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
James Brooke

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.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs