Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between China and Russia, published by the newspapers Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia) and Renmin Ribao (China), July 16, 2021
Relations between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China have reached an all-time high, setting an example of interstate cooperation in the 21st century. Just as in any story of success, there are backbone pillars in our relations that set the tune for our forward development in the years ahead. One such pillar in the development of modern Russian-Chinese ties was the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation. Twenty years ago, it was signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Jiang Zemin.
This historical document is based on centuries of positive cooperation between our countries. It reflects not only the old traditions of good-neighbourliness and friendship between the people of Russia and China, but also our views on a new model of interstate relations. This model, which meets the fundamental national interests of the two countries and aspirations of their peoples, is playing an important role in promoting a multipolar world order and ensuring international and regional security and stability.
The main provisions of this international legal act provided the basis for hundreds of bilateral documents, influenced the development of the legal framework for Russia and China’s relations with other countries and contributed hugely to the formulation of the concepts of influential associations, such as the SCO and BRICS.
The Treaty formalised the definition of our bilateral relations, which had been earlier declared at the political level, as equal partnership and strategic interaction based on mutual trust. Life goes on, and while moving along the chartered path we are now speaking about a new stage of our comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction.
This fundamental document is based on the universally recognised norms of international law, first of all, the goals and principles of the UN Charter. It sealed our agreements on mutual support in the protection of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, and our commitment not to be the first to use nuclear weapons against each other nor target strategic nuclear missiles against each other. It formulated the principle of respect for each other’s choice of political, economic, social and cultural development. Our countries agreed to immediately contact each other if either party is confronted with the threat of aggression and not to allow their territory to be used by a third country to the detriment of each other. These provisions are acquiring special significance in light of the extreme transformations underway in the world.
The Treaty provided the legal basis for the Russian-Chinese tandem, which is, in many ways, a better form of bilateral relations than the classical military-political alliances of the Cold War period. Unlike them, relations between Moscow and Beijing are not hampered by any ideological restrictions, are based on equality, are not directed against third countries, and are resistant to the influence of external factors. Our partnership is self-sufficient and is noted for its high level of coordination, including on strategic matters.
Of great significance is the Treaty provision on the absence of mutual territorial claims and on the intention to turn the common border into a belt of eternal peace and friendship. The painful border dispute has been settled completely, providing the basis for the demarcation of the Russian-Chinese border along its entire length.
Mutual political trust is exceptionally important, and the Treaty has consolidated it substantially. Guided by Article 10 of this document, our countries have built an effective, multi-level structure of interstate collaboration, with meetings of the two countries’ leaders playing a key role within it. The heads of state continue to maintain an intensive remote dialogue in the pandemic environment. In 2020, they had five telephone conversations, discussing bilateral relations, the fight against the new coronavirus infection, and the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. On June 28 of this year, the President of Russia and the Chinese President had a detailed talk via videoconference, focusing on the anniversary of the Grand Treaty.
The dialogue at the top level is complemented with a mechanism of regular meetings between the heads of government. It includes five successfully functioning intergovernmental commissions headed by deputy prime ministers as well as several dozen interagency sub-commissions and working groups.
The Executive Office of the President of the Russian Federation and the Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China have established a collaboration that has no analogues. Inter-parliamentary exchanges are being carried out on a systemic basis and there are consultations on strategic security and cooperation in the sphere of law and order, security and justice. Inter-regional ties and contacts between political parties and public organisations are becoming increasingly more intensive.
Based on the principles set out in Article 7 of the Treaty, military cooperation is developing successfully, cooperation that is strictly defensive in nature and is not directed against any third states. Joint command-and-staff, antiterrorist and naval exercises are being held regularly. This collaboration is enriched with new formats, including joint air patrol missions performed by long-range aircraft in the Asia Pacific Region.
The dominant idea of the Treaty is expressed by the postulate that the Parties are determined to pass on friendship between the two peoples from generation to generation. This is a unique legal formula that is not found anywhere else. It rests on a firm historical foundation. Our countries were allied in the struggle against Nazism and Japanese militarism; they went through bitter trials and suffered the heaviest human losses. The Soviet forces made the decisive contribution to the liberation of Northeastern China. We are cherishing the glorious pages of our common history and espouse similar views on the causes, course and results of W WII. We are presenting a united front against any attempts to revise these results, falsify history, or glorify military criminals and their accomplices.
Close military memorial collaboration has been established. We are grateful to Beijing for the attention it pays to looking after the graves and monuments to the Soviet soldiers, who lost their lives in the fight for China’s liberation and independence.
Under Article 16 of the Treaty, trade and economic ties are a crucial factor of Russian-Chinese relations. Since 2001, our mutual trade has grown 1,300 percent and stably exceeds $100 billion over a period of the past three years. China is our biggest trade partner. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic affected, if not radically, the dynamics in this sphere. Today, however, we are witnessing a rapid restoration of the amounts. There is every reason to hope for new record highs in trade as a result of 2021 and prospectively for reaching the $200 billion target set by the heads of state.
Work is in progress on improving the qualitative characteristics of trade turnover, including based on the use of e-commerce tools, expansion of trade in services, and introduction of settlements in national currencies. Today, the rouble and the yuan account for over a quarter of all payments between Russia and China. This is enhancing the level of safety and continuity of transactions between businesses in a situation where the United States and a number of Western countries are building up their sanctions pressure. Owing to their joint efforts, the regulators have managed to minimise the negative impact of unilateral third-country restrictive measures on our financial collaboration. Certain difficulties still persist, but generally the situation is stable.
