'Very high level': Putin plays up Russia's economic ties with China

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country’s economic ties with China are at a “very high level” thanks in large part to the two nations’ political relationship.

Putin delivered the assessment in talks on Tuesday with Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Guoqing, who is attending the Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

“The relationship between Russia and China in this area – the area of economic cooperation – has reached a very high level … and the results are not only good but excellent,” a statement from the Kremlin quoted Putin as saying to Zhang.

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“[This is] all a derivative of what has been achieved in the political field,” the Russian leader said, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow in March – his first abroad in his third term as president – was “a sign that relations between Russia and China have reached an absolutely unprecedented historical level”.

Despite economic pressure from the West, China has continued to deepen its “no-limits partnership” with Russia, including in trade.

Last year, trade between the two countries rose 34.3 per cent year on year to a high of 1.28 trillion yuan (US$190 billion).

In the first eight months of this year, trade was up 32 per cent on the same time in 2021 to US$155.1 billion, according to Chinese customs data.

Putin and Zhang agreed that the goal of boosting bilateral trade turnover to US$200 billion would be achieved “in the very near future” and well ahead of schedule.

“Our relations maintain high and progressive dynamics … We are ready, together with our Russian colleagues, to share development opportunities and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation,” Zhang was quoted as saying.

During the visit, Zhang also spoke to Russian deputy prime ministers Yury Trutnev and Denis Manturov, as well as Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Primorsky Krai.

They witnessed the signing of multiple agreements, including a deal for a 15 billion rouble (US$159 million) grain hub on the China-Russia border to facilitate trade, particularly in soybeans and rapeseed oil.

In his remarks to the vice-premier, Putin also referred to Zhang’s background as a corporate executive.

“We know you well as a very businesslike person. You headed a large company, and are now involved in industry,” Putin said.

Zhang is the former boss of state-owned defence contractor Norinco, one of the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers, and his two decades with the company included stints in Tehran and as its chief representative to the Middle East.

The remark comes amid concerns from the West that China might supply Russia with weapons for its war in Ukraine – a suggestion Beijing has strongly denied.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2023. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


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