Written Interview by H.E. Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
With Russian Media Organizations
Q1. You have often said that the relationship between China and Russia is at its best in history. Could you elaborate on that? How does timely dialogue and consultation on major international issues contribute to regional and global peace, stability and prosperity?
Xi: Indeed the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is now stronger than ever. Here is why I believe this is the case:
First, our two countries have built a high level of political and strategic trust. The boundary issue, which had been left from history, has been settled once and for all. Our 4,300-km border is now a bond of friendship for our people. The Treaty of Good-neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation has been signed, which established the idea of ever-lasting friendship in legal terms. The two sides have reached a four-point agreement on showing firm support for each other’s efforts to uphold one’s own sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and other core interests; for each other’s choice of development path suited to one’s national circumstances; for each other’s development and revitalization; and for each other’s management of one’s own affairs. In short, China and Russia see each other as a most trustworthy strategic partner.
Second, our two countries have established sound mechanisms for high-level exchanges and all-round cooperation. President Putin and I have developed a close working relationship and good personal friendship. The two of us meet frequently, five times a year on average, to set the direction and make plans for our bilateral relations. At President Putin’s invitation, I will pay a state visit to Russia. I believe my visit will lend new impetus to the growth of bilateral relations. Besides, the two sides have full-fledged mechanisms for inter-agency and sub-national engagement and consultation. All this has provided strong institutional underpinnings for the growth of China-Russia relations.
Third, our two sides are working hard to align our development strategies. President Putin and I have reached an important agreement to strengthen the complementarity of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union. Bilateral cooperation in energy, trade, investment, high-tech, finance, infrastructure and agriculture is growing rapidly and increasingly geared toward modernization and innovation in science and technology. The Tianwan nuclear power plant stands as a flagship program for our nuclear cooperation. The eastern route of the natural gas pipeline is progressing smoothly. Our active cooperation on major strategic projects such as the long-range, wide-body aircraft and heavy-lift helicopter is a boost to the comprehensive national strength and international competitiveness of both countries. The two sides are also tapping into new areas of cooperation, such as innovation and e-commerce. In a word, the booming practical cooperation serves as a powerful engine driving the sustained growth of China-Russia relations.
Fourth, our two countries enjoy solid public support for stronger relations. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the China-Russia Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development and the 60th anniversary of the Russia-China Friendship Association. It is also the concluding year of China-Russia Media Exchange Year 2016-2017, for which a variety of cultural events have been planned. Currently, there are over three million visits a year between the Chinese and Russians. For years, China has been Russia’s biggest source of foreign tourists. The two sides have established culture centers in each other’s country, built a joint university, and set the target of exchanging 100,000 students by 2020. Our peoples are fond of each other’s language and culture, and our mutual understanding and friendship are growing day by day. All of this speaks to the shared desire of both nations to develop the friendly and cooperative relations.
Fifth, our two countries enjoy close strategic coordination in regional and international affairs. As major countries in the world, permanent members of the UN Security Council and emerging economies, China and Russia both stand for the basic norms governing international relations with the purposes and principles of the UN Charter as the cornerstone. We both support progress toward a multi-polar world and greater democracy in international relations. We both resolutely uphold the outcomes of WWII and international fairness and justice. Our two countries have close coordination and collaboration in the United Nations, G20, APEC and other multilateral institutions. We have jointly proposed and set up various multilateral mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS and worked hard for their development, which contribute to peace and stability in Central Asia and Northeast Asia, which are our common neighborhood. The fact is, our concerted efforts in international affairs are like an anchor for peace, security and stability in our region and the world amidst the turbulent and volatile international situation. Thus, we are living up to our responsibility as major countries for world peace and development.
Looking ahead, we have every confidence in the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. I will continue to work with President Putin to ensure that the relationship will make sound progress along the right track so as to promote the development and renewal of both our countries and contribute to the prosperity and stability of the world.
Q2. There is a view that China and Russia have far stronger political relations than economic relations. In your view, what can be done to boost economic ties between the two countries and what are the priority areas and projects?
Xi: President Putin and I both attach great importance to promoting bilateral economic ties. Economic cooperation and trade is the most wide-ranging area in our practical cooperation and enjoys great potential.
We need to take a comprehensive view of the development of our economic ties. China has been Russia’s top trading partner for seven consecutive years. Last year, despite such negative factors as the sluggish global economy and prices fluctuations in oil and other commodities, China-Russia economic cooperation started growing again with the trade volume reaching 69.53 billion U.S. dollars, up by 2.2 percent year on year. In the first five months of this year, the two-way trade grew even faster by 26 percent and the total volume in 2017 is expected to exceed 80 billion dollars.