We have established a solid energy alliance. Large-scale and long-term supplies of Russian hydrocarbons are in place. The Russian-Chinese oil pipeline has been functioning successfully since 2010, the Power of Siberia gas pipeline was launched in late 2019, and we continue to discuss other pipeline projects. We are implementing major joint high-tech initiatives in both states. Successful examples include the Yamal LNG plant producing liquefied natural gas that has started operating in the Russian Arctic. Rosatom is building the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China. On May 19, 2021, the leaders of our countries gave Rosatom the go-ahead to start building four new reactors, including the one at the Xiapu nuclear power plant.
We are exporting more and more agricultural produce and food to China. We have established new joint car manufacturing plants all over Russia. We are continuing with the development of a wide-body long-haul passenger aircraft and a heavy-duty civilian helicopter. The information and communications sector has good prospects. Comprehensive joint space exploration, including that under the planned International Lunar Research Station project, is underway.
We continue to upgrade the transport infrastructure on the Russian-Chinese border. We have completed the first trans-border bridge across the Amur River for vehicles near Blagoveshchensk and Heihe, and a railway bridge near Nizhneleninskoye and Tongjiang is almost complete. We are jointly expanding international transport corridors linking Asia and Europe.
Under global trends, the sphere of cutting-edge technologies occupies an important place in our practical cooperation. This is proved by the Russian-Chinese Years of Science, Technology and Innovation, held in 2020 and 2021.
It is hard to overestimate the Treaty’s significance for humanitarian ties. In the past few years, they have become all-encompassing and have acquired an impressive scale, and they invariably help strengthen the social foundation of Russian-Chinese strategic partnership. We have managed to drastically expand educational exchanges, with 100,000 people involved in them in 2019. Our joint university continues to function successfully in Shenzhen, and over ten bilateral associations of higher education institutions have been established. There was a significant increase in tourism between the two countries. In 2019, 1.8 million Chinese visited Russia, with 2.3 million Russians travelling to China. Annual cultural and cinema festivals, museum exhibitions and tours of national artistic groups fill up the calendar of cultural events. Interaction in the media sphere, physical fitness and sport contacts stimulate many new events.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has restricted bilateral exchanges and created certain difficulties for practical and humanitarian cooperation. Even in these conditions, we continue to maintain the closest possible coordination on all matters, including the joint COVID-19 response effort and manufacture of vaccines. We hope that, in the near future, the epidemiological situation will allow us to resume full-fledged cooperation in all fields.
Russian-Chinese foreign policy cooperation is an example of both great powers’ responsible behaviour on the international scene. This is facilitated by our countries’ coinciding or highly similar opinions on the global situation and their positions on topical contemporary problems.
With our Chinese friends, we are faithfully complying with the principles set out in Article 11 of the Treaty. We strictly observe the universally acknowledged principles and norms of international laws and oppose any action of resorting to the use of force to bring pressure to bear on others or interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. We are advocating a political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts and we reject the policy of “regime change,” “double standards” and unilateral sanctions. This is especially important in the current circumstances, when some countries have tried to disrupt the UN-centric architecture of international law and to replace it with a “rules-based world order.”
Moscow and Beijing have been consistently advocating the development of a more fair and democratic, and hence a more stable polycentric international order, which will reflect the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world and the nations’ natural desire to independently choose their development paths. The very fact of Russian-Chinese agreement on this matter is providing a stabilising and balancing effect on the entire complex of international relations. It also offers room for a truly equitable cooperation, free from any coercion, among big and small countries, which are working together to take their rightful place in history.
It is satisfactory that Russia and China have identical or largely similar views on the maintenance of strategic stability, arms control and the fight against terrorism and other threats and challenges. We have been working successfully and fruitfully at multilateral platforms, such as the UN, the SCO, BRICS, RIC, G20, APEC and EAS. We are coordinating our efforts for a settlement in Syria and Afghanistan, the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and in the matter of Iran’s nuclear programme. Our countries stand for peaceful development of the Asia Pacific Region and for creating reliable mechanisms of equal and indivisible security based on non-bloc principles there.
A number of innovative integration projects are being implemented in Eurasia, including the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Efforts to combine their potentials have good prospects, possibly leading to the development of a new geostrategic contour of peace, stability, security and economic prosperity on our common continent from Lisbon to Jakarta. Based on the principles of international law and transparency, it must be open to all countries without exception, including the member states of the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN and, hopefully, the EU. It is towards attaining this truly momentous goal that the idea of a Greater Eurasian Partnership, put forth by President Vladimir Putin, is aimed at. We will continue to coordinate our efforts with our Chinese friends to implement this initiative.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that the fundamental Russian-Chinese Treaty has successfully stood the test of time. While providing an inviolable basis for our bilateral relations, the Treaty is a living and effective document, which can be used for the further development of our strategic partnership with due regard for the changing realities of the new age. We have all the necessary conditions for this: political will, economic expediency and concurrent foreign policy priorities. I have no doubt that the people of our countries will continue working peacefully and harmoniously to strengthen our traditions of friendship, good-neighbourliness and cooperation in the name of universal prosperity.