News / Europe

Russia’s Putin Seeks to Upgrade Ties to China

Chinese President Hu Jintao (r) and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pose prior to the talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Oct. 12, 2011
Chinese President Hu Jintao (r) and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pose prior to the talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Oct. 12, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has chosen China for his first foreign trip after unveiling his political plan to rule Russia for the next decade.

China has overtaken Germany to become Russia’s top trading partner. Trade is up by 45 percent this year, and could triple by the end of this decade to $200 billion.  So Prime Minister Putin visited Beijing to strengthen his nation’s most important bilateral tie.

The Russian leader spoke in Beijing about growing trade and investment. At every chance, he spoke of the opportunities for joint ventures in such high-tech fields as space, medicine, airplane construction and biotechnology. But at the end of the two-day trip, the biggest deal was for a $1.5 billion Chinese investment in an aluminum smelter in Siberia.

Russians' increasing fear is that they are fated to become to China what Canada is to the United States - a convenient source of oil, gas, minerals, timber and other raw materials.

Anatol Lieven, a professor at King’s College London, is studying the impact of the rise of China on Russia.

“Russia, as a whole, would be reduced to something like being the Canada to a Chinese United States," said Lieven. "That’s a prospect that the Russian elites find absolutely unacceptable.”

For the first decade, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major portion of Russia’s exports to China was high-tech - largely fighter jets and missile systems. But, increasingly, Russia complains that China is copying its Sukhoi fighter jets and other advanced military technologies. Last week, the successor agency to the KGB arrested a Chinese national in Moscow on suspicion of trying to buy blueprints for Russia’s prized S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system.

“Arms sales in the last five years have plummeted," said Linda Jakobson, the lead author of a new report on China-Russia relations for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. "The reason is the Chinese have bought pretty much everything that the Russians are willing or able to sell.

The other leg of the Russia-China relationship was energy sales. But here Russia also has lost its edge.

For 16 years, Russia and China have been negotiating the construction of two gas lines from Siberia to China. While the Russians bargained on and on over price, the Chinese built a gas line from the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan to China.

On Tuesday, a British auditing company ranked a gas field in Turkmenistan as the second largest in the world.  Now, Turkmenistan, once a Russian colony, plans to ship 60 billion cubic meters of gas a year to China - nearly the same volume that Russia has been talking about since the 1990s.

“The potential for a really substantial gas partnership existed when they started to negotiate the building of two natural gas pipelines from Russia to China 16 years ago," Linda Jakobson said from Sydney, Australia, where she directs the East Asia Department of the Lowy Institute. "In the meantime, in the gas sector, as also in oil, China has made tremendous efforts to diversify," she said.

Russia, the largest oil producer in the world, long assumed that it had China over a barrel - a captive market. But while the Russians negotiated endlessly about price formulas, China diversified.

“Russia has not become a major energy provider to China," said Anatol Lieven. "It is a significant provider. But Russia still provides the same amount of energy as Iran and only the same amount as Angola.”

If sea lanes to China become vulnerable, Russia will regain its competitive edge. But, for now, Jakobson says:

“Russia is only the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to China today. Because China has very successfully diversified its supplies of crude oil.”

Lieven says that China has grown so powerful so fast that Russia would not dare to join an alliance with NATO or the United States. Instead, he predicts, that Russia will preserve its autonomy from China by avoiding needless conflicts with Washington.

He predicts that in the next Putin decade, the Kremlin will avoid:

“A diminuition of gratuitious Russian troublemaking, probably in the Baltics, in relations with Venezuela, that kind of thing."

Jakobson, who recently completed a 20-year stay in Beijing, said she was struck by how many Chinese have become condescending toward Russia. She recalled an interview she conducted earlier this year with a Chinese political scientist. He grudgingly admitted that China may not like the United States and Japan, but there are things that China can learn from both societies. But he was disdainful of Russia.

“'But Russia? What do we have to learn from Russia? This nonchalance, nearly overbearing view, that is on the rise in China towards Russia is very telling of the change in perceptions on the Chinese side of Russia," she said.

As Prime Minister Putin maps out his decade ahead, he clearly identifies China’s rapid rise as a big challenge for Russia.


James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid