An opinion piece by Sergei Sanakoev “Bound by one belt, we walk one way”, President of the ANO Center for Research of the Asia-Pacific Region, expert of the Russian-Chinese Committee for Preparing Regular Meetings between Heads of Government, Deputy Chairman of the Russian-Chinese Friendship Society, Deputy Secretary General of the Eurasian Peoples' Assembly.
The article is dedicated to the outcomes of a decade of leadership of the PRC by President Xi Jinping.
In 2023, world politics sums up the decade of Chinese leadership by President Xi Jinping and celebrates the anniversary of his earliest and most important initiatives as China’s leader.
In March 2013, immediately after his election as Chairman of the People's Republic of China, President Xi Jinping made his first state visit abroad to Russia. I had the honor, as a government official, to work as part of the host team. Comrade Xi Jinping’s speech to MGIMO students was especially memorable. Then he first voiced his theory of creating a Community of Common Destiny, the main postulate of which was expressed by the simple thought that all of us on planet Earth are residents of one global village.
Later, in Astana (Kazakhstan), President Xi first voiced his ideas on the “One Belt, One Road” doctrine. And already in the Olympic Sochi 2014, in the home atmosphere of the Spring Festival, Chairman Xi shared his thoughts with his friend Vladimir Putin. Having listened with great interest, the Russian President gave corresponding instructions to the Russian government to carefully study China's new initiatives.
It should be noted that at the beginning, not all departments in Russia had a positive response to this doctrine, as the differences with the West's initiatives to circumvent Russian interests in the logistics of cargo deliveries from Southeast Asia to Europe were not immediately recognized.
But at that time, the West, under the dictation of the US State Department, was actively pursuing a policy of an “isolation belt” around China and the “New Silk Road”, bypassing Russia. In my opinion, the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) doctrine was largely aimed at countering Western efforts.
But already in April 2014, the Russian delegation, in which I had the opportunity to work, put forward two specific proposals at the forum in Boao: we will in every possible way contribute to the implementation of the OBOR project using the Trans-Siberian Railway on land and the Northern Sea Route (NSR) on the sea.
In May 2015, a Joint Statement was signed in the Kremlin on the conjugation of our integration processes —the construction of the EAEU and the OBOR doctrine, designated by experts as “integration of integrations.” Our integration is distinguished by openness and compliance with international law, and opens up prospects for unifying the Greater Eurasia market.
Of course, this is a special way of cooperation within the OBOR doctrine. Some Western analysts believe that Russia does not have a standard agreement on cooperation on the OBOR project with China. This means there is no cooperation. But this is a deep misconception.
I can give a number of specific examples, and I’ll start with specific routes:
All existing railway routes have access to the Trans-Siberian Railway. Today, the Trans-Siberian Railway, built more than 100 years ago, is the largest infrastructure facility connecting the east and west of the Eurasian continent. Western land routes leave China in Central Asia and then connect with the Trans-Siberian Railway in the Southern Urals region. All experimental high-speed trains from China to Europe pass through one or another part of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The North-Eastern route involves the development of transport corridors Primorye-1 and Primorye-2. Trilateral projects with the DPRK have been dramatically revitalized in the Tumangan area. The Northern route, which historically coincides with the Great Tea Route, today is largely developing within the China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor. This route connects with the Trans-Siberian Railway in one of the most beautiful and protected places in Russia - in the area of Lake Baikal. It is within the framework of this economic corridor that, in addition to the existing Power of Siberia pipeline, the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline is being built. Together with the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline, all of the listed pipelines that carry affordable energy to Chinese territory can be safely considered the OBOR mega-project.
The same can be said about the energy industry in general. In the OBOR doctrine, the main infrastructure for importing energy products to China is linked to Russia, the world's largest supplier of oil and gas to world markets. And in the border areas between Russia and China, a high-voltage energy bridge was built, supplying electricity to northeast China. Another energy project, Yamal, for the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in northern Russia is being implemented with the participation of China. Among the Chinese participants there are not only the largest state-owned energy company CNPC, but also the Silk Road Investment Fund. LNG is supplied to China via the NSR.
The NSR becomes the most important and effective sea route of the OBOR doctrine. The reason is not only cheaper and faster delivery of goods from China to Europe, but also the opportunity to join large-scale development programs in the Russian Arctic. In particular, large Chinese construction companies are involved in contracts to modernize 24 Russian ports in the Arctic Ocean.
However, the participation of Chinese construction companies at the CRCC and CCCC level is not limited to programs in the north. Chinese builders are successfully commissioning highway and railway projects connecting the west and east of the continent, such as Moscow-Kazan and Europe-Western China.
Another area of development of our integration is the field of IT communications. Today we already have lines of transmission of financial and other critical information independent from Western systems. In fact, we are ready to launch our own Internet, new navigation systems, cloud technologies, which will not only increase the degree of our integration, but also make our economies more sovereign and secure.
As we already understand, the OBOR initiative is not only about routes and economic corridors. And not only about economic ties. The OBOR doctrine has become a roadmap for intercivilizational exchange. Over the past 10 years, we have significantly increased and strengthened public relations and contacts between the peoples of the two countries. Cross years of scientific and technical cooperation have deepened our interaction in this area. After forced isolation due to coronavirus infection, we are reopening our doors to tourists. Starting on August 1, 2023, tourist exchanges between Russia and China take place on a visa-free basis. We are increasing youth cooperation in sports and education. The number of students studying under bilateral programs in the neighboring country has exceeded one hundred thousand. Last year, we celebrated a landmark event - the 65th anniversary of the Russian-Chinese Friendship Society, on which we were congratulated by the heads of Russia and China.
All of the above gives me every reason to assert that the best prospects can be seen in cooperation between China and Russia on the OBOR programs. The three main principles of the doctrine outlined in China's agreements with other countries also fully work in co-operation with Russia. Let me remind you of these principles: joint development, joint construction, and joint operation. This once again proves to our opponents that the OBOR doctrine is not Chinese expansion into the world as they try to convince us.
It is no coincidence that Russian President V.V. Putin, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, will attend the upcoming Third OBOR Forum for the third time as the chief guest. New frontiers await us in the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership, which is entering a new era. And, as we have already seen, the friendship between the peoples of Russia and China has no borders. We are bound together by one belt, and we are on our way to a bright future.
This article was written at the request and specifically for “Waijiao Guancha”.