Deepen China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Coordination and Jointly Create A New Chapter of Win-Win Cooperation

By Gui Congyou

In 2016, the international landscape changed at a faster pace and the international dynamics shifted toward greater justice and equity. Under the able leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with comrade Xi Jinping as the core, China acted in line with the major trend of international developments, overcame various difficulties and made new progress in the diplomatic arena. China confronted a series of risks and challenges with greater determination, confidence and prudence, thus comprehensively advancing its major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics.

Russia is the first and so far the only major country to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination with China. Thanks to the personal care and strong support from leaders of our two countries, China-Russia relations continued to grow at a high level and produced remarkable outcomes in 2016. The two sides held grand celebrations for the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation and the 20th anniversary of the strategic partnership of coordination. President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin met five times, issued three significant joint statements, and reached important consensus on growth of bilateral ties in the next stage and priority cooperation areas, jointly safeguarding global strategic stability and promoting cyberspace security. China and Russia saw their practical cooperation continuously deepen and people-to-people exchanges flourish. The two sides maintained close communication and coordination on major international and regional issues and joined hands to defend the authority of international law and promote political settlement of hotspot issues. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has become an anchor for international peace and stability.

Taking history as a mirror will help one learn the reasons behind the rise and fall of countries. China-Russia relations did not come this far overnight. The relationship between our two countries has experienced ups and downs in the past three to four hundred years, particularly in the past century. In the later stage of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression, the Soviet Union sent troops into northeast China. Along with the Chinese people, they took out the main forces of the Japanese Kwantung Army, quickening the demise of Japanese militarism. In the joint fight against Japanese fascism, the two peoples forged a profound friendship with their blood. We Chinese would always remember the significant contribution made by the people of the Soviet Union to the ultimate victory of our war against Japanese aggression. After the founding of New China in October 1949, the Soviet Union provided enormous, selfless development assistance to New China. In particular, it helped China carry out 156 industrial projects, laying the foundation for industrial development of New China. Later on, due to some complicated developments and problems in bilateral exchanges, the relations between the two countries and between the CPC and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union deteriorated and the two sides entered a 30-year period of Cold War confrontation. After the end of the Cold War, the leaders of China and Russia, bearing in mind the experience and lessons they learned from a thorough review of the history of China-Soviet Union relations and the major trend in the world favoring peace and development, made a visionary decision to abandon the Cold War mentality and to normalize and continuously grow the relations between China and Russia. In 1992, the two sides recognized each other as friendly countries. In 1996, the two sides established a strategic partnership of coordination. In 2001, the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation was signed. And in 2011, the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination was established between the two countries.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Party Central Committee with comrade Xi Jinping at its core has attached high importance to developing the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. In March 2013, at the invitation of President Putin, President Xi, four days after assuming office as President of China,  visited Russia, China’s friendly neighbor and strategic partner of coordination. Russia was the first stop of his first overseas trip as Chinese President, which fully demonstrated the weight of China-Russia relations for China. In February 2014, President Xi paid a special visit to Sochi as a guest of President Putin to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. That was the first time for the top leader of China to attend international Olympic games. For two years in a row, President Xi chose Russia as the first destination of his annual visits. In May 2014, President Putin visited China at the invitation of President Xi. The two heads of state signed and issued a joint statement, ushering in a new stage of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination featuring equality and trust, mutual support, common prosperity and long-lasting friendship.

The high-level development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination mainly has the following manifestations:

— Political and strategic trust between the two sides is stronger than ever before. The two countries thoroughly resolved the boundary issues left by history, turning the 4,300-kilometer boundary into a bond of friendship between the two peoples. The Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation embodies, in legal terms, a vision for peace and long-lasting friendship. With firm mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests and no sensitive political issues in bilateral relations, China and Russia are the most reliable strategic partner and good friend for one another.

— The two countries have developed and improved the mechanisms for high-level exchanges and multifaceted cooperation. The two sides have created mechanisms of annual exchange of visits between the two heads of state, annual meetings between the prime ministers and annual exchanges between the two legislatures, and established cooperation committees at the deputy prime minister level that cover various cooperation areas, such as investment, energy, people-to-people exchanges, trade, military technology, security and subnational cooperation. There are sound exchange and consultation mechanisms between their government agencies. The two sides have also created the China-Russia Friendship Committee for Peace and Development to coordinate people-to-people exchanges, and established the intergovernmental commission for cooperation in developing northeast China and Russia’s Far East and Baikal region and the council for subnational cooperation between the upper and middle reaches of Yangtze River and Volga federal district in light of the needs in growing bilateral relations. Most of the government departments of the two sides have developed mechanisms for close communication and consultation. It is fair to say that the growth of China-Russia relations has strong institutional support.

