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The dragon and the bear – courtship and dance but no marriage in sight?

Updated On: Apr 03, 2007

Just how successful was the Chinese President’s most recent trip to Russia?

In a way, the Chinese got what they wanted from the Russians without being too sensationalistic or hyped about the agenda of the Sino-Russian summit in the first place. In the first place, other than high-sounding declarations, the Chinese were not really hoping much for breakthroughs in strategic ties. Rather, Chinese diplomacy to Russia was more sober and practical in securing immediate needs. These included energy and space research, two things that are vital to Chinese national interests, which the Russians enjoy advantage over.

In the field of energy, Chinese oil-refining giant Sinopec and Russian leading oil company Rosneft have signed an agreement on the joint exploration and development of the Venin offshore deposit, part of the Sakhalin-3 project.  However, the Straits Times reported that China did not manage to “clinch a concrete oil agreement”. The report noted that Russian railways promised to raise oil exports to China to 15 million tonnes, up from 10 million tonnes last year, but the plan seemed to fall apart after a disagreement over shipping fees between state-owned oil major Rosneft and Russian Railways.  Also, although Russia has promised to build a pipeline to China, negotiations over price and supplies have delayed it.

In other fields, Chinese and Russian firms signed 21 agreements and contracts worth 4.3 billion U.S. dollars, including the exports of Chinese cars, home appliances and farm products to Russia, as well as imports of Russian machine tools and silicic steel plates to China. Another four economic cooperation projects worth 586 million dollars in timber processing, shipbuilding and mining were also signed.

On the scientific front, China and Russia inked an agreement in Moscow on increasing cooperation to explore Mars and one of its moons in 2009. A micro-satellite developed by China will be launched along with "Phobos Explorer", the Russia spacecraft, atop a Russian rocket in 2009. The Explorer will land on Phobos, a Martian moon, and return to Earth with soil samples.

Trade between the two countries hit a record US$33.4 billion last year, according to the Chinese Statistics Committee, and China is one of the bigger buyers of Russian arms.  Chinese leaders said that they aim to more than double bilateral trade to US$80 billion by 2010.  While fast developing, the figure remains small in comparison with China's trade with Japan, US and the European Union.  Ties between the two former communist allies still have a long way to go in their new-found “embracement” of each other after decades of bitter ideological rivalry. (2 April 2007)

Sources

Trip marred by failure to achieve oil accord (Straits Times, 31 March 2007)

Chinese, Russian oil giants sign agreement on Sakhalin project (People’s Daily, 30 March 2007)

Chinese president calls for stronger regional links with Russia (People’s Daily, 29 March 2007)

Chinese president ends state visit to Russia (People’s Daily, 29 March 2007)

Chinese, Russian business circles vow to further cooperation (People’s Daily, 29 March 2007)

Chinese, Russian enterprises sign contracts worth 4.3 bln dollars (People’s Daily, 28 March 2007)

Chinese president, Russian PM meet on ties, cooperation (People’s Daily, 28 March 2007)

Chinese, Russian presidents pledge to expand trade, cultural cooperation (People’s Daily, 28 March 2007)

Date set for Wen's 'ice-thawing' trip (People’s Daily, 28 March 2007)

ChinaRussia plan joint Mars exploration (People’s Daily, 28 March 2007)