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Igor Denisov

Senior Research Fellow at MGIMO University, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, RIAC Expert

Sun Zhuangzhi

Ph.D., Director of the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Liu Fenghua

Ph.D., Research Fellow, Head of the Russian Foreign Policy Research Department at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

The period of 2017–2018 marks the beginning of a new political cycle in the internal development of both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. The starting points for this cycle were the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that took place in October 2017 and the victory of Vladimir Putin in the Russian presidential election held on March 18, 2018. The National Congress set the priorities for further reforms and introduced amendments to the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China that followed in March 2018 defined the new structuring of the state bodies.

The Russian presidential election also served as a stock-taking of a kind of the previous political cycle. A great deal of expert work was carried out in the run-up to the election, and the public was presented with various scenarios of the country’s development during the new presidential term (2018–2024). The Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly delivered by Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2018 served as the President’s manifesto for the next six years.

To what extent are the internal political cycles in Russia and China synchronized? And to what extent are these cycles linked not only with domestic policy but with Russia–China relations? It seems that they have an influence on bilateral relations. Three circumstances would suggest that this is the case:

1) the role that Russia and China have assigned themselves in reforming the world order and the commonality of their approaches to key issues of global security;

2) the continued interest of the two countries in developing trade and economic, scientific and technological, educational and cultural cooperation;

3) the growing similarity in the political agenda of reforms being carried out in the two countries.

The period of 2017–2018 marks the beginning of a new political cycle in the internal development of both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. The starting points for this cycle were the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that took place in October 2017 and the victory of Vladimir Putin in the Russian presidential election held on March 18, 2018. The National Congress set the priorities for further reforms and introduced amendments to the Constitution of the Communist Party of China. The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China that followed in March 2018 defined the new structuring of the state bodies.

The Russian presidential election also served as a stock-taking of a kind of the previous political cycle. A great deal of expert work was carried out in the run-up to the election, and the public was presented with various scenarios of the country’s development during the new presidential term (2018–2024). The Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly delivered by Vladimir Putin on March 1, 2018 served as the President’s manifesto for the next six years.

To what extent are the internal political cycles in Russia and China synchronized? And to what extent are these cycles linked not only with domestic policy but with Russia–China relations? It seems that they have an influence on bilateral relations. Three circumstances would suggest that this is the case:

1) the role that Russia and China have assigned themselves in reforming the world order and the commonality of their approaches to key issues of global security;

2) the continued interest of the two countries in developing trade and economic, scientific and technological, educational and cultural cooperation;

3) the growing similarity in the political agenda of reforms being carried out in the two countries.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Real opportunities for bilateral cooperation

1. China and Russia have already reached a political consensus on the integration of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union. China and the Eurasian Economic Union have concluded negotiations on the substance of the agreement on trade and economic cooperation. The EAEU member states are taking an active role in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative. Interaction between Chinese and Russian transport and communication companies has already yielded results. Thus, the joint efforts of the two countries in the alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union look promising.

2. The Chinese economy continues to demonstrate moderately high growth rates. Its ongoing structural reform creates favourable conditions for developing trade and economic relations with Russia. China and Russia are expected to further expand bilateral trade and investment cooperation, moving into new areas.

3. The Russian economy is recovering. Vladimir Putin singled out economic growth and the development of an innovative economy as the priority areas of Russia’s domestic policy for his fourth term as President. Russia’s economic and political situation will contribute to the positive development of trade and economic cooperation between China and Russia. The Russian government is expected to expand the construction of transport and infrastructure facilities, including the Trans-Eurasian transport route, in order to increase international shipments through Russia. This will also have a positive effect on trade and logistics contacts between China and Russia.

4. China and Russia plan on intensifying their economic ties. Active political coordination and a streamlined trade regime will allow Beijing and Moscow to simplify trade and investment procedures, thus taking the bilateral trade and economic relations into a new era. The gradual liberalization of trade and investment between the two countries will play an increasingly important role in bilateral economic cooperation.

5. China’s energy requirements are growing, and natural gas imports are in particular demand. At the same time, Russia’s share of the European gas supply market is shrinking. This creates the perfect conditions for China and Russia to step up their cooperation in this area. New gas pipelines are being built, and supplies via the existing pipelines between China and Russia are increasing. The development of the energy partnership between the two countries at all levels will continue to strengthen the strategic cooperation in this area.

Specific Proposals

1. Support the practice of carrying out mutual visits and bilateral dialogue, eliminate misunderstandings and strengthen strategic trust between the two countries.

2. Step up contacts between think tanks, the academic community and the relevant agencies in China and Russia. Media outlets in both countries should cover agreements reached between the two parties in various spheres in an objective manner. They should also help to avoid misunderstandings and rally public support for cooperation in aligning the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union.

3. Expand the role of market mechanisms in China–Russia trade and economic cooperation. It is necessary to strengthen the regulatory role of market mechanisms; promote cooperation in the development of production capacities, high technologies and the services and other industries; and broaden the scale and improve the quality of the trade and economic partnership.

4. Jointly promote the practical development of a multilateral partnership within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on security, trade and economic relations with a view to increasing cohesion within the SCO and expanding its influence.

5. Strengthen strategic interaction in order to maintain strategic stability on a global scale, as well as in the Asia Pacific Region and in Asia itself, and to counter the “export of democracy” by the United States. Given the negative impact of the United States on the financial and investment cooperation between China and Russia, the two countries should respond in a rational manner and search for suitable avenues for cooperation.

6. Prioritize practical cooperation on concrete projects, rather than “road maps,” within the framework of the plan to align the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, including planned joint projects under the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the EAEU.

7. Increase the share of hi-tech products and machinery in China–Russia trade and optimize the structure of this trade.

8. Work together to expand the openness of the Chinese and Russian markets and increase agricultural trade and the exchange of services.

9. Develop cooperation in customs regulation and logistics and promote cross-border e-commerce.

10. Develop cooperation in the oil and gas, coal, electricity and nuclear power sectors.

11. Facilitate the implementation of large-scale projects in aviation and space technology.

12. Develop military-technical cooperation between China and Russia.

Russia and China: Cooperation in a New Era. Results of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and of the Russian Presidential Election, 930 Kb

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Poll conducted

  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
     36 (35%)
    Restoring multilateral negotiation process without any preliminary conditions  
     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
     22 (21%)
    Armed conflict still cannot be avoided  
     12 (12%)
    Stonger deterrence on behalf of the U.S. through modernization of military infrastructure in the region  
     4 (4%)
    Toughening economic sanctions against North Korea  
     2 (2%)
 
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