— The two countries have worked actively to enhance the complementarity between their development strategies. The two heads of state reached important consensus on synergizing the development strategies of China and Russia and aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the development of Eurasia Economic Union. The two countries have actively engaged in international production capacity cooperation, and the cooperation in energy, investment, high technology, financing, infrastructure and agriculture sees great progress and is more modernized and more driven by technology and innovation. Tianwan nuclear power plant has become a flagship project in Sino-Russian nuclear energy cooperation. The eastern section of China-Russia gas pipeline is under construction. The two countries are working together to develop long-distance wide-body passenger jets and heavy-lift helicopters, which will help both sides grow overall national strength and international competitiveness. The cooperation in newly emerged areas, such as SMEs and e-commerce, is catching up quickly. Such dynamic cooperation has provided a strong driving force for the development of China-Russia relations.

— The bilateral relationship enjoys growing support from the two peoples. China and Russia have successfully held large state-level people-to-people exchange events, such as Year of China in Russia and Year of Russia in China, language year, year of friendly youth exchange, tourism year and media exchange year. More than three million people traveled between the two countries each year, and Chinese tourists made more than one million visits to Russia last year. China has been the largest source of foreign tourists to Russia for many years in a row. The two sides have set up culture centers in each other’s countries and established a joint university. The number of Chinese students in Russia and Russian students in China together exceeds 70,000. The two peoples are increasingly interested in each other’s languages and cultures and their mutual understanding and friendship grow stronger every day. It has become a shared desire of the two peoples to advance friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

— The two countries have maintained close strategic collaboration in international and regional affairs. China and Russia both are major countries in the world, permanent members of the UN Security Council and emerging market economies, both stand for upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and basic norms of international relations, and both advocate for a multipolar world and greater democracy in international relations. The two sides have worked closely in international and multilateral frameworks, such as the UN, G20, APEC, and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, jointly initiated and promoted multilateral institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS forum and the China-Russia-India trilateral mechanism, and exerted all efforts to maintain peace and stability in Central Asia and Northeast Asia, which are the shared neighborhood of China and Russia. Both countries believe that dialogue and consultation are the effective methods to resolve differences and that political negotiation is the only solution to disputes and conflicts. The two sides have worked together for the proper resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue and are actively promoting the political settlement of hotspot issues like the Korean nuclear issue and the Syrian issue.

— The two countries have worked together to address global security threats and challenges. Sharing the view that the security of a country cannot be pursued at the expense of other countries, China and Russia advocate the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and are both committed to forging a community of shared future for humankind to achieve common security. The two countries staunchly uphold the outcomes of World War II and international fairness and justice, allow no resurgence of fascism and militarism, and firmly oppose unilateral development and deployment of strategic anti-ballistic missile systems worldwide. In the face of rising non-traditional security threats posed by separatism, terrorism and extremism, China and Russia maintain that counter-terrorism efforts should address both the symptoms and root causes and need to be better coordinated to form a global united front.

Over the past 20-plus years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the China-Russia relationship has maintained sound and steady growth with high performance and fruitful outcomes. The primary reason for this is that the two countries, bearing in mind their common interests and the global trend of peace and development, have creatively chosen the most suitable model for their relationship by developing a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination characterized by equality and trust, mutual support, common prosperity and long-lasting friendship on the basis of the fact that the relationship is not an alliance, nor is it confrontational or targeted at any third party.  

Being each other's largest neighbors, China and Russia share a common border as long as over 4,300 kilometers. One cannot feel secure without a peaceful neighborhood. As such, the relationship between the two countries has profound implications for their national security and environment of development. History has proven once and again that, for neighbors like China and Russia, neither alliance nor confrontation is the best option, for neither can secure enduring peace and tranquility. Only good neighborliness and friendly cooperation featuring common prosperity and long-lasting friendship based on dialogue and partnership rather than confrontation and alliance serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples and has great vitality. 

