for the two countries to carry out large-scale economic cooperation. Therefore, with a view to strengthening bilateral cooperation and increasing the overall strength of both countries, China and Russia have approved the Outline for Implementing the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation (2013-2016).

Cooperation in the fields of oil, natural gas, coal, electric power, and new energy sources, and the establishment of solid strategic cooperation in energy, represent necessary requirements for the further development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership. Energy cooperation between China and Russia is wide-ranging and comprehensive. In line with the principle of mutual benefit, the two countries have come to a number of agreements: Russia will increase crude oil supplies to China; natural gas pipelines between the two countries will be constructed; China will import liquefied natural gas from Russia; and joint oil refineries will be built. Moreover, the two countries have identified nuclear energy, electric power, and coal as key areas for the expansion of cooperation. Much like the tea trading routes that linked China and Russia together during the 17th century, oil and natural gas pipelines will become a new artery connecting the two countries together in 21st century.

III. Sharing the historic responsibility of safeguarding peace and stability

In a world that is by no means tranquil, we are confronted by many challenges and difficult issues at present. As permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Russia have a historic obligation to safeguard world peace and stability. Both countries believe that major countries should abandon the traditional mindsets of the zero-sum game and bloc politics, and establish a new model for relations between major countries which is characterized by long-term stability and sound development, with a view to achieving common development and prosperity.

The consensus between China and Russia on international affairs is particularly evident in the following aspects. First, adhering to the principles of equality, mutual trust, inclusiveness, mutual learning, and mutually beneficial cooperation, the two countries will make concerted efforts to promote peace and stability, promote common development and prosperity, and work to establish a world order that is just, democratic, and harmonious. Second, they will observe the tenets and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, advance democracy in international relations, and oppose all forms of hegemonism and power politics. Third, they will respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, respect the diversity of civilizations and development paths, and respect and safeguard the rights of all peoples to choose their own social system. Fourth, they will work to establish a concept of indivisible security that is characterized by universal equality and founded on the basis of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, and cooperation. On that basis, they will oppose the wanton use of force or the threat of force, oppose any foreign attempt to subvert the legitimate government of any other country, and oppose terrorism in all its manifestations. Fifth, they will oppose the unilateral and unlimited strengthening of missile defense by any one country or group of countries, which is detrimental to strategic stability and international security. They propose joint efforts to address missile threats, and believe that the security of some countries cannot come at the expense of the security of others. Sixth, they call for the resolution of regional and international issues within the framework of multilateral international organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS.

With China being an Asian country and Russia being a Eurasian one, the two countries share many common interests in the Asia-Pacific region. Both countries maintain that the primary task of the Asia-Pacific region at present is to establish a framework for security and cooperation that is open, transparent, equal, and inclusive. China and Russia firmly believe that indivisible security is a basic principle of this framework. On this basis, they will continue to encourage the countries of this region to properly settle their differences through bilateral dialogue and negotiation.

In his speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, President Xi Jinping set forth a series of thought-provoking ideas. He called on countries whose “bodies have entered the 21st century but whose heads are still stuck in the past” to keep up with the times. He also emphasized that all countries and peoples of the world should be treated with dignity, share the fruits of development, and enjoy security guarantees. Using the metaphor “only the wearer knows if the shoes fit or not,” he directed criticism towards interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Xi Jinping maintained that the destiny of the world must rest in the hands of the people of all countries. He said that matters that fall within the scope of national sovereignty can only be dealt with by the government and people of the country in question, while international affairs can only be handled by the governments and peoples of the world’s countries through the process of negotiation. This is the democratic principle for the handling of international affairs, and it should be universally observed by the international community.

IV. Amity between peoples holds the key to sound relations between states

President Xi Jinping pointed out, “Amity between peoples holds the key to sound relations between states. It is the deep friendship between peoples that drives relations between countries forward.” China and Russia have defined the further development of friendly ties between their peoples as a strategy for boosting bilateral relations. Two basic measures have been adopted in order to achieve this goal.

Firstly, following the “Year of Russian Tourism” that was held in China in 2012, a “Year of Chinese Tourism” is being held in Russia in 2013. As countries that are joined by the same mountains and rivers, China and Russia have launched this program to encourage ordinary people in the two countries to explore each other’s country and experience each other’s culture and national character. For this reason, this program is highly significant from a cultural perspective. In addition, traveling is the best way of bringing the Chinese and Russian people closer together, and cooperation in tourism should become a new highlight and a new chapter of China-Russia strategic cooperation. The footprints of Chinese and Russian tourists are a measure of how far the relationship between China-Russia has come. Being able to broaden the range of China-Russia ties, tourism presents a path for mutually beneficial cooperation, exchanges, and interactions between the two countries.

Secondly, China and Russia have established long-term mechanisms for expanding exchanges between young people. The two countries have decided that each will host a Year of Youth Friendship and Exchange in 2014 and 2015 respectively, and send a large youth delegation to participate in the host country’s event. Also, the two countries will work to increase the number of Russian students studying in China and Chinese students studying in Russia to 100,000 by the year 2020. The strengthening of friendly exchanges between youths in the two countries represents an investment in the sound and continued development of relations between China and Russia. Through these preparations, we will nurture successors to carry forward the cause of friendship between China and Russia.

In his evaluation of the relationship between China and Russia, President Xi Jinping pointed out: “The relationship between China and Russia can be said to be the most important bilateral relationship in the world. It can also be said to be the best relationship between major countries. A strong China-Russia relationship at a high level not only accords with the interests of our two countries, but is also an important guarantee for maintaining international strategic balance as well as world peace and stability.” President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia has ushered in a new stage for the development of China-Russia relations. The development of China-Russia relations not only serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples, but will also create a model for the harmonious coexistence of major countries, thereby playing an important role in promoting regional and world peace and stability.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.8, 2013)

Author: Director of the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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