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Dmitry Medvedev’s interview with Renmin Ribao

Ahead of his visit to China, Dmitry Medvedev gave an interview to the Chinese daily.

Question: Russia and China are good neighbours, reliable partners and friends. The leaders of the two countries frequently meet each other and are consistent in their efforts to strengthen bilateral relations as a comprehensive strategic partnership, which has already become a model for peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial partnership. Mr Prime Minister, could you share your perspective on the relations between Russia and China?

Dmitry Medvedev: Russia and China have taken their trust-based partnership and strategic cooperation to an all-time high. These relations are in line with Russia’s national interests and have become a model of genuine good neighbourliness and mutual respect. These relations facilitate all-round modernisation of both countries, who are living to the rhythm of a new age. The proactive dialogue and cooperation between Russia and China encompass absolutely all areas.

Over the centuries, the peoples of our countries have learned to understand each other, to work together and be friends. Accordingly, we can be regarded as long-time friends. Today, the multidimensional ties between Russia and China are at their peak. This is mutually beneficial cooperation, in the true sense of the term, where there are no superiors or underlings, those who lead or those who follow.

We intend to strengthen our strategic partnership across the board. Not only does this make political or economic sense, but also most importantly the people of the two countries are interested in developing these ties. You are probably aware of the fact that more and more people in Russia are learning Chinese. Russian courses are also spreading across China, which means that people want to learn more about today’s Russia.

Since 2010, China has firmly established itself as Russia’s biggest trade partner. Strategic energy projects are being implemented, and we are developing our cooperation in hi-tech areas such as space, aircraft manufacturing, nuclear power and military-technical cooperation. We are attaching special attention to investment and financial aspects of our everyday ties. We are also committed to facilitating contacts between non-governmental institutions and people-to-people ties.

There is a saying in Russia that a close neighbour is better than a distant relative. It fully applies to the relations between Russia and China. The long border dividing our countries has long become an area of durable peace, friendship and multidimensional cooperation.

I think that in recent years we have been able to devise a clear framework for coordinating our joint efforts and long-term development plans. The regular contact between the leaders of our two countries, dating back to 1996, is a perfect example. During my visit to China, Mr Li Keqiang and I will hold the 20th anniversary meeting. We have agreed in principle to link integration processes within the Eurasian Economic Union with the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. This will provide additional opportunities for creating a single economic space.

Let me emphasise that Russia and China maintain their global strategic cooperation in international affairs, and their relations are an increasingly important factor in international relations. Russia and China are efficiently working together in a number of multilateral platforms, first and foremost in the UN, the Group of 20, BRICS and SCO. We approach the most urgent issues of today’s world in a balanced and pragmatic manner, and respect the right of every people to self-determination. We are staunch opponents of pressure against sovereign countries, including through unilateral sanctions, the use of force or double standards.

I believe that the world would have been a much better place if more countries interacted with each other as Russia and China do. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, the greatest victory is the battle not fought.

Question: Russian and Chinese economies are characterised by a high degree of mutual complementarity, which is one of the drivers of steady development of bilateral relations in the spirit of mutually beneficial partnership. What new points of growth, in your view, will appear in future in Russian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation?

Dmitry Medvedev: Our Chinese partners and we are unanimous in assuming that a high level of trust and mutual understanding in the political sphere should help cooperation in trade, economic, humanitarian and other spheres.

Our contacts have been stepped up at all levels recently. A mostramified and multi-level bilateral cooperation mechanism has been created with China. We don’t have a mechanism of this kind with any other country. Apart from a Russian-Chinese commission preparing regular meetings of heads of government, the recent years have seen the creation of intergovernmental Russian-Chinese commissions on energy, humanitarian and investment cooperation at the level of deputy prime ministers.

Since 2010, China has been the leader in mutual trade with Russia. Both countries are facing a large-scale task of increasing bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020. And we are firmly resolved to fulfil this task.

The world economic situation is complicated and this affects all countries without exception. A tendency has emerged earlier this year towards a decline in the general volume of trade between Russia and China. This has happened mostly because of a drop in oil prices. The pattern of trade has changed as well, with Russian exports increasingly dominated by agricultural produce and high value-added products. Specifically, during the first ten months of 2015, Russian exports to China were characterised by an increased share of food and agricultural products, metals and metallic manufactures, chemicals and even textiles.