As emerging market economies at a critical stage of national development and renewal, China and Russia share similar development goals and enjoy great complementarity in terms of geographic location, talent pools, market, resources and technology. By building on their good political relations and strengthening all-round cooperation in various fields, the two countries can not only enhance mutual exchange but also boost their development through synergy, and achieve mutual benefit and win-win outcomes.  

As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia share broad interests and important responsibilities in maintaining regional and global peace and stability. They are duty-bound to enhance comprehensive strategic coordination in international and regional affairs, jointly advance multilateralism, and steer the international order and system toward a more just and reasonable direction. This is the obligation and historic mission of the two major countries.

The sound and steady development of the China-Russia relationship over the past two decades and more is also attributable to their commitment to a series of innovative principles and ideas that are in line with the trend of the times. These principles and ideas have not only guided the long-term development of their ties but also provided useful models and practices for harmonious coexistence between major and neighboring countries and for building a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation. 

First, ending the past and opening up the future. In 1989, Comrade Deng Xiaoping and the then Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev reached important consensus on ending the past and opening up the future. Ending the past does not mean forgetting the history. Rather, it means drawing on experience and learning profound lessons from history so as to open up a new future for bilateral relations without backtracking or repeating previous mistakes. The agreement demonstrates the political wisdom and vision of the two leaders and has served as a guidance for the normalization of China-Soviet Union relations and the smooth development of China-Russia relations later.

Second, mutual respect, equality and mutual trust. Mutual respect is the prerequisite for countries to engage with each other, and sovereign equality is the most important norm governing state-to-state relations over the centuries. The violation of the principle of equality was the root cause for the strained relations between China and the Soviet Union in late 1950s. Since the end of the Cold War, China and Russia have established an equal relationship. Based on mutual respect, high-level trust and common interests, they have conducted cooperation on an equal footing, refrained from imposing their will on one another, respected the independent choices of each other’s countries and peoples, and consistently followed the principle of mutual respect and equality.

Third, mutual support and win-win cooperation. China and Russia have agreed to firmly support each other in safeguarding their core interests, following a development path suited to their national conditions, pursuing national development and renewal, and managing their own affairs well. Both promote partnership and friendship with neighboring countries, see each other’s development as opportunities, and sincerely wish each other greater development and their people better livelihood. Viewing each other as major partners, both pursue long-term development, win-win outcomes and shared benefits from their cooperation rather than seek unilateral or temporary gains, still less undermine the other side’s interests. Moreover, the China-Russia relationship and cooperation is fully open and inclusive rather than closed and exclusive, and the two countries are ready to work jointly to cooperate with third parties. The cooperation between the two countries is based on their own needs and the global trend of peace and development. It is not targeted at or influenced by any third party. Otherwise, such cooperation would be neither stable nor sustainable.

Fourth, mutual learning and friendly consultation. It is inevitable for China and Russia, two major countries with different history, tradition and culture, to run into some problems in their extensive cooperation and frequent people-to-people exchanges. Nevertheless, proceeding from the overall interests of bilateral relations and the friendship between the two peoples, the two countries are able to properly handle the problems and seek win-win solutions that are mutually beneficial, guided by the principles of mutual learning, friendly consultation and accommodation of each other’s concerns. At the same time, they are ready to learn from experience, take precautions against possible risks, and actively explore long-term mechanisms for timely and effective resolution of differences in specific areas of cooperation. Such efforts testify to the maturity of the China-Russia relationship.

In 2017, the world economy remains sluggish with looming trend of anti-globalization and trade protectionism while the international political landscape faces a host of uncertainties and complex factors. Proceeding from the long-term development of bilateral relations and the trend of peace, development and win-win cooperation, President Xi and President Putin reached an important consensus on China-Russia relations: No matter how the international and regional landscapes change, the two sides will always stay committed to consolidating and deepening the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, pursuing common development and renewal, and jointly upholding international equity and justice and world peace and stability. The important consensus fully demonstrates the firm objective and determination of China and Russia to further deepen bilateral relations and cooperation and jointly promote world peace and development, and points the way forward for China-Russia relations from a strategic perspective. Faced with the new situation, the two countries should stick to the existing all-round cooperation framework, seize the opportunity to deepen cooperation, and expand and enrich strategic coordination. Only by consolidating and improving China-Russia relations can the two sides meet the trend of the times, the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and the expectations of the international community.

