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The development of relations between the People’s Republic of China and Russia

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Giancarlo Valori

At the annual press conference held on December 23, 2021, Russian President Putin noted that there was only one issue behind the attempts by the United States and some Western countries to boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics, i.e. the intention to curb the development of the People’s Republic of China. The approach was considered unacceptable and wrong. Russia and China have always opposed the politicisation of sport. President Putin’s participation in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics was a great support for China and shows the strong determination of the two giants to face new challenges in the international scenario.

Due to the fact that China and Russia have the same or similar views and positions on important international issues, and that they respect and support each other in protecting their fundamental interests, relations between the two countries are constantly developing.

In 1994 China and Russia established a constructive partnership of good neighbourhood, friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation. In 1996, they established a strategic cooperation partnership projected onto the 21st century and based on equality and mutual trust. Since entering the Third Millennium, Russia and China have completely resolved the border issue, with the Russian and Chinese Presidents, Putin and Jiang Zemin, signing – on July 19, 2001 – the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The Treaty defined the basic principle of bilateral relations. It is an inspiring document that plays an important role in today’s rapidly changing international situation.

Russia-China relations are developed on an equal and deideologised basis. The partnership is stable and has autonomous value. It is not influenced by politics and is not directed against anyone. This relationship is based on mutual respect, consideration of each other’s fundamental interests, and the implementation of international law and the UN Charter.

On June 28, 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin agreed to extend the Treaty for further five years. Moreover, the mutual political trust based on this Treaty has enabled the two countries to establish an effective multilevel interstate cooperation structure, in which meetings between the leaders of both countries play a key role.

The concepts set out in the Treaty include good neighbourhood, as well as Russia-China friendship and cooperation, which have brought the partnership between both countries to an unprecedented level, with a qualitative change in their nature and scale, so as to work further together and create the conditions for it.

On most issues of the global agenda, China and Russia are aligned or very close. They maintain close coordination within major multilateral organisations and mechanisms such as the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the East Asia Summit, which have a stabilising effect on the current global situation.

As early as 2011, China and Russia have established a relationship of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, developing proactive collaboration in trade, economic, energy, humanitarian and security fields. In 2019, the leaders of China and Russia said that the bilateral relationship of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction was multiplying. The year 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the aforementioned Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The leaders of both countries have therefore decided to lay solid political foundations to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the future.

The fruitful cooperation between China and Russia on border issues has contributed to the resolution of the related problems among the five founders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), established on April 26, 1996 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, and later expanded to include Uzbekistan in 2001, India and Pakistan in 2017 and Iran in 2021.

Over the past two decades, thanks to China’s and Russia’s joint efforts, the SCO has made great strides in the fight against terrorism and in the areas of security and economic cooperation. The SCO has rapidly evolved into a high-profile international organisation. Effective and proactive cooperation between China and Russia within the framework of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Republic of South Africa) is also deepening, thus creating truly multilateral trading systems taking into account the developing countries’ interests.

The world is currently in a state of intense turmoil. Practice shows that Sino-Russian relations stand the test of time and adverse conditions such as the unstable international situation, pressure from NATO and some other-directed Western countries, as well as economic instability and the COVID-19 pandemic.

China and Russia proactively support political dialogue. Cooperation between both countries in the areas of trade, economics, space and humanitarian affairs, security, energy resources and nuclear energy has yielded great results.

Faced with political pressure from the United States, NATO and “Western” countries, China and Russia are proactively engaged in political dialogue. Since 2013, there have been 37 meetings between the leaders of China and Russia. Both countries maintain a dialogue on pandemic control, climate change, the international situation and bilateral cooperation.

China and Russia have consistently supported each other on key issues for both countries’ interests. They rejected attempts at confrontation between them and promoted the alignment of the New Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative) with the Eurasian Economic Union established on January 1, 2015 by Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, with Cuba, Moldova and Uzbekistan as observers.

Since 2018 the trade volume between China and Russia has consistently exceeded 100 billion US dollars. In 2021 bilateral trade increased to 146.8 billion dollars. The quality of trade between China and Russia improves every year and its structure is continuously optimized. China has become the largest export market of agricultural and meat products for Russia. In 2020 it was Russia’s largest trading partner for the twelfth consecutive year.

In recent times, energy cooperation between China and Russia has developed rapidly. On January 6, 2021, China started the construction of the southern branch of the gas pipeline, through which Russian gas will be sent throughout China. This gas transport line will be put into service in 2025.

On May 19, 2021, a solemn ceremony was held to start the construction of the power units No. 7 and No. 8 at the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Jiangsu Province, as well as units No. 3 and No. 4 at the Xudapu nuclear power station in Liaoning Province based on Russian technologies.

In 2020 and 2021, China and Russia held meetings and exchanges on scientific, technological and innovation cooperation. On June 9, 2021, the Amur gas processing plant (Chinese: Heilong Jang, Black Dragon River), built with Russian and Chinese investment, went into operation. Its design capacity is 42 billion cubic metres of gas per year. The plant will reach its full capacity in 2025.

China and Russia have decided to devote 2022 and 2023 to cooperation in the field of physical culture and sports. Furthermore, cooperation between China and Russia in the fields of high technology, aviation and space technology, as well as security, is continuously deepening, thus demonstrating the huge potential for concrete cooperation at every level.

Sino-Russian relations are at the best stage in the history of both countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping has praised Sino-Russian relations for having demonstrated great-power responsibility and become a reliable pillar for the protection of international justice. Russian President Vladimir Putin called Sino-Russian relations a true model of interstate cooperation in the 21st century and a significant factor of stability in the international arena. The recent Chinese Olympics have raised bilateral relations to a new level and have opened a new page of bilateral relations of global partnership and strategic interaction for a new era of cooperation.