China and Russia Expect Deeper Economic Ties
    2013-03-19 22:47:37         Web Editor: Wang Wei

Chinese president Xi Jinping will pay a visit to Russia later this week in his first overseas visit after being elected as the country's president.

The visit also shines a spotlight on bilateral economic and trade relations between the two countries, which are expected to deepen and grow in the future.

Wang Lei has more.


This year is the "Year of Chinese Tourism" in Russia, which introduces China to Russian tourists, with about 300 theme events being held throughout the year.

Tourism has been an important part in the bilateral exchanges between the two countries, aiming to boost exchanges and understanding regarding culture, society and history.

Pavel Fedortsov, a young Russian, is one of those who are willing to come to China for travel.

"For me, everything about China is amazing, and I believe everyone can find something interesting. Some people like the delicious food, some like ancient Chinese architecture, history, calligraphy and painting. In a word, China is attractive in every aspect."

Some Chinese provinces have also become pioneers in welcoming Russian tourists, including Hainan in south China, which has many holiday resorts because of its tropical climate and beautiful scenery.

During the past few years, Hainan has changed its tourism policy to make it easier for Russian tourists to visit and stay longer. Hainan also relaxed a restriction on the number of people in tourist groups from Russia and extended the visit time without a visa for Russian tourists.

This attracts many Russian tourists like Pavel Fedortsov.

"I have been thinking about going to Hainan. It is on my tour plan. I have a holiday in May, and I will go then."

Wang Zhifa, Vice Chairman of China's National Tourism Administration, says the country will provide more services to foreign tourists. Russian tourists could also benefit more from such policy.

"In some mature travel markets and regions, we have implemented a visa-free entry policy. More provinces and regions will start offering such policies, making it more convenient for foreign tourists who come to China."

Looking at the bigger picture, China and Russia not only cooperate closely in tourism, but in a variety of areas in the economic and trade sector.

China is now Russia's biggest trading partner, and Russia is a major trading partner of China.

According to China's General Administration of Customs, the bilateral trade between China and Russia reached 88 billion U.S. dollars last year, an increase of 11 percent compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile, Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization at the end of 2011 is expected to reduce tariffs and take its bilateral trade with China to a higher level.

Particularly, energy cooperation is a highlight between the world's leading energy supplier, Russia, and consumer, China.

Tao Wenzhao, Senior Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, elaborates.

"Russia is one of the largest oil exporters in the world. But, actually, Russia mainly exports energy to Europe, so Russia wants to diversify its exports destinations. And in China, we import a lot of energy, but our energy, more than 50 percent, is imported from the Gulf region and then from Africa, so oil imported from Russia is less than 10 percent. But it's also important, and we have a lot of potential to develop."

Last December, China and Russia signed a couple of agreements on energy cooperation, following the ninth China-Russia energy negotiators' meeting.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in an energy market assessment, a roadmap for working together in the coal sector, as well as deals on coal and electricity supplies.

The two countries also made progress on further expanding their coal and power trade, energy reservation research, and promoting the application of renewable energy.

For example, Russia's Karakan Invest and the China Coal Mining Construction Group plan to build a coalmine with annual capacity of three to four million tones in Kemerovo, Russia.

Karakan Invest Board Chairman Georgy Kransnyansky says because Russian coal exports to Europe compete with exports from Qatar and the U.S., Russia has turned to the Asia Pacific, especially China. As the two countries are neighbors, cooperation in the coal trade would be very convenient.

Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, believes that in Russian President Vladimir Putin's mind, China can play a very important role in Russia's current economic strategy of getting closer to the Asia Pacific.

"I think he firstly is very much focused on the development of Russia's interests in the Far East and Siberia, the regions that are adjacent to China, bringing Russia back to the Pacific, making Russia's presence in Asia. Those things are uppermost in his mind. China, of course, takes a very important place."

Some Russian experts say China has advantages in building or upgrading infrastructure, such as increasing railway capabilities for energy transport and trade.

Wang Dongguang, Chairman of the Development and Reform Commission of Heilongjiang, China's most northeastern province that borders Russia, also believes cross-border infrastructure is important.

"This is the channel for bilateral trade between China and Russia. It used to be a bottleneck that affecting trade. To solve this problem, China and Russia have been negotiating on key issues to cooperate."

Heilongjiang's trade with Russia accounts for a quarter of the total Sino-Russian trade volume, and Russia has been Heilongjiang's largest trade partner.

According to the Bureau of Commerce in Heilongjiang, in January this year, the trade volume between Heilongjiang and Russia reached 1.76 billion U.S. dollars.

Wang Dongguang says with the rising quantity, the current trade structure is also different from the one in the past.

"The structure of imports and exports is changing. We used to export low value-added products like clothes, but now we export agricultural products and electronic machines."

Heilongjiang will deepen its trade relations with Russia to seek more common interests.

"If we can find more common interests, then we can reach more agreements. The economic and trade cooperation during the past three decades shows that we both have demands for each other. In the future, we will step up the cooperation in high-tech and high value-added products. I believe there is much we can do."

China and Russia have set their target for bilateral trade at 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015 and 200 billion dollars by 2020. The two countries are optimistic about future economic development in sectors like tourism and energy where they expect greater high-tech cooperation.


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