Russia and China are powerful and peaceful partners – Putin

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talked to the Chinese media about a number of issues ranging from international politics to bilateral trade, to his personal feelings about chairing Russia’s government.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am Deputy Director General of the Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

Vladimir Putin: Ni-hao.

First of all, allow me to thank you on behalf of my colleagues for finding time for this interview despite the intense schedule of your visit.

V.P.: Not at all. Without this meeting with the press it would seem like we hadn’t done any work with our colleagues at all and people would have no clue about the things we’ve achieved.

Before we start with questions, I would also like to congratulate you on your birthday – even if we are late by a week – on behalf of all of us.

V.P.: Thank you.

Well, I’ll start then.

V.P.: Please do.

Mr. Prime Minister, this year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and also the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries. How do you assess China’s development, and the development of our bilateral relations over those 60 years? What would you wish to the Chinese people in light of such a significant date?

V.P.: It’s a great event in the life of the Chinese people and the Chinese state – the founding of the People’s Republic of China. But I would also like to note that 60 years is just a short period in the life of the Chinese people. The whole world, including Russia, talks about China as a great state, a great people. And when we say this, we imply that China has existed for over 1000 years. It’s unique and is among the fundamental world cultures. But Chinese history is very complicated and diverse, with frequent tragic turns of events. I think something very important happened in the lives of the Chinese people 60 years ago – China gained a foundation that made it possible to develop despite all the twists and turns of the previous 60 years. It’s a base, a foundation that allows the country to advance at an absolutely record pace for our day and time. I would like to note that my country, which was the Soviet Union at the time, recognized the People’s Republic of China right after it was proclaimed – it was the first to recognize the new China on the international level. Today, on my behalf and on behalf of the Russian leadership and all Russian people, I would like to congratulate the People’s Republic of China on this anniversary and wish happiness to every Chinese family.

Mr. Prime Minister, I represent the CCTV (China Central Television) and I am very happy to see you for the 4th time already – previously, such meetings were not in Beijing and this is the first time that we meet like this in China. If I’m not mistaken, it’s also your first visit to China as Head of the Russian Government. Here’s my question: you are the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation now. Prior to that you were the President of Russia. How do you feel about those transformations in your status and the kind of work you do now? What do you consider the primary tasks for you as Head of the Government?

V.P.: You must have heard that some time ago, when I was still the President of Russia, we set out Russia’s development plan up to 2020 – it’s a general outline for our country’s development. I played the most active role in shaping this strategic development plan. Now that I’m the Prime Minister – as the government is the main executive body in Russia – I have the unique opportunity to implement this plan. I’m very happy about this. It involves, first of all, developing the economy and innovation. It covers social issues, healthcare, the pension system and infrastructure development. Today, we’re all in the unique situation of global economic crisis – and this is the most crucial course of our work, tackling those crisis developments. It’s a great challenge. These are massive, intense tasks. I actually like to deal with things on such a large scale. You get a real buzz. So, I’m pretty satisfied with my position and the practical content of the work I’m involved with. Generally, we manage to cope with our tasks, and this also brings a lot of satisfaction, although, just like any other sane people, we have the feeling that even more could be done, and it could be done better. Thank you.

Cultural ties

Mr. Prime Minister. I’m Deputy Editor in Chief of the People’s Daily newspaper (Rénmín Rìbào). Here’s my question: in 2006-2007 Russia announced a year of China in Russia, and China announced a year of Russia in China. Both moves were a success and left an imprint on the history of the two countries. This year is the year of the Russian language in China. Next year will be the year of the Chinese language in Russia. Without a doubt, this promotes contacts and partnership at a deeper level between our two countries in the area of humanities. How do you evaluate those events and what other project could be realized in the future after the national years and the language years.

V.P.: Indeed, in my view, the Humanitarian Cooperation between our countries is very significant. I think it’s an absolutely necessary basis for the development of economic, military, technical and political cooperation. Humanitarian ties are the foundation on which we build the most important structure – trust. Without trust – it’s impossible to develop relations in any of these other areas. Within the framework of the national years, both sides held over 600 events in various regions, not just in Beijing and Moscow. Over 200 events were held within the framework of the year of the Russian language in Beijing– and what events they were! We’re talking student exchanges, meetings of Heads of Universities, Russian language and Russian folk song competitions. Hundreds, thousands and maybe even millions of people took part in these events. You didn’t have to be a millionaire or have a lot of money or hold a high position in the government to take part. Everyone was free to participate. And that’s what generates mutual interest between nations, between specific people, what increases the level of trust. Next year is the year of the Chinese language in Russia and, together with our Chinese friends, we are planning a large number of joint events along the lines that I’ve named – student exchanges, meetings for young professionals and people who love and appreciate Chinese culture. There’ll also be a Chinese songs competition and so on. It will be interesting and large-scale. But that, of course, is not all that there is to it. We’ll keep looking for new forms, ways and areas of cooperation and I’m sure we’ll find them. It’s an ongoing process. We, in Russia, and, as far as I know, our Chinese friends here, will give it the closest attention.

