Economic co-op takes lead in Sino-Russian ties
Sino-Russian economic ties are expected to further develop as a result of the agreements signed during Putin's latest visit to Beijing on Oct 11 and 12, where he co-chaired the 16th regular meeting between the two countries' prime ministers with Premier Wen Jiabao, experts said.
"China was the first country to be visited by Putin since he announced his plan to run for the Russian presidency in 2012, which shows the great importance he attaches to China-Russia relations," Tian Chunsheng, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said during an online seminar attended by experts from Beijing and Moscow on Wednesday.
China is Russia's largest trading partner and the bilateral trade volume is expected to exceed 470 billion yuan ($73.6 billion) this year.
During Putin's visit, both sides also defined the key areas for future cooperation, with economic relations overtaking political ties as the focus of bilateral relations, Tian said.
With energy being a key area for economic cooperation, Tian said the two countries have expanded energy cooperation from oil and natural gas to coal, electricity and nuclear energy, and from trading in oil and natural gas to processing, exploration, extraction and reutilization.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin toured the China Experimental Fast Reactor on the sidelines of Putin's visit, showing both sides' interest in nuclear energy cooperation.
Energy cooperation is not confined to the supply of oil and natural gas, Putin said when interviewed during his visit to China, adding that the two countries are working together on major exploration and exploitation projects.
"About half of the 16 agreements signed during Putin's visit involve investment cooperation, which can spur trade development, and represent an improvement in the quality of the economic and trade cooperation," said Song Yanmei, an associate professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
Song said the biggest problem faced in economic cooperation between the two countries was the lack of support for investment and technology. That is why it was sometimes interpreted as the exchange of China's goods for Russia's energy.
"As both sides invest more in the processing sector, the cooperation pattern is expected to transform in the years to come," said Song.
The joint communique issued during Putin's visit specifies some cooperation areas, including nanotechnology, new materials, bioengineering, energy conservation and telecommunications.
Vyacheslav Karlusov, a fellow with the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that although Russia had made achievements in scientific research, much of this had not been utilized commercially or industrially.
"In the past, it was believed that only the United States and Europe had the ability. Now, China can also participate in high-tech cooperation with Russia," Karlusov said.
Although a framework agreement between Russian gas giant Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation, under which Russia will deliver 70 billion cubic meters of gas to China annually, has been delayed over pricing disagreements, Putin said negotiations on the huge gas supply deal are reaching their conclusion.
Karlusov said the differences would not be an obstacle, as it would take time to construct the pipeline, and both sides have enough time to solve this issue through negotiation.
Experts also suggested China and Russia could work together in fields such as the joint development of China's northeastern and western regions and Russia's Siberia, the establishment of joint economic development zones, expanding settlement in local currencies and other financial cooperation and working together to address the ongoing European and US debt crisis.
"The economy is the foundation of political development, and the modernization process in China and Russia requires the sincere cooperation of the two countries," said Song.