This phenomenon facilitates Russian economic diversification. Companies are encouraged to be more actively open to the world economy, find their production niches, and promote high value-added products to potential markets.

Our common goal is to remove barriers in mutual trade and investment. We hope to launch major projects within a few years, which will add tens of billions of dollars to our trade and will make it possible to regain a steady positive trajectory.

Bilateral investment cooperation, one capable of giving an impetus to trade, is gaining momentum. An effective basic infrastructure has been created for its successful development. I mean 58 major joint investment projects that were approved in St Petersburg on June 18 of this year at the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Russian-Chinese Commission for Investment Cooperation.

Our interaction in the context of the Eurasian Economic Union is being stepped up.  Since 2012, an early warning mechanism for sensitive goods in mutual trade has been in operation. An Agreement on an Exchange of Information concerning  Goods and Motor Vehicles Crossing the Customs Border of the EAEU and the PRC is being coordinated. This agreement will help to minimise the use of “gray” schemes in trade.

A decision has been adopted on launching talks with regard to preparing an agreement on EAEU-PRC trade and economic cooperation. This agreement is expected to ensure favourable conditions for promoting practical cooperation and attracting long-term investment, to create mechanisms for simplifying and encouraging trade and to approximate our practices in the sphere of standards, technical regulations, and customs administration rules. 

Question:Russia and China have ample experience in interstate thematic years. What do you think of the outgoing Youth Friendly Exchanges Years? What do you expect of the approaching Cross Years of Mass Media?

Dmitry Medvedev: Personal contacts in the modern world are becoming an ever-stronger factor in international relations and a tool for confidence-building and mutual understanding. “Nothing helps and inspires people better than friendship,” Chinese modern classic Ba Jin said.

The latest ambitious interstate thematic events are an impetus to strengthening the Russia-China cultural dialogue.

We began with an exchange of national Years to be followed by Language and Tourism Years. They were all great successes. They helped our nations to learn more about each other, and provided a wealth of information about each other’s history, culture and contemporary life. What matters most, they allowed us to start  building friendships.

Another essential bilateral action, one that focuses on young people, is coming to an end. The Youth Friendly Exchanges Years have become a sort of relay race by the elder and younger generations as we Russians seek to know China better.

It is hard to enumerate all the 600 plus related events – summer schools and camps, young researchers’ and businesspeople’s meetings, Russian and Chinese language contests, forums, conferences, concerts, film weeks, art shows, athletic contests, and student exchanges. The concert by a combined Russian-Chinese youth symphony orchestra conducted by Russia’s celebrated Valery Gergiev was a landmark.

The Youth Friendly Exchanges Years involved all fields of Russia-China cooperation – politics, the economy, culture, sport, tourism, research, education and, last but not least, IT.

A project for annual youth delegation exchanges, for 100 delegates a year, was launched in 2014. Our joint efforts have increased youth contacts on a massive scale and provided a footing for regular contact.  

Joint 70th WWII Victory celebrations were of tremendous importance, and prompted a new look at current global problems from the point of a generation that will soon bear the brunt of decision-making.

The closing gala of the Youth Friendly Exchanges Years has been timed to coincide with the 20th Russia-China prime-ministerial meeting and to the opening of the Cross Years of Mass Media – another breakthrough joint project.

We are finishing work on a detailed plan for the Media Years’ 100 plus events. There are feature and documentary films to make, TV series to show, books to translate and publish, and book exhibits to arrange. Partnership in high-tech media also has breathtaking prospects. While on a visit in China, I will attend the World Internet Conference in Wucheng.

I am sure our projects will not be limited to the Media Years, with so many fields to launch effective dialogue in. We will work together to open up new spheres of cooperation.

Question: The Ufa Declaration, which the SCO leaders adopted in July of this year, says that the participating countries support China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. How is Russia cooperating with China and other member countries within the SCO framework to implement this initiative? What role can Russia play in this?

Dmitry Medvedev: China is not only a friend but also one of the key economic partners of Russia. This is why we have been actively implementing the initiative to integrate the Eurasian Economic Union with China’s Silk Road Economic Belt. We have set out several priority spheres for our cooperation, such as the encouragement of mutual investments, the joint implementation of large projects, and the creation of industry parks and cross-border economic cooperation zones.

We have not been trying to promote integration in one sphere by neglecting it in other areas. Of course, our priority is the Eurasian Economic Union. But we have also started interacting with China within the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB). At the same time, we haven’t abandoned the idea of a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok. We believe that all of these projects can develop harmoniously.

