China, Russia can both benefit from Far East progress

By Xin Miao Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/16 22:23:41

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT


Vladimir Putin began his fourth term as Russian president last week. In recent years, there has been speculation that the closer relations between China and Russia may have been partly the result of Russia's need for allies amid increasing pressure from the West.

Western sanctions have made life difficult for Russia, and it is also true that after the Crimean crisis, Russia's attitude toward the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative grew warmer. However, it is not true that closer China-Russia cooperation and Russia's more active Far East development efforts are merely down to pressure from the West.

Development of the Far East has been a long-term development plan for Russia. Given that Northeast Asia offers valuable development opportunities, the prospects for future economic and trade cooperation between the Russian Far East and China are promising.

Throughout history, Russia's political elites have looked to the east of the country and listed it as an important geostrategic area. During the Soviet period, there was already plenty of development in the Far East. But after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the economic and social transformation of the country meant that the Far East no longer got the same preferential policies, and compared to western regions of the country its economic development became relatively weak. In order to achieve balanced development as well as to push for new economic impetus in the Far East, Russia has long been preparing various strategies.

At present, the Asia-Pacific economic circle, including Russia's Far East, is the region with the most dynamism globally. If Russia wants to play a bigger role in Asia-Pacific economic cooperation, the resources and geographic advantages of the Far East will be an important advantage.

The essential role that China is capable of playing in the development of Russia's Far East cannot be ignored. China is the largest source of imports, the second-largest export destination and the main source of foreign investment for the Far East. More and more Chinese companies have settled in this region. In the past two years, more than half of the investment in the Far East has come from China.

There are currently more than 20 investment projects in the Far East that Russia and China have jointly participated in, with the total investment exceeding $3.3 billion, and the areas of cooperation include new industrial enterprises, agricultural development and aquaculture.

The improvement in China-Russia relations in recent years has cultivated stronger political mutual trust between the two countries, which has also enhanced commercial trust and cooperation. China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) will help with further development of the Moscow subway, which will be the first time a foreign company has been involved in such a project in Russia.

In terms of national strategies, Russia's Far East development is roughly in line with China's policy goal of rejuvenating the old industrial base in Northeast China, and the regional cooperation between Russia's Far East and Northeast China could help to trigger successful development for both sides.

China can provide Russia with financial and technical support for dealing with problems in the Far East, such as backward infrastructure and the lack of human resources. And Russia can help with the development of Northeast China by providing energy and food assistance.

From the perspective of international cooperation, there will be more cooperation opportunities between China and Russia by linking the B&R initiative with the Eurasian Economic Union, allowing China and Russia to go beyond traditional cooperation methods and seek common interests in new areas.

Since the Crimean crisis, attitudes in the West have been hardening against Russia. Following the leadership of the US, the West has strengthened its economic sanctions against the country and it seems unlikely that anything will change in the short term. The recent confrontation on the Syrian issue makes moderation even more difficult.

In the next six years, Putin will focus on boosting the Russian economy and the advancement of Far East development will offer more opportunities and possibilities for this process. Closer and more effective economic and political cooperation with China will help Russia to achieve its goals.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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