— Continue to deepen political and strategic trust. As a result of the joint efforts of generations of people from both sides, China-Russia relations have achieved a high level of development, which is extremely important and valuable for the two countries and the rest of the world. Solid mutual trust and firm mutual support is the key cornerstone for bilateral relations. However, mutual trust is not built once and for all. The maintenance of mutual trust requires consistent efforts and attention during the whole process of the growth of bilateral relations. Both sides will make full use of the top-level exchanges and the sound cooperation platform to have candid and in-depth communication and exchanges on important issues such as general guidelines, domestic and diplomatic policies and development strategies. By doing so, they can strengthen mutual understanding and support on issues concerning respective core interests, which will enable them to observe and develop China-Russia relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, firmly adhere to the strategic direction of the bilateral relations, and prevent anyone from sowing discord in the relations.

— Work hard to seek more common ground for respective economic interests. Based on the consensus of the two leaders on enhancing the complementarity of development strategies and creating synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, the two sides will explore new ideas and models to deepen trade, investment, energy, hi-tech and subnational cooperation, shift from simple commodity trade to joint development, production and application, and seek more practical results from large strategic cooperation projects. Efforts will be made to further unleash market vitality and potential by nurturing cooperation in new promising areas such as small and medium enterprises, scientific and technological innovation and agriculture. During the cooperation, departments from both sides will pay more attention to the general strategy and larger picture and actively blaze new trails by studying new problems in new situations and providing policy support and service for the cooperation between each other’s enterprises. The two sides will further address issues related to personnel exchanges to provide more facilitation to the legal and orderly exchanges and create more favorable conditions to expand practical cooperation. Both sides believe that, as their economic interests further converge, China and Russia will continue to cement material ties for bilateral relations. In the meantime, the all-round win-win cooperation will further enhance the connectivity and infrastructure cooperation in Eurasia and beyond and promote regional economic integration for the benefits of all.

— Consolidate friendship between the two peoples. The bond between people cannot be established immediately, but requires the consistent and meticulous cultivation of both sides. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the China-Russia Friendship Committee for Peace and Development. The two sides will make better use of this mechanism as a main channel for people-to-people exchanges, and encourage more nongovernmental actors to engage in the business, cultural and subnational cooperation between China and Russia. Through such cooperation, the two countries can promote the spirit of equality and trust, mutual support, common prosperity and long-lasting friendship in the two societies, thus further consolidating the social and public foundation for China-Russia relations. The scale of student exchange programs will be enlarged to promote mutual understanding between the young people so that the baton of China-Russia friendship can be passed on generation after generation. Efforts will be made to ensure the success of the year of media exchange between the two countries to promote positive media coverage on bilateral relations and development achievements of both sides, end the dominance of the West in the international media coverage and create a fair media environment for both countries. 

— Join hands for an even greater role in the building of a community of shared future. At the beginning of this year, President Xi in Geneva made a comprehensive and in-depth elaboration on the vision of a community of shared future for humankind, calling for joint efforts for this great mission. The successful practice of China and Russia in building a new type of state-to-state relations is in line with this vision and serves as a useful exploration in this direction. Both sides have the responsibility and obligation to deepen comprehensive strategic coordination and use this relationship as a model in the process of building a community of shared future by advancing dialogue, consultation and political settlement in international and regional affairs and promoting win-win outcomes in economic cooperation. Joining hands with other players in the international community, China and Russia will make relentless efforts to build an open and inclusive world of enduring peace, common security and shared prosperity.

The year 2017 is an important year for China’s development. The Communist Party of China will hold its 19th National Congress. The 13th Five-Year Plan will enter a stage of all-round and intensive implementation. The year 2017 will also be a year for people around the world to make relentless efforts to overcome difficulties and challenges and pursue peace and development. As the lines of an ancient Chinese poem read, “From shore to shore it is wide at high tide, and before fair wind a sail is lifting.” There is also a Russian proverb which goes, “Big ships sail far.” As comprehensive strategic partners of coordination and major countries in the world, China and Russia will continue to work under the sail of peace, development and win-win cooperation. With the strategic guidance of the two leaders, China and Russia will keep deepening comprehensive strategic coordination and be committed to working for world peace, contributing to global development, and upholding multilateralism. Both countries will build on past achievements, strive for further progress and join hands with the international community to write a new chapter of friendship and cooperation. 

Gui Congyou is Director-General of the Department of European-Central Asian Affairs Of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.