While the agenda of the two-day meeting between the heads of Russia and China has not yet been made public, experts from the Russian International Affairs Council speculate on what Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to accomplish.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, welcomes his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 8, 2015. Photo: AP
On June 25 Russian President Vladimir Putin will go to China at the invitation of its President Xi Jinping. This will be the 15th formal meeting between Putin and Xi in 15 years.
Based on a prior announcement, the two leaders will talk about practical steps to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade, economic development, investment, research, technology and culture. In addition, the agenda will include international matters and the interaction of multilateral and regional organizations, most significantly the United Nations, BRICS and the G20.
One other topic of discussion could include agreements reached during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit on June 23-24. As Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of the Russian chapter of the Russian-Chinese Chamber for Commerce in Machinery and High Technology Products, shared in late May, 52 proposals will be on the table.
While the specific list of projects to be discussed is not known, it is possible to define key areas where development might happen, according to experts at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), a Moscow-based think tank.
According to Sergey Lousianin, acting director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the June 25 visit provides an opportunity to overcome the low level of bilateral economic cooperation, strengthen investment links between the countries’ regions, and discuss cooperation in such traditional areas as energy, agriculture, high tech, cybersecurity, space, banking and infrastructure.
“Judging from the preliminary composition [of the Russian delegation going to China], which is quite large and features ministers, heads of corporations, and governors, it is quite clear that in addition to its usual high political significance, the visit will also have a more practical approach,” he said during the June 23 discussion at RIAC.
It is also likely that some of the questions have been already agreed upon, while some might see negotiations concluded during the visit. The questions may be separated into three distinct blocks.
The first – the geopolitical one – will take the form of a joint statement by the leaders of the two countries. The second one will include general memoranda while the third will feature more specific agreements having a practical meaning for cooperation in a range of sectors. A significant amount of work will follow from this two-day meeting: The rest of the year will see a series of mutual visits with representatives of different fields working on specific agreements, Lousianin said.
Also read the Q&A with Sergey Lousianin: "What are the results of the Kremlin's turn to the East?"
Vladimir Petrovsky, chief research fellow at the Center for Russian–Chinese Relations Studies and Forecasting at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, thinks that dozens of agreements will be signed. As he told Russia Direct, two deputy prime ministers of Russia – Dmitry Rogozin and Igor Shuvalov – are now in China, working on a range of proposals in different areas, from nuclear energy to the creation of a free trade zone.
Even if some of the projects don’t start immediately, mutual work on them will continue within the four intergovernmental commissions.
“Let us not forget the Russia-China summit will happen after the SCO summit and some of the questions discussed there will also be on the table during Putin’s visit,” Petrovsky pointed out. “For example, Putin’s idea proposed in the end of last year to create a big intercontinental economic partnership which is going to be considered by the SCO leaders. It is likely that President Putin and General Secretary Xi Jinping will discuss this as well.”
There are also expectations about work to continue on big projects, like the Power of Siberia 2 and the Western route of gas supplies. Given the low price of oil, the question of the project’s payback is stalling the negotiations. Also, it is worth noting that there were reports that during the June 25-26 visit Russian energy corporation Gazprom will sign a memorandum with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) on building underground gas storage and generation facilities in China.
Among other results that one might expect from the Putin’s trip to Beijing may be a deal on the protection of intellectual property in the field of rocket technologies.
“First and foremost we are talking about deliveries of RD-180 engines [to China]. This is a very successful engine of ours that we deliver even to the United States," Rogozin said at a preparatory meeting ahead of Putin's visit.
Another agreement might be reached in the supply of Russian wheat to China and the creation of a grain terminal in Russia’s Zabaikal region, according to Rogozin. He noted that this project will have practical importance for the Siberian region as it will not only be involving the supply of grain but also its broad processing, building a networked railway and grain processing infrastructure.
It remains to be seen what the upcoming visit will bring, but it can be said for certain that both countries should make efforts to find compromises where agreement might be hard to find. As Lousianin put it, 50 percent of future success depends on Russia. If the unfavorable business climate and bureaucracy in Russia remain, even the most profitable projects and opportunities will not be enough for Chinese partners.