Eastern Economic Forum to boost China-Russia cooperation

By Cui Heng Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/11 19:33:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Chinese President Xi Jinping is attending the fourth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) from September 11 to 13 in Vladivostok, Russia, at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is the first time that a Chinese head of state is attending the event in Russia.

The EEF is of great significance to Russia, not only as a platform to promote Far East development and attract foreign investment, but also as an important approach to enhance its geopolitical influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Above all, developing the Far East is the key to nation building in Russia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the socioeconomic gap between the Far East, Siberia and European part of Russia has been widening, which, to some extent, has slowed the process of development. To this end, through Far East development, Russia is expecting to promote regional economic growth, attract capital and people from European part of Russia, bridge regional divides in economic development, and consolidate the integrity of national economic space and the social system.

Second, developing the Far East provides space for Russia to expand its geopolitical and economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region. According to a report by Valdai Discussion Club, an influential Russian think-tank, the increasing tension in the Asia-Pacific has a negative impact on Russia's socioeconomic development and limits its full participation in regional affairs. By attracting East Asian countries to participate in the development of the Far East, Russia has provided new room for those East Asian countries to ease bilateral tensions, which in turn offers Russia the opportunity to engage in Asia-Pacific regional affairs and enhance its political and economic influence in the region.

With the development of the Far East in recent years, Russia has increasing expectations on the EEF. Through the 2018 EEF, Russia is seeking to explore new space for development of the Far East in the coming years. High on Russia's agenda during this forum is to promote comprehensive cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries. Hence in addition to the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea, Russia has also made efforts to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the EEF.

President Xi's presence has undoubtedly enhanced global influence of the EEF. Russia also hopes to promote pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia through the forum and the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) in November this year. As the host countries, China and Russia are going to combine the two important international activities, so as to further cement the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between two countries, and connect the Belt and Road Initiative with Eurasian Economic Union, opening up new space for the next stage of pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia.

For one thing, China and Russia are vigorously promoting bilateral cooperation in the development of Northeast China and Far East Russia. At present, Northeast China is at a critical stage of supply-side reform and optimization of industrial structure. Far East Russia is adopting import substitution policy to guide the development of real economy, which makes it possible to boost in-depth and practical cooperation between the two regions. Therefore, China and Russia can take advantage of the EEF and CIIE to promote close cooperation between Northeast China and Far East Russia.

For another, China and Russia are going to make breakthrough in the import and export of agricultural products and transportation. The trade war between China and the US has resulted in a reduction in China's imports of bulk agricultural products from the US, while Russia is capable and willing to fill the gap. Putin proposed that Russia's agricultural exports will increase from $20 billion in 2017 to $45 billion in 2024. The next five years will be a critical period in the cooperation between China and Russia in agriculture.

In addition, to meet the demand of transportation, China and Russia have reached an agreement on the economic and technological aspects of the international transport corridor, and are going to sign an agreement on the joint development of the "Binhai 1" and "Binhai 2" international transport corridor during the EEF.

The EEF and the first CIIE are important opportunities for pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia. President Xi's presence at the EEF will definitely promote China's participation in Russian Far East development and open up new space for future China-Russia cooperation.

The author is a PhD candidate at the Center for Russian Studies, East China Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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