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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani 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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid