The Russian Prime Minister answered Chinese internet users’ questions online through a platform provided by the Xinhua news agency.
Moderator (via interpreter): Good afternoon to our internet users. This is a special day for us as we have the honour of talking with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, who is in China on a visit. There are many people waiting online for a chance to talk with Mr Medvedev.
Good afternoon Mr Prime Minister. Welcome to China.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon.
Moderator: Thank you. You know that our announcement of an upcoming meeting with you has attracted considerable attention from Chinese internet users. They have asked many questions on the forums and in their microblogs and by texting them to us. Let’s answer these questions, shall we?
Dmitry Medvedev: With pleasure. I am always glad to talk with people online and I will do this with pleasure in China.
Moderator: Mr Prime Minister, the users… We already have 2,178 questions. Many Chinese friends are asking about bilateral Chinese-Russian relations. One of them asks: The leaders of our two countries believe that our relations have reached an unprecedented level. How high is it?
Dmitry Medvedev: I agree that our relations have reached an unprecedented level. We understand this as the general volume of all our relations and the standards of Russian-Chinese relations. I can tell you that I have witnessed this over the past few years, and I can describe our relations as relations of strategic partnership and cooperation. But these are numbers. What matters is the essence, which is a very high volume of trade turnover which has approached $100 billion. During our talks with Premier Li Keqiang today we agreed that this is not the limit, and that bilateral trade can grow to $100 billion, $150 billion and even $200 billion.
This is not the point, even though figures are important for creating the drive for development, for attaining profit and for achieving economic goals. What really matters is the quality of cooperation. Today we are developing cooperation in all spheres, from energy to culture. We have held important events. Each year since 2007 has been a special year in the history of Russian-Chinese relations. Six years ago, in 2007, we held the Year of Russia in China, followed by the Year of China in Russia. Next we had the years of the Chinese language in Russia and of Russian in China and then the years of Russian and Chinese tourism. We are also planning to hold years of youth exchanges. To tell the truth, we have never had this level of relations between our countries. I believe this is good because we are neighbours and because we are friends.
Moderator: Thank you very much. I hope your answer will satisfy the user who asked this question. The next question concerns investment cooperation. A user asks if Chinese companies will be able to take part in the development of Russia’s Far East. How will the Russian Government protect the interests of foreign investors?
Dmitry Medvedev: First, Chinese companies are already contributing to the development of the Far East. We have many cooperative projects and joint companies with our Chinese partners in the Russian Far East. These are large companies working in energy, chemicals and field development, and small and medium-sized companies that work in agriculture and many other spheres. And so we are partners in Far Eastern projects. Of course, we are looking ahead, and so we are talking about the need to increase the number of companies like these.
As for protection, we protect all foreign investors, and this includes Chinese investors who are our partners just like our other partners. We have approved a special legal system for foreign investment which our partners not only use to invest funds and to create joint projects, but also to protect themselves if and when necessary, including in court and with other administrative agencies. We always stand up for investors, including the Chinese. I believe that this is normal international practice. Otherwise people will not come to your country, will not work in it, but will take their money elsewhere. We don’t want this to happen (I hope our Chinese friends don’t either), in particular because there are examples of successful Russian investment in China.
Moderator: Thank you for your answer. I think that foreign investors will be able to operate confidently in Russia. The next question comes from the user who said that energy is an important underlying basis for our two countries’ cooperation. He asked if we have any problems left in this area.
Dmitry Medvedev: The user who asked this question is right. This is truly a very important area for our cooperation. Russia has vast energy resources. China is a large market with an ever-growing demand for energy products. So I must admit that we regularly discuss this issue as we did at today’s talks. We have discussed it at the state and government levels and with business leaders. We discuss various areas of energy cooperation.
For example, our oil cooperation has reached a very high level. Today, we signed agreements for Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft to increase oil supplies by 10 million metric tonnes per year, which will add up to another 100 million tonnes in ten years for a total worth of $85 billion. This is a lot of money for any country, even for China. This means we have taken our cooperation to a much higher level.
Another example is the joint development of the Tianjin oil refinery. The new plant will have a very high capacity of 16 million tonnes of refined products per year. It is a high-tech joint venture between Russia and China, as the new facility will use cutting-edge refining technology. We signed this agreement today as a result of work of our companies and the Russian-Chinese Intergovernmental Commission.
Natural gas is another area of cooperation. We are now finalising the pricing formula for Russia’s gas supplies along the so-called eastern route. We have, in fact, already reached an agreement on the formula. Now, we need to agree on the price, which is never easy, but it is high time we did this and begin to supply the gas to China.
The next area is nuclear energy. This industry is being watched very closely after the Fukushima accident. But we know that no country can do entirely without peaceful use of nuclear energy, be it Russia, China or any other country. The countries that abandon their nuclear projects eventually fail to find a replacement for the energy these projects generated. We have a good example of cooperation here which is the Tianwan nuclear power plant. Four generating units have already been built there, and we are ready to develop it further if our Chinese partners decide that they need this. So, energy is a highly promising area for our cooperation.
Moderator: Thank you. I wish you luck in the two countries’ energy cooperation.
Dmitry Medvedev (in Chinese): Xièxie (Thank you).
Moderator: The user is asking how emerging economies can influence the global economic recovery and the development of a new international trade system.
Dmitry Medvedev: If the global economy has any future at all, it will only be successful if the so-called emerging markets are involved. If economies such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia, do not contribute to the global economic stabilisation process, nothing will work. That is why I believe that our economies, the BRICS, and other emerging markets are the main drivers of economic growth. These economies, too, are facing challenges, but they also have colossal potential to balance the flaws and disparities that we see in developed economies which are not in their best shape today.
The European Union – a major economic system and Russia’s largest trade partner – is struggling. It’s going through a recession and will see zero growth this year. The US economy is also in a difficult situation. Even though certain encouