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Vostok Magazine on the perspective of Russia-Chinese relationships.
Putin’s visit to Shanghai has given birth to a new step in two-sided partnership of Russia and China. The 30-year contract is to increase Chinese investments in Russian economy.
Crimea’s joining to Russia and negative response of the West to it made Russia think whether the course that Peter the First (famous Russian emperor who improved Russian relationships with Europe) had chosen for the country is right. Russia has failed to turn into a “Western country”, so maybe looking to the East is the only chance for Russia to become a great power in the XXI century.
Unlike Western countries, which speak about Crimea’s annexation, China’s reaction to Russia’s actions in the Ukrainian conflict was more reserved. Many Russian political figures refer to China as a “serious partner that is ready to take into account Russia’s interests in the world affairs.”
During his latest visit to China Putin used the opportunity to show his attitude towards this country. “China has become one of our most important trade partners”, the president said during his visit to Shanghai. According to Putin’s opinion, the trade turnover between the two countries will increase from 90 billion dollars to 100 in 2015. The head of Russian state also claimed that the two countries plan to fulfill more projects the total sum of which is more than 20 billion dollars.
However these claims do not represent the reality fully.
Unlike Russia which assessed the trade turnover growth in 2013 as 2%, Chinese assessment was less optimistic – only 1.1% in two-sided trades. Thus we can see the endeavor of Russian side to embellish data “a bit” to create the basis for bigger reorientation towards the East.
A moot (from the point of Russia’s benefits) contract for gas supply for 30 years became a really serious step to intimacy with China. This contract was already called by Chinese official media as “one billion dollar bargain”.
Unfortunately, Russia never was regarded as a serious trading partner by China, so it can’t be foreseen, what effect the contracts will have. In the case of politics, Russia and China are trying to demonstrate warm-hearted relations between each other and to the world. We should recall that Xi Jinping's his first working visit was to Russia.
The more West pressures Russia in the Ukrainian crisis, the stronger Russia is driven to create strategic alliance with China. After Visa and MasterCard announced the possible blocking of some transactions, Russia announced the creation of its own payment system very similar to the Chinese one. Western threats about possible cut-downs of Russian gas purchases triggered a symmetrical response from Moscow. Gazprom stated that in the foreseeable future gas supply to Europe will be equal to the one to China.
In addition, Russia is planning to meet Chinese needs in coal consumption, the usage of which totals approximately 60% of the whole energy consumption in the country, unlike gas, the usage of which is only 5%. Visa regime toughening between Russia and the West has led to the attempts of Moscow and Beijing to ease the visa regime between the Russia and China.
Russia is aiming to be less dependent on West using Chinese investments which can increase by 700% by 2020 according to the Russia Ministry of economic development.
Everything said above shows us Russia and China’s readiness to support each other on international levels. Moscow and Beijing’s views have a lot of common indeed. Both countries aim for the creation of multipolar world and are ready to resist the USA’s actions.
However we can’t forget that eastern diplomacy is more subtle, than the western one, so we can’t predict exactly how China will act.