In particular, the structure of China-Russia economic cooperation and trade continues to improve and quite a few new areas of growth have emerged. First, the robust growth in the trade of mechanical and electrical products as well as high-tech products, registering a 20.8 percent and 19.4 percent increase respectively in the first quarter of this year. Second, burgeoning investment cooperation. This year, our intergovernmental investment cooperation committee decided on a list of 73 new projects, some of which are being carried out according to plan. Third, the deepening financial cooperation. The Central Bank of Russia set up its first overseas office in China. With one of its enterprises issuing “Panda bonds” in China, Russia has become the first among the countries along the Belt and Road to do so. To promote cooperation between China’s northeast and Russia’s far east, China has announced the establishment of the China-Russia Regional Cooperation Development and Investment Fund with a total scale of 100 billion yuan. Fourth, the rapid growth in the trade of agricultural products. China welcomes more imports of high-quality agricultural products from Russia. Fifth, faster progress in the joint development of the far east, for which China is its largest trading partner. The two sides are working on a number of promising projects in the areas of deep processing of resources, port logistics, modern agriculture and infrastructure development. Sixth, the steady progress of major strategic projects in the fields of energy, nuclear power, aviation, aerospace and cross-border infrastructure construction, including smooth progress in the construction of the eastern route of the China-Russia natural gas pipeline, the active participation of Chinese enterprises in the Yamal LNG project, and the opening in Shanghai this May of a joint-venture to manufacture long-range wide-body passenger aircraft.
Having said this, joint efforts are still needed in order to scale up mutual investment and speed up SME cooperation. We need to strengthen the traditional areas of economic cooperation including China’s import of oil, gas, coal, electricity and lumber and other major commodities; we need to expand the use of local currencies in our business ties; we need to implement the agreed investment projects; we need to make full use of the platforms offered by such events as the China-Russia Expo, St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and Eastern Economic Forum; and we need to unlock the potential of sub-national and border area cooperation through the Yangtze River – Volga River and China’s northeast – Russia’s far east mechanisms.
Our two countries’ development would not be possible without that of the Eurasian continent and our growth will contribute to that of the continent as a whole. While attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) this May in Beijing, President Putin stated that Russia supports and is willing to contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative. Our two countries are working actively to build synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, as part of which the two sides are discussing an agreement on economic cooperation and a list of joint projects between China and the Eurasian Economic Union. This will help open up broader prospects for bilateral economic cooperation, facilitate trade and investment, create more opportunities for business cooperation, and effectively connect our industries, technologies, capital and markets, so that countries on the Eurasian continent will share in the benefit of economic globalization and regional integration.
In terms of major bilateral projects, we need to remain committed to promoting the integration of upper- and lower-stream cooperation in the field of energy. Major strategic projects are the cornerstone of economic cooperation, whose overall benefits and strategic significance cannot be reflected or measured simply by numbers. Recognizing this, we need to carry out more cooperation in joint research, production and wide application.
In terms of connectivity, we welcome and are willing to jointly develop and build the Primorye international transport corridor proposed by Russia. We hope the two sides will achieve the early completion of the major cross-border infrastructure projects, including China-Russia Tongjiang Railway Bridge (also known as the Amur International Rail Bridge) and the highway bridge in Heihe, Heilongjiang Province. We may also make joint efforts to develop and utilize maritime passageways, particularly the Northern Sea Route, realize a “Silk Road on ice”. These connectivity projects will create new impetus for the in-depth development of our economic cooperation and trade.
SMEs are important drivers of economic growth, a wellspring of innovation and a major source of new jobs. Our two governments need to put in place favorable conditions to further incentivize SME cooperation so that SMEs and large enterprises will develop in tandem, seek complementarity and jointly explore markets in third countries.
To sum up, both President Putin and I are of the view that our two countries need to deepen economic cooperation and trade to strengthen our bond of shared interests. At the same time, we need to take a long-term view and open up our economies to each other for mutual benefit. This will help enhance the comprehensive strength and international competitiveness of our two countries and deliver more benefits of our cooperation to people in both countries.
Q3. The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) you hosted in May was a great success. What do you think of the outcomes? What are your expectations about the Belt and Road Initiative? How do you see Russia’s role in the building of the Belt and Road?
