Differences Seen in China, Russia’s Stance on Economic Cooperation

Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping pose for a photo during a signing ceremony at The Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow on Tuesday.

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed Tuesday during their meeting in Moscow that their nations will further strengthen economic cooperation in areas including natural gas and currency trading. China is offering support to Russia, which is suffering from U.S. and European sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but differing agendas could also be discerned between the two nations.

In a joint economic statement, China and Russia set forth eight items including (1) expanding the scale of trade and optimizing the trade framework, (2) improving financial cooperation, (3) consolidating their energy partnership, and (4) promoting exchanges and cooperation in the field of technology.

At a press conference after signing the agreement, Putin expressed confidence, saying: “Trade and economic cooperation remain a priority for us … our two countries have been effective in working together to expand mutual trade and maintain this momentum.”

Xi said: “Two-way trade has grown by 116% over the last 10 years. This has not only consolidated the material foundation for bilateral relations, but also given an important boost to economic and social development in both countries.”

Regarding energy supply to China, Putin said on the same day that the total volume of gas supplies will be at least 98 billion cubic meters by 2030, revealing plans to increase supply to more than double the current level.

Demand for Siberian natural gas has been stagnant due to Western sanctions, but China’s purchases from Russia in 2022 increased to 260% of the previous year in terms of value.

Apparently Putin intends to continue relying on China to purchase Russian gas. For China, being able to buy natural gas at a low price is highly beneficial from the perspective of energy security.

However, many specific economic cooperation measures mentioned by Putin at the press conference were not included in the joint statement.

Regarding the Russia-China natural gas pipeline project, Putin said that all agreements had been completed, but there was no specific reference to the agreements in the statement released by the Chinese side. Xi only spoke about general ideas at the press conference.

The two countries may have been unable to agree on specific terms.