Mr. Prime Minister, my colleagues made a joke saying that since I am more handsome than they are, it’s now my turn to ask you a question. Well, that’s because I work on TV, so, for the sake of maintaining the nice picture, from now on all questions will be asked via me, and that will save us time as well.

V.P.: Whatever works best for you. I still think though that the most beautiful person here is the lady.

Thank you.

Both, Russia and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRIC, the G-20 and are permanent members of the UN Security Council, which allows our countries to influence the most important processes in the world. With all the recent drastic changes and the global financial crisis – how could Russia and China strengthen their cooperation in different areas? Do you think it’s necessary to have tighter coordination between our countries on the international arena?

V.P.: I would like to go back to the first question you asked – about the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China – and remind you that the Soviet Union always, always supported the People’s Republic of China to take its due place in the UN Security Council, a place that belongs to it by right. I consider this to be the main platform of our partnership. We are permanent members of the UN Security Council and we do a lot within the framework of this organization to strengthen international peace and security. There are many problems in the world – and there are many platforms for finding solutions. Asian platforms, for example, where Russia and China work actively together within APEC. Russia is preparing to host this important international forum in its Far East in 2012, incidentally. Another mechanism that’s being formed right now is the G-20. In my opinion it’s a good, efficient forum as all the leading world economies are part of it. We also set up our own platform due to the need to solve a number of issues with borders – the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This has proved itself to be effective in reaching all its goals. Without a doubt, the organization’s moved beyond its initial limits. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has become more universal and turned into a much respected international body. There are other countries in the region that wish to join it. The modern world is neither safe nor perfectly balanced nor predictable. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. The world of today faces many threats in terms of economy, security, ecology etcetera. Russian-Chinese cooperation is one of the most important elements of stability in the world. That’s how we see it, and that’s exactly how we build our cooperation with China – fully realizing our mutual responsibility for international peace, stability and step-by-step development. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that both Russia and China have a very peaceful foreign policy. We’re not at war with anyone and don’t have troops outside our borders. But still, our positions on a number of global key issues are vital in solving those issues. Our common view on certain issues, and our ability to coordinate positions on international development can often calm a situation and act as a stabilizer. This is not just empty talk. Russia and China’s common stance on certain issues helps restrain some of our more hot-headed colleagues or, in other situations, helps push issues forward. This is the case with global food supply security or economic development for instance. Without a consolidated position from such countries as Russia and China, issues like ecological problems can’t be efficiently resolved. I’ll say it again – we understand this perfectly well and treat our relations with respect. We’re happy about the level of cooperation Russia and China have achieved on the international arena over the past few years.

Bilateral relations and regional cooperation

Mr. Prime Minister, our mass media follow your visit to China very closely. Earlier, there were many reports about it and you are probably already informed about them. Of course, everyone is interested to know how, at the end of it all, you together with our Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will increase the practical cooperation between our countries and bring it to a new level. Inter-regional partnership is most definitely, one of the key directions of our bilateral ties. This year our countries have approved a partnership program between the north-eastern regions of China and the Russian Far East as well as Eastern and Western Siberia. What are the exact steps the sides are going to take to implement this program and increase cooperation between the regions of the two countries?

V.P.: We do put great emphasis on regional cooperation. The social and economic landscape depends on what’s going on in the regions. That’s why the Russian President and the President of the People’s Republic of China approved the Program of Regional Co-operation up to 2018. On the whole, we’ve managed to achieve a high level of trade and economic cooperation – trade turnover was 56 billion U.S. dollars last year. The only thing is that due to the world economic crisis it will be less in terms of value, but the actual turnover will even be a bit higher. Also, we know that in China there is a Programme on the Development of the North-Eastern regions. We have a similar program on the regional development of Eastern Siberia and the Far East. Co-ordination of our efforts in regional development could give a good synergic effect, as they say these days. What areas will we focus on? What areas do we consider the most promising? Well, they’re the ones I mentioned in these programs I’ve been talking about. I mean cooperation in high technologies and exchange of processed goods. Despite the crisis and despite the fact that our trade turnover has declined a little this year in terms of value, the actual volume of processed goods will in fact go up. We’re talking about timber processing, construction materials, and energy. As for the regions, we resumed the exchange between China and the Far East after a long break, and this is in nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, and infrastructure. When you asked about regional development I recalled another important agreement, which definitely influences regional cooperation – the Agreement on Mutual Investments. I believe that this is a very important agreement which opens up new cooperation opportunities, including direct cooperation between regions. And it does bring results. The Fourth Business Forum of Russian and Chinese economic representatives opened today. And at the forum opening alone, I would like to stress this, contracts for more than 3 billion dollars were signed. So the opportunities are huge here and we are going to use them.

Energy issues

Mr. Prime Minister, talking about regional cooperation you have just touched on the issue of energy cooperation between the two countries. Definitely, this is one of the key areas, and given its growth rate China needs energy resources greatly. That’s why we pay special attention to this area. And I think that our countries complement each other here. We managed to achieve good results. Recently negotiations between Gazprom and the China National Oil and Gas Corporation took place. Do you think that there are obstacles to further development of energy cooperation? And if so, what are these obstacles? Is Russia ready to provide energy support to China? Is Russia ready to embrace Chinese investments into its economy? What is your opinion? What is Russia’s strategy? What is your personal view?

