At the 8th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held in Vladivostok, Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing. The Russian president remarked that due to the joint endeavors of both nations, the Russia-China bilateral relationship is witnessing its golden era. Advancements are clear across sectors like trade and economy. Furthermore, Putin noted the development of the Far East as a pivot point in Russia-China collaborations.
China’s Vice Premier Zhang emphasized China’s enthusiasm to further its ties with Russia, capitalize on shared development opportunities, and bolster strategic ties for regional growth. These sentiments align with the recent developments, as China-Russia trade is projected to surpass the $200 billion mark this year, a significant jump considering bilateral trade experienced around 30% annual growth recently.
It’s worth noting that both nations had targeted a bilateral trade value of $200 billion by 2024. However, the swift growth of 32% in 2023 alone, raising bilateral trade to $155.1 billion in just eight months, indicates they’re set to achieve this target earlier than expected.
Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, emphasized the robust strategic communication President Xi Jinping and President Putin have maintained. This strategic alliance is set to propel the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations to unprecedented levels.
Russia’s Pivot to the East
The EEF saw an influx of high-level delegations from several developing nations. Anton Kobyakov, of the forum’s organizing committee, highlighted the participation of representatives from India, China, Laos, Mongolia, ASEAN, and the EAEU-BRICS meeting.
Zhang Hong from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences remarked that Russia, by welcoming significant non-Western economies, is signaling its shift in economic alignment. Following the onset of the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s focus has been leaning more towards the East and South, both diplomatically and economically.
According to Putin, Western nations are undoing the trade and financial systems they’ve established. In his view, a novel relationship paradigm is emerging – one built for all humanity and not solely for the world’s wealthiest billion.
Putin’s conviction is that this new model is fostering a creative and result-oriented energy, positioning the Asia-Pacific as a dominant force in global economic growth. Russia’s trade with Asia-Pacific countries surged by 13.7% last year, and the first half of 2023 saw another 18.3% growth.
Preliminary data from 2023 also revealed a 4.9% YoY growth in Russian GDP for Q2. This robust growth rate stands in contrast to Western sanctions, suggesting that Russia remains resilient, simultaneously managing its economic growth and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Experts, including Zhang, believe that the long-term divergence between Russia and the West is paving the way for Chinese firms to occupy spaces vacated by Western entities. Cui Heng, from East China Normal University, agreed, stating that as Russia and the West drift apart, China emerges as Russia’s most significant and irreplaceable trade ally.
China-Russia’s Intertwined Industrial Futures
Highlighting the evolving China-Russia trade dynamics, Cui commented that it’s not just about trade volume. The industries of both countries are becoming increasingly interlinked, with collaborations extending deep into various sectors.
Putin stressed the strategic importance of Russia’s Far East. He conveyed Russia’s unwavering commitment to the region’s development, emphasizing its abundant resources and untapped potential. The vision includes not just mineral extraction but also boosting the processing of industrial raw materials to add value. Putin’s plans span various sectors, including aircraft construction, shipbuilding, and diverse industrial production.
Zhang Hong noted that Russia is now articulating a more specific development strategy for its Far East. Given the constraints from the West and inherent challenges, Moscow views mineral resources development as the most pragmatic approach. Experts predict this will set the trajectory for future collaborations between China’s northeastern region and Russia’s Far East.
Chinese President Xi Jinping recently emphasized Northeast China’s potential, envisioning a new era of growth. He promoted deeper internal and external cooperation, advocating for Northeast China to play a pivotal role in the Belt and Road Initiative, further integrating domestic and international economic interactions.
In summary, the EEF showcased Russia’s shifting focus towards strengthening ties with Asian countries, especially China. Both nations are exploring deeper economic and strategic collaborations, which is likely to reshape global economic dynamics in the coming years.