|President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attend the opening of a joint drill between the countries’ navies in Shanghai on Tuesday. The exercise in the northern part of the East China Sea will last for a week. (China Daily Photo)|
Sino-Russian package covers energy, infrastructure and high-tech sectors
A record-breaking 49 agreements were reached between Beijing and Moscow on Tuesday, covering political, trade and military areas in a move to further strengthen the Sino-Russian partnership.
President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin also issued a joint statement on the future of bilateral relations.
The two countries would expand local currency settlement for bilateral trade, cross-border investment and financing, and strengthen exchanges to formulate macro-economic policies, the statement said.
Putin, who is visiting Shanghai for an Asian security summit, is accompanied by a huge delegation of high-ranking officials and business leaders.
It was the seventh time Xi and Putin had met since they both became heads of state more than a year ago.
Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary on Tuesday that the frequent top-level meetings indicate increasing friendly ties between Beijing and Moscow and deepening friendship between the two leaders — two cornerstones for the development of Sino-Russian relations.
Xi announced the agreements during a joint news conference after talks with Putin.
Although a long-awaited natural gas deal remained to be signed, both sides vowed to continue efforts.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, "Talks will continue and substantial progress has been reached, but there is still work to do on price."
The total value of the deals signed remained unclear, but Putin's presidential aide Yuri Ushakov told ITAR-TASS news agency that the package would set a record.
The 49-deal package includes cooperation in the finance, energy, infrastructure and high-tech sectors.
The two countries vowed to increase bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2015 and to $200 billion by 2020, from $90 billion last year.
Russia's trade volume with China could surpass that with the European Union, said Alexander Lukin, vice-rector at the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy.
"Russia's trade turnover with China is on the rise and is now considered just as important. The more sanctions Europe will impose, the closer Russia will move to Asia, in particular to China," Lukin said.
The package also highlights cooperation at local level on Chinese investment in Russia's Far East. ITAR-TASS reported that the Russia-China Investment Fund would invest about $400 million on building the first Russian-Chinese border railway bridge across the Amur River (or Heilongjiang River in Chinese), capable of handling 21 million tons of goods annually.
The bridge would cut the cargo transportation route by 700 km and create a new export corridor, the news agency said.
The two countries also strengthened military cooperation. Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that they would jointly design a long-haul wide-bodied aircraft and produce Mil Mi-26 heavy transport helicopters in China.
It quoted sources from the Russian delegation on Monday as saying that Russia's United Aircraft Corp had drawn up a sketch project and feasibility study for the long-haul, wide-bodied jet.
A source told Kommersant: "This project is supposed to be a rival to US and European aircraft, and China is interested in building at least 1,000 jets. If the project is successful, we may set up a joint venture at some point to compete full-scale against Airbus and Boeing. We are prepared to buy these aircraft for domestic needs as well."
Putin's visit came as Moscow's relations with the United States and the European Union have plunged in recent months over the crisis in Ukraine.
Vasily Kashin, an expert on Sino-Russian relations at CAST, a defense think tank in Moscow, said Russia was likely to try to use Putin's trip to boost ties with China at a time when relations with the West were strained by sanctions over Ukraine.
The Financial Times reported that under pressure from the West, Putin wanted to demonstrate that his government was not isolated and had partners that would help it to stand up to Europe and, particularly, the US.
But Gao Fei, a professor of Russian studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said a Sino-Russian strategic partnership was not due to pressure from the West, adding that both countries were striving to develop their economies and seeking solid foreign partnership.
Qu Xing, head of the China Institute of International Studies, said the Sino-Russian relationship featuring equality and mutual support stood as an example of relations between major powers.