V.P.: We have an open economy. It is maybe more open than the economies of other countries, I mean our neighbours in the West. We have a traditional advantage in the field of energy. First of all, Russia is one of the absolute world leaders in the field of nuclear energy. And again we act openly in this area as well. We do not just build something abroad, rather we unite our potential with that of other recognized leaders. Our leading company Rosatom has recently concluded a strategic agreement on cooperation with a recognized leader in the field of nuclear energy – Siemens, a German company. It is also about operation on third world markets, assets and technologies exchange. We’re actively working in China in this area – Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant is being built with Russia’s participation. I already mentioned electricity and energy exchange with China. With hydrocarbons, we cooperate in many areas. Extraction, joint construction of infrastructure facilities, pipelines, and hydrocarbon supply to China – oil, and gas in the future. As for oil, we’re implementing a major project on oil supply. We have signed a contract in China for twenty years. A huge pipeline has been constructed for these purposes. Over the last 2 years, more than 2000 kilometers of this pipeline which reaches the Chinese border have been constructed. Our Chinese partners are building the other part of the pipeline on their territory, and they are also to build the pipeline under the Amur. At present we’re discussing construction of an oil refinery plant in China. And we shouldn’t forget about carbon supply, also a very important area. Supply is increasing. And China has wonderful modern technologies to use this kind of energy, such as processing it into a liquid and even a gaseous state. With gas, I already said that negotiations are underway, and I’m sure that the results will be positive. We do not know yet what kind of supplies these are going to be – pipeline or liquefied – these issues are to be resolved at the corporate level. The same concerns prices – as these are economic relations. What really matters is that we have both the need and the opportunity to work together, and in this sense the Russian and the Chinese economies complement each other very effectively. We have enough work for many decades.

Mr. Prime Minister, your answer has once again shown the scale of cooperation between the two countries regarding trade and economy. The most important thing is that we see an upward trend. There is always a chance that problems may arise. How shall we react to such problems in our cooperation? Let’s take the issue of grey customs clearance, for example. Do you think that these are just minor problems that will be resolved within one strategy aiming at strengthening our relations, or do these problems have a far-reaching negative effect on our relations?

V.P.: We are neighbors, you know. And we have been neighbors for many years, for millennia. We live together. This situation is similar to that in a household. When people live close to each other, they always have complaints about each other. But if people want to unite their efforts, while living close to one another, they always have enough common sense to build their relations in the best possible way. Respecting each other means listening to each other, understanding each other’s problems. What is grey customs clearance for any country? It is an uncontrollable supply of goods to an internal market. And what does uncontrollable supply mean? It means that it is impossible to control certain industries. What does it lead to? It leads to stagnation or even the closing of some companies, with people losing their jobs. During the global financial crisis it aggravates unemployment and labor market problems inside a country. It is a real problem. And that is why our trade and economic relations require a single approach and single rules, transparent and clear to both countries. Only in this case will we be able to predict the development of our relations in this or that area. To predict what is going to happen to this or that product on the market. And we will do our best to build such relations with our Chinese partners. We need to have rules, which are commonly understood, which are understandable, transparent and predictable. And I think that this is a normal civilized way of building a relationship. Anything that hinders this process is just routine issues. They may have an impact on the tactics, but have nothing to do with the strategy. We are capable of building civilized relations and we will do it.

I would like to ask you about the following. The thing is that you are very popular in China and you are in the center of attention with international mass media. People are well familiar with your energetic work style and your determination. We see you in planes and submarines. You have become an example to follow for some people. I would like to ask you the following question. What are your hobbies and interests during your free time? I know that you are a modest person and rarely talk about your private life. But maybe this time you will tell us more than you usually tell journalists – given the huge Chinese audience watching this interview!

V.P.: I must confess that my free time is limited. And I try to organize my free time in a way that’ll help me resolve the issues linked to my immediate responsibilities. Because a person primarily achieves self-actualization through professional activity. I remember my first meeting with President Hu Jintao. At that point he was not yet president of the People’s Republic of China. It was a regular working visit and it didn’t attract much attention. At that time I was President of Russia. What surprised me most was that Hu Jintao was absolutely not known in the world, but I gained an impression that he had been shaping Chinese policy for many years, that he knew everything about China’s internal policy and international issues. The professionalism and deep involvement in specific issues that we saw in this person we hardly knew came as a big surprise. I would like to get back to the main idea I wanted to express – a person actualizes himself in his professional activity. But there are certain basic rules that enable us to work effectively. First of all, it is important to take care of your health and practice sports. That’s what I try to do every day. It’s also important to broaden and deepen your knowledge in humanities – in literature and music. I try not to forget about that either. I like history most of all. I also like traveling around the country. China is a big and a very interesting country. Believe me that Russia is as interesting as China. It also has a rich history and culture, and the peoples of the Russian Federation practice very original crafts. I’m sure a lasting interest will always attract Russian people to China, and Chinese people to Russia. Thank you for your attention and for the interest you showed towards our delegation to the People’s Republic of China. I wish you good luck. Thank you.