Interview with the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Russia Zhang Hanhui

16 March 2020

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Russia Zhang Hanhui answered questions of Russian journalists.

How do you estimate the success achieved over almost 6 years of implementation of «the Belt and Road Initiative»? What are the prospects for its development? What will the 2nd Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation bring?

For almost 6 years, the Belt and Road Initiative has been implemented on the principles of joint consultations, joint construction, joint use of benefits, and during this time it has created a path of common prosperity and development. It gave a new impetus to the development of the global economy. «One Belt and One Road» covers an increasing number of countries. Currently, 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed cooperation agreements on the joint implementation of the initiative with China. Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited three European countries. Owing to this tour, important results were achieved. An intergovernmental memorandum of understanding was signed between China and Italy on cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road, and the parties announced their readiness to conjugate the integration of this initiative with the Italian program for the construction of ports in northern Italy and the investment program in Italy. France and Germany also announced that they will actively participate in the 2nd high-level forum on international cooperation within the framework of the «One Belt and One Road». All this shows that numerous facts and fruitful results are allowing more and more countries to see the huge business opportunities and great prospects inherent in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The 2nd Belt and Road High-Level International Cooperation Forum will be held in Beijing in late April. President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of this forum. He will deliver a keynote speech and hold a round table with the participation of leaders of foreign countries. Moreover, within the framework of the forum, a high-level meeting, sub-forums, and business events are also planned.

Mr. Ambassador, how do you assess the results of the integration of the Belt and Road Initiative with the projects of the Euro-Asian Economic Union? What guidelines would you suggest for further integration and cooperation within this format?

In May 2015, the leaders of China and Russia signed a joint statement on cooperation to link the construction of «the Silk Road Economic Belt» and the EAEU, which can be called the beginning of the integration of the One Belt and One Road projects with the EAEU. In May 2018, an agreement on trade and economic cooperation was signed between the EAEU and the PRC. For more than 3 years, the first results in this area have been achieved. We managed to achieve good results with Russia, cooperating on large projects in the field of energy, transport, aviation and astronautics. Cooperation with Kazakhstan has become a bright example of interaction in the field of production facilities. The industrial park «Great Stone» is dynamically developing in Belarus; it is a joint project of China with this country. The conjunction of the Belt and Road Initiative with the development strategies of Kyrgyzstan is also taking on a new form. However, it is worth noting that the achievements fall short of expectations and there is a huge space for deepening and expanding cooperation between China and the EAEU.

Russian-Chinese relations of comprehensive strategic interaction and partnership are at a high level and at their historical peak. In which directions, in your opinion, should the parties make efforts to maintain this level of relations?

We can say that the current level of Chinese-Russian relations is the result of joint efforts of the two countries and our peoples. It seems to me that in order to maintain and develop Chinese-Russian relations of comprehensive strategic interaction and partnership, the parties need to strengthen cooperation in the following four areas.
First, it is important to constantly strengthen the leading role of the leaders of the two countries. In six years, the leaders of our countries have held nearly 30 meetings, built good working relationships and become true friends. At the strategic level, they contribute to the development of Chinese-Russian relations. This year, President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin continue to hold regular bilateral meetings and, as before, set the direction for the development of bilateral relations.
Secondly, we should continue consistent development of bilateral business cooperation. Last year, bilateral trade turnover exceeded $ 100 billion, and the parties expressed their desire to increase the volume of trade to $ 200 billion. To do this, it is necessary to intensify bilateral business cooperation, strengthen interaction in energy resources sector and in other traditional areas, develop new sources of growth in the field of high technologies, agriculture, e-commerce, finance, as well as improve the quality of cooperation and work for the welfare of the peoples of the two countries.
Thirdly, there is a need for more diversified cooperation and exchanges in the humanitarian sphere. We should find new forms of humanitarian exchanges, conduct cooperation in the humanitarian sphere at a new level, improve the exchange mechanisms and thus make the Сhinese-Russian relations more meaningful. It is also worth strengthening mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples of the two countries, showing a good example of conducting a dialogue between civilizations, offering the countries of the world useful experience to find ways to maintain global peace and development.
Fourth, it is necessary to raise the level of international strategic interaction. As two world powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia have great responsibilities and important missions. The parties should, as before, maintain interaction on all the most important issues of the international agenda, support each other and firmly defend the goals and principles enshrined in the “UN Charter”, constantly advocate for the preservation of international strategic security and make a due contribution to maintaining peace and stability on the planet.

Last year bilateral trade between Russia and China exceeded $ 100 billion for the first time. What are your expectations from business cooperation between the two countries this year?

Last year, the bilateral trade turnover between Russia and China really exceeded the $ 100 billion mark for the first time. We can say that this is a new milestone, demonstrating the enormous potential of our cooperation. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia. The parties will hold a number of events aimed at maintaining communication between the leaders of the two countries and dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. All this will open up new opportunities for the development of bilateral relations and business cooperation.
First, cooperation in the field of energy resources will reach a new level. By the end of this year, the eastern route of the Chinese-Russian gas pipeline will be commissioned. This is an important cooperation project between the two countries in the field of energy resources. Also, Russia will host the second Chinese-Russian Business Forum on energy resources, and this will also make it possible to increase bilateral cooperation in this area.
Secondly, there will be new results in regional cooperation. Since the launch of «the Years of Regional Cooperation between China and Russia», hundreds of events and meetings have already taken place at the regional level, many Chinese provinces and cities have signed cooperation agreements with various regions of Russia. Further holding of the Years of Regional Cooperation between China and Russia will only increase the activity of the regions of the two countries and allow them to realize their potential.
Thirdly, cooperation in the development of the Far East will proceed more dynamically. This year, it is planned to commission two border bridges: the first Heihe – Blagoveshchensk road bridge and the first Tongjiang – Nizhneleninskoye railway bridge between China and Russia. They will help to strengthen trade and economic cooperation between northeast China and the Russian Far East, as well as attract Chinese investment to Russia. Fourth, agriculture and cross-border e-commerce will be the new drivers of growth. Russian exports of grain, vegetable oil, etc. are showing a rapid growth trend. 90% of Russian cross-border goods are imported from China. «Russian Post» has already increased the intensity of the use of air routes to China and increased their number. According to preliminary estimates, in 2019 the number of parcels from China will increase. Optimization of the trade structure will also lead to further growth of bilateral trade.

At the 2nd session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) the "Foreign Investment Law of the People's Republic of China" was adopted. In what conditions was it created and what significance does it have? How can foreign enterprises take advantage of the opportunities this law opens?

Since the launch of the policy of reform and opening up, China is developing owing to the increasing openness to the outside world and has achieved great success that attracts the attention of the whole world. Foreign investment has also become an important force driving the social and economic development of China. By the end of 2018, a total of about 960 thousand enterprises with foreign capital had been created in China, the volume of implemented foreign investments exceeded $ 2.1 trillion. China is undergoing (and will continue to experience it for quite a long time) a period of important strategic opportunities, and the country needs to comprehensively deepen reforms, expand openness, and actively and effectively use foreign investment. At the same time, protectionism and unilateralism are widespread in the modern world, and this is becoming a serious challenge for the globalization process. And in such a situation, China adopted the ” Foreign Investment Law of the People’s Republic of China”, which replaced three laws that governed the sphere of foreign investment. The law opened up a new space for modernizing public administration, but it also became the “wisdom” that China offered to global governance.