Xi: I put forward the initiative of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in 2013 in my visits to Central Asia and Southeast Asia. The initiative aims to strengthen international cooperation and synergize national development strategies for greater complementarity and common development. Over the past four years, the Belt and Road cooperation has made steady progress and won extensive support, attracting active participation of many parties and yielding substantial “early harvests”. This set the stage for the success of the BRF held this May in Beijing, a meeting to review what had been achieved and chart the course for the future. The leaders of 29 countries, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund attended the Forum together with some 1,600 representatives from more than 140 countries and 80 international organizations. Under the theme “Belt and Road: Cooperation for Common Prosperity”, the participants had in-depth discussions on promoting policy synergy for closer partnership, enhancing connectivity and facilitating people-to-people exchanges. They reviewed the progress of Belt and Road cooperation and reached many agreements, including 76 items comprising more than 270 concrete results in five areas, sending out a positive message about building the cooperation platform, re-energizing the world economy and rekindling confidence in economic globalization.
We will take the BRF as an opportunity to enhance policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity guided by the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. We will increase policy coordination and complementarity between development strategies, take connectivity as a priority area of cooperation, support faster development of economic corridors, advance cooperation on international production capacity and equipment manufacturing, and work more closely on education, science and technology, culture and healthcare. Together, we can unlock new drivers for economic growth, achieve common development and build a community of shared future for mankind.
President Putin was the first foreign leader to accept my invitation to attend the BRF, which reflected Russia’s important support for China as the host and the high-level nature of China-Russia relationship. In May 2015, China and Russia reached important agreement to seek complementarity and cooperation between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, which won the applause and support of other members of the Eurasian Economic Union. Two years on, steady and notable progress has been made in this cooperation. China will work with Russia to fully leverage the complementarity between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union and keep moving China-Russia relations forward.
Q4. Can you give us an update on the Chinese economy? What do you expect from the upcoming G20 Hamburg Summit?
Xi: The Chinese economy has stayed on an upward trajectory since the latter half of last year. It got off to a good start this year with a GDP growth rate of 6.9 percent in the first quarter. With profound and effective reform measures in key areas and crucial links, and the synergy created by the endeavor to foster new growth drivers and upgrade traditional ones, the Chinese economy will sustain a steady and robust growth rate.
Global growth continues to gather momentum, as both developed countries and emerging markets show stronger economic performance. However, grave challenges remain. Therefore, it is particularly important for the G20 to play its role as a premier forum for international economic cooperation, implement the consensus of the Hangzhou Summit and all previous summits and shape the future of the world economy. This is in the interests of all. China’s expectation of the Hamburg Summit are the following:
First, we look forward to a G20 that continues to uphold the spirit of partnership for win-win cooperation. This is the very spirit that steered the G20 through the international financial crisis, and it will continue to inspire the G20 to set the pace for the world economy. As I said at the welcoming banquet of the Hangzhou Summit, “As long as we accommodate each other and stick together, come rain or shine, we will make steady progress and reach our destination together.”
Second, we look forward to a G20 that continues to champion an open world economy. As a pacesetter of the world economy, the G20 should stay committed to open development, support the WTO-centered multilateral trading regime, and make sure that trade and investment remain the drivers of global growth.
Third, we look forward to a G20 that continues to chart the course for innovative growth and long-term governance. Countries need to unleash new drivers of global growth through innovation. It is important to advance the in-depth development of the digital economy and new industrial revolution, increase investment in infrastructure, and employ fiscal and monetary policies and conduct structural reform to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the world economy.
There is a lot in common between the tenor of the BRF in Beijing last May and the theme of the Hamburg Summit – “Shaping an Interconnected World”. The Belt and Road Initiative and the G20 may well complement and reinforce each other and jointly boost global growth. China will take the Hamburg Summit as an opportunity to work with all other parties and contribute to global growth and better global economic governance.
Q5. The long-running tensions on the Korean Peninsula have remained unabated. This is a source of deep concern for the international community. How does China think the issue should be resolved? How does China view the U.S.’ deployment of THAAD in the ROK?
Xi: China follows closely the developments on the Peninsula. China is committed to denuclearization of the Peninsula, peace and stability on the Peninsula, and a negotiated settlement through dialogue and consultation. The issue of the Peninsula is long-standing and highly complicated. Any solution must be able to address both the symptoms and root causes and accommodate the legitimate concerns of all parties. To that end, China has put forward a “dual-track” approach of denuclearization of the Peninsula on the one hand and establishment of a peace mechanism on the Peninsula on the other, and a “suspension for suspension” proposal, which calls for the suspension of nuclear and missile activities by the DPRK and the suspension of massive military exercises by the U.S. and the ROK. Russia has unequivocally expressed its understanding and support for China’s suggestion as China and Russia have the same or similar position. There is also growing positive response from the international community. China hopes all relevant parties will respond to the efforts by China and Russia in promoting dialogue for peace, shoulder their due responsibilities, demonstrate goodwill toward one another, and work in the same direction to bring this issue to the right track of dialogue and consultation at an early date.
