Fast forward momentum
Updated: 2012-05-03 10:51
By Yu Sui (China Daily)
China and Russia should explore investment and high-tech opportunities to tap the potential of greater cooperation
The advancement and deepening of relations between China and Russia has benefited from the meticulous care and attention given them by the leaders of both countries.
Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's official visit to Russia from April 26 to 30 aimed to further implement the development plan for Sino-Russian ties over the next decade, which was agreed by the two countries in June last year. He exchanged views with Russian leaders on how to improve bilateral pragmatic cooperation and collaborative approaches to major international and regional issues of common concern.
In the context of the leadership transition in Russia, and later this year in China, his visit broke new ground for the future.
It helped build mutual political trust, deepened pragmatic cooperation and strategic coordination in all spheres, cemented the traditional friendship and mutual understanding of the two peoples, and made new contributions to the sustained, rapid and sound development of their comprehensive, friendly and cooperative relations.
Economic cooperation is an important cornerstone of Sino-Russian relations. The development of economic and trade cooperation between China and Russia is progressing smoothly and China is Russia's main trade partner, its second largest export market and the largest source of imports. The bilateral trade volume reached nearly $80 billion last year, and with a growth rate of $20 billion per year, there should be no problem in achieving the targeted trade volume of $100 billion in 2015 and $200 billion in 2020.
Li's visit implemented the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Governments of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China in the Sphere of Economic Modernization signed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, now president-elect, during his visit to China in October. The memorandum requires the two parties jointly implement a series of new projects, which will become a new growth engine for Sino-Russian trade. Li's visit resulted in 27 contracts worth $15 billion in various fields, including infrastructure, finance, direct investment, energy, mechanical and electronic products.
The trade structure between China and Russia has been changing, from its previous focus on commodities and resources to technology and services, but greater efforts are needed to advance this transition.
Both countries should highlight the key areas of cooperation; they should simultaneously enhance the scale and quality of their economic and trade cooperation. They should expand their mutual investment and joint research and development; increase the technological content and added value of products; and expand and deepen comprehensive, multilevel cooperation in nuclear energy, natural gas, crude oil, coal, and other energy.
To cultivate new growth points of cooperation, including high-tech and innovative cooperation, the two countries can promote scientific research institutes, encourage high-tech companies and universities to cooperate directly, and identify and implement a number of influential and long-term, large-scale scientific and technological cooperation projects. They can also actively cooperate in the fields of aerospace, nanotechnology, high-end manufacturing, energy conservation and environmental protection, biomedicine, and information technology.
To better promote the development of the real economy, they can deepen cooperation in terms of financial institutions, financing and financial services, and expand the settlement of domestic currencies.
They should also expand regional cooperation and exchanges by implementing and optimizing the Planning Framework of Regional Cooperation between Northeast China and the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia, accelerating cross-border infrastructure construction, and building a local cooperation and development fund to promote the balanced development of local cooperation.
For a long time, trade has dominated bilateral cooperation, with production and investment cooperation largely ignored. According to Russian statistics, as of the end of September 2010, China's investment in Russia totaled $10.54 billion, accounting for only 4 percent of all the foreign capital invested in Russia.
Both countries have made mutual investment one of the priorities of bilateral cooperation. With the improvement of the investment environment in Russia after its accession to the World Trade Organization, and the Chinese government's "going out" strategy, the goal of $12 billion in investment from Chinese enterprises can be achieved ahead of schedule.
However, there are some obstacles that need to be overcome. For example, in the field of high-tech cooperation, Russia is worried about intellectual property rights being violated and some Chinese enterprises that invest in Russia often find it difficult to adapt to Russia's domestic laws and regulations.
As Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said on April 30 at Moscow State University, we can confidently say that ties have a solid foundation in the past, a rare opportunity now, and great potential in the future.
The author is a professor of Russian studies at the Beijing-based China Center for Contemporary World Studies.