The delegations of the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries for the first time discussed the practical coordinated implementation of the EAEU and SREB projects during a meeting that was held in August of this year. A modern transit system and infrastructure is one of the main elements of this coordination. We must prioritise the routes that will enhance the safety of our transport corridors, including the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Vladivostok Free Port Zone, which is an area in Russia’s Far East that will comprise the region’s key ports. Another priority is the EAEU territory and the development of transport corridors from China to the EU via Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus.

In terms of doing business, the conjugation of the EAEU and SREB projects should simplify trade and improve the protection of mutual investments by the EAEU countries and China. In other words, we must simplify the transfer of goods across the border, remove regulatory barriers and promote cooperation in high-tech industries, such as information technology, healthcare and education, electronic commerce and energy efficiency.

The creation of a co-development area in Eurasia will provide an example of responsible and practical partnership in the sphere of integration and help us boost cooperation, not only in energy supply, but also in the high-tech spheres of the transport, production, construction, communications and agriculture industries.

Question: The SCO gives high priority to Internet security cooperation. At the beginning of this year, SCO member states submitted to the UN a draft International Code of Conduct for Information Security. What, in your opinion, is the key to international cooperation in the sphere of Internet security?

Dmitry Medvedev: The importance of ensuring information security today is difficult to overestimate. Modern information and communication technology is being increasingly used in military and political confrontations. In addition, terrorists and criminals have adopted Internet technology. Many countries are constantly encountering these problems.

These threats cannot be ignored. Obviously, before it is too late, it is crucial to prevent the criminalisation of the Internet and guarantee human rights in the digital sphere. It is extremely difficult to do this without a comprehensive international legal framework for international information security cooperation. So the first step in creating an international information security system could be the adoption of a code or rules of conduct in the form of “soft laws.”

Universal rules of responsible conduct in the information space are the most in-demand form of international collaboration in fighting international information security threats. This was the SCO countries’ rationale in drafting the International Code of Conduct for Information Security. The document is open to suggestions and comments by all interested parties. The absolute majority of states support the main idea of this initiative, that is to prevent conflicts and aggression in the information space and keep it peaceful and free.

This fact shows that we are moving in the right direction. The relevance of such unifying initiatives, aimed at preventing conflicts in the digital sphere, increases every day. Politics and politicians should stay ahead of technological progress and find effective solutions before technology creates new reality.

Question: The AliExpress online marketplace, a subsidiary of Alibaba – a company founded by Chinese entrepreneur Ma Yun – is the largest e-commerce platform in Russia today. AliExpress is the first company that facilitates cross-border shopping for people living in remote regions and villages, and many Russians are starting to buy Chinese goods on AliExpress. This means the Internet Plus programme has become an engine for economic development, which benefits both Russia and China. What is Russia’s stance on cooperation through the global network during the Internet Plus era? What is Russia’s policy in this regard?

Dmitry Medvedev: We value our relationship and work to establish an even closer cooperation in the most promising areas, including e-commerce, which has recently seen booming growth worldwide.

Russia also appreciates the convenience of e-commerce. We have a lot of on-line-stores, which deliver inside the country, and some to the CIS countries. It provides quicker and better deals for both buyers and sellers. During 2014, more than 8 million Russians bought clothing and footwear online. We also have online procurement for state and municipal needs (the business-to-government segment), with the exception of non-public purchases.

For the moment, there is no major Internet platform for promoting Russian brands abroad. This year we launched a web project that enables the Russian manufacturers of clothing and footwear to use the AliExpress platform free of charge to sell their products. Russian goods are marked made in Russia in the AliExpress catalogue, with the prices quoted in roubles. About 100 Russian brands of clothing and accessories are expected to be presented on AliExpress by the end of this year. I am sure they will be of interest to both Russian and foreign buyers.

We will certainly try to create our own projects as well. Therefore, we are now improving the logistics system and the export legislation. Even the retail goods export procedures have been simplified. Exporters are already exempt from certain customs duties (the customs duty for the export of goods not subject to export tax and shipped by international mail). Express cargo declarations can also be submitted online.

Your country’s experience in online selling to distant markets is very useful for us. We are carefully studying China’s experiment with setting up a pilot area of ​​cross-border e-commerce in Hangzhou, which involves building a whole industrial chain of e-commerce and creating a legal framework and rules in this field.

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