Russian President Putin is back in Russia after a lengthy and important visit to China which has received almost no reporting in the Western media.
Putin’s trips to China – and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visits to Russia – have now become such regular events, and have become so routine, that they are now almost invisible.
As it happens Putin’s latest visit to China, which not only involved detailed discussions with China’s leaders on bilateral questions, but which was first and foremost undertaken in response to an invitation from China’s leaders to Russia to participate in China’s grandiose One Belt, One Road international forum, was highly important.
China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is ultimately intended to link together the two parts of Eurasia into a single gigantic economic and transport bloc. The Chinese and the Russians are working on marrying it with Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union into a single system of political and economic institutions as part of the ‘Greater Eurasia Project‘. Putin’s visit to Beijing was undertaken as part of the detailed work of negotiating the various aspects of the project.
Though the negotiations would have been tough and businesslike – between the Chinese and the Russians they always are – Putin’s comments and those of China’s leaders following their various meetings show that they went well.
What was most interesting however was the contrast Putin drew following the meetings between the state of the Russian-Chinese partnership and the condition of the West.
Here firstly is what Putin had to say about the current state of the West in his final news conference
Let me start by saying that the meeting was very timely, for the following reasons. Of course, on the sidelines, as they say, my colleagues and I discussed and assessed what is happening here in Beijing. I would like to stress that nearly everyone said that at a time when we see growing uncertainty in major political and economic power centres (say, in the United States, where an intense internal political power struggle continues, creating a nervous atmosphere in both politics and the economy; in Europe, where everyone is waiting to see what happens with Brexit, the process and its results; and in the European Union itself, where individual countries have many issues to address), we are all obviously looking out for signals that give hope of greater stability.
Contrast this bleak picture of “political power struggle” in the US and of unresolved problems within the EU, and of the “nervous atmosphere in both politics and the economy” and the instability all this is causing, with the calm, assured and purposeful optimism which Putin sees in the state of Chinese-Russian relations and in the way in which the Chinese and the Russians are forging ahead with their ‘Greater Eurasian Project‘
….the Chinese initiative is very useful and timely. Furthermore – and this was not China’s initiative, but that of the participants in today’s meeting – we expressed the desire to make this a regular event. President of China Xi Jinping, who chaired the event, said that the next forum would take place in 2019.
As for just how effective this will be, time will tell, but everything we discussed today is, for all intents and purposes, already happening. All we are doing now is giving an institutional framework to what is already underway in real life.
What I mean here is primarily infrastructure development, importantly, through joint efforts. You may know that we have established priority development zones and free ports in the Far East (Vladivostok, Nakhodka and others), and many are keen to take part in these infrastructure development projects.
As I said during my remarks today, we are talking here about developing transport, railway, aviation, port and airport infrastructure, and there are opportunities for cooperation here.
Energy sector development is another aspect. You have heard about the initiative to develop the big Asian energy ring, and this project could be interesting and very useful for us, as we have substantial, even surplus, generating capacity, particularly in the eastern part of the country. Projects are already underway in the energy sector today, funded by large-scale investment, including that from China.
As for the initiative’s name, Silk Route, or Belt and Road, look at the Yamal LNG project, for example. We are carrying out this project together with partners from Europe, French companies, and with our Chinese partners. Our partners have invested tens of billions of dollars in this project. This is only one project. In reality, there are many more, and I am sure this number will grow. The initiative is therefore very useful, timely, and, I hope, will have good development prospects.
In other words in one region of the world – that dominated by China and Russia – Putin sees calm and purpose; in the other – the West – he sees conflict and chaos.
Looking at the state of the world today I doubt that most objective observers would disagree with him.