A worker patrols the Kovykta natural gas field in Russia's Irkutsk region in December, days before the gas field began operations. The gas field in eastern Siberia and a new pipeline section were connected to Russia's Power of Siberia pipeline, signaling completion of the Russian section of the China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline. (Photo/Xinhua)
Foundation of nations' economic cooperation still solid, ambassador to Moscow says
Economic and trade cooperation between China and Russia is continuing to advance despite multiple challenges and pressures, Chinese Ambassador to Moscow Zhang Hanhui said.
In the context of the protracted COVID-19 pandemic, the complex international situation and a weak global economic recovery, bilateral trade between the two nations hit a record high $190.27 billion last year, Zhang said in a recent joint interview with Chinese media.
According to Zhang, energy has played a pivotal role in bilateral trade, while China's exports of mechanical and electrical products, automobiles and auto parts to Russia have all seen substantial growth.
The proportion of settlements in local currencies continues to grow, with Russian banks extensively carrying out renminbi business, he said.
Noting that the subnational cooperation between the two countries has been deepening, Zhang said that institutions and enterprises from both sides have participated in the China International Import Expo, the China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, the Eastern Economic Forum and the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, achieving further synergy in demand for cooperation and fully unleashing cooperation potential.
The Heihe-Blagoveshchensk cross-border highway bridge, the Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye cross-border railway bridge and other boundary bridges have opened to traffic one after another, and cross-border logistics and transportation channels have been further expanded, he said.
Following China's optimization of its COVID-19 response measures, customs clearance at ports of both countries has gradually returned to their pre-pandemic mode, effectively ensuring the smooth flow of goods and personnel between the two sides, Zhang said.
"In the first two months of 2023, bilateral trade sustained strong growth momentum, reaching $33.69 billion, up 25.9 percent year-on-year, which is a good start," he said. "It demonstrates once again that the foundation of bilateral economic and trade cooperation remains solid."
As neighboring countries, China and Russia share strong political trust and enjoy high economic complementarity and great cooperation potential, he said, adding that more Russian companies have shown a strong willingness to cooperate with their Chinese counterparts.
"We believe that China-Russia trade will reach new heights in 2023, and we will strive to achieve the annual trade target of $200 billion set by the two heads of state," he said.
Zhang noted that people-to-people cooperation has always played an important role throughout the history of the development of China-Russia relations.
At the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, the two heads of state officially launched the China-Russia Years of Sports Exchanges and jointly called for opposing the politicization of sports, which was of extraordinary significance, he said.
Within the framework of the Years of Sports Exchanges, sports cooperation between the two countries has increased. China's national teams of ice hockey, handball, snowboarding and other sports have visited Russia for joint training programs, a group of high-level Russian coaches has visited China to teach and the 3rd Russian-Chinese Winter Youth Games have been successfully held in Changchun, Jilin province, he said.
In the cultural field, the Chinese Ambassador Weiqi Cup in Moscow and the Happy Chinese New Year temple fair held by the Chinese embassy were both well-received, while the Russian Cultural Festival held by the Russian side in China attracted much attention from the Chinese people, he said.
"Following the optimization of China's COVID-19 response measures, the two countries are prepared to hold various cultural exchange activities this year," Zhang said.
According to the agreement signed by the cultural departments of both sides, the year will see the Chinese Cultural Festival held in Russia, while China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism will host exhibitions in Russia and send performing groups to Russia for exchanges, he said.
A series of sports exchange activities will also be held this year under the framework of the Years of Sports Exchanges, he added.
Noting that 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind and the Belt and Road Initiative, both proposed by President Xi Jinping, Zhang said that Russia has become China's important partner in the initiative, and the two countries have joined hands in building a community with a shared future for mankind. The internal momentum and special value of bilateral cooperation have become more evident, Zhang added.