The U.S. deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in the ROK seriously undermines the strategic security interests of China, Russia and other regional countries, and upsets the strategic balance in the region. It is not helpful for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula or peace and stability in the region. China has expressed its strong opposition and grave concerns. China and Russia have maintained close communication and coordination at various levels on this matter. Our two sides have a high degree of agreement in our perceptions of the nature of this issue and the harm it will bring. Both China and Russia firmly oppose the U.S. deployment of the THAAD system in the ROK, and strongly urge relevant countries to stop and cancel the deployment. China and Russia will take necessary measures, jointly or individually, to preserve our security interests and regional strategic balance.
Q6. The Syrian issue has garnered much global attention. What does China think should be done to resolve this issue? How do you assess Russia’s role on this issue?
Xi: The Syrian issue, now the most complicated and intractable hotspot in the Middle East, has inflicted untold hardships on the Syrian people and posed a grave challenge to regional and global peace and stability.
China’s position on the issue is consistent. We maintain that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria should be upheld and respected, that the future of Syria should be decided by the Syrian people on their own, and that political settlement is the only viable way out. It is our sincere hope that the Syrian issue will be properly resolved as soon as possible, and that the Syrian people will regain long-hoped peace, return to their homeland and start reconstruction at an early date.
Recent months have seen some positive developments on the Syrian issue. At the Astana talks, an MOU was signed on creating de-escalation zones in Syria. The UN-brokered Geneva peace talks continue to move forward. China believes that, under the current circumstances, the international community needs to lock in the hard-won momentum of political settlement, support the United Nations in playing its role as the main channel for mediation and encourage the Syrian government and the opposition to engage in consultation with good faith and patience for a political solution that accommodates the legitimate concerns of all sides. There is also need for various parties to enhance coordination for greater synergy in fighting terrorism within Syria under international law.
China commends Russia for its important and positive influence and role in facilitating a proper settlement of the Syrian issue.
Q7. Terrorism poses a real threat to global security and development. How do you view the Russia-China cooperation on combating the “three forces” of terrorism, extremism and separatism?
Xi: The global counter-terrorism situation is undergoing profound changes, and international terrorists have remained active. Since the beginning of this year, many countries have been hit by serious terrorist attacks which caused heavy casualties. Given what has happened, people have come to realize that despite certain gains in the international military campaign against terrorism, there will still be many acts of terrorism wreaking havoc on world peace, stability and development. To counter the threat of terrorism remains a daunting task in global security governance.
Faced with grave terrorist threats, members of the international community, with stronger awareness of their shared future and growing consensus on fighting terrorism, are making remarkable progress in their joint efforts to fight terrorism. That said, challenges still abound. First, terrorism and hotspot issues interact with and exacerbate each other, which largely explains why greater global counter-terrorism efforts do not always lead to a decrease in terrorist activities. Second, international terrorist groups instigate and plan for more attacks in different parts of the world. Third, violent and terrorist ideology is spreading worldwide through the Internet and social media and will continue to show profound impact. Fourth, counter-terrorism is still used by some countries as a means to advance their own national interests, and double standards are applied in fighting terrorism. As a result, the international counter-terrorism cooperation tends to be fragmented and treated as a convenient tool. Synergy is hard to forge under such circumstances.
China has been supporting the global fight against terrorism in a constructive manner. China is of the view that, to promote international cooperation on counter-terrorism, countries need to: first, reject double standards, fully leverage the leading role of the United Nations in the fight against terrorism, and act in concert with strong determination; second, properly resolve regional hotspots in order to help restore stability to Syria and other Middle Eastern countries at an early date and contain the rampant spread of terrorism; and third, adopt a long-term perspective and a multi-pronged approach on the political, economic and cultural fronts, with a view to not only addressing the symptoms but also eliminating the hotbed for terrorism.
China and Russia are both victims of terrorism. Cooperation between our two countries in counter-terrorism and security affairs is an important component of our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and sets a fine example for the broader global counter-terrorism cooperation. Such cooperation serves peace and stability in this region and beyond as well as the fundamental interests of our two countries. Our sound cooperation in fighting the “three forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism through law enforcement and security cooperation mechanisms plays an important and positive role in maintaining stability and promoting development in our two countries and this region at large. China hopes to deepen bilateral practical cooperation with Russia, step up mutual support on each other’s core concerns regarding terrorism, and reinforce coordination and collaboration within such multilateral frameworks as the United Nations and the SCO. We will work together to uphold the leading role of the United Nations in the global counter-terrorism cooperation, deepen counter-terrorism and security cooperation within the SCO and other frameworks, and secure greater progress in global counter-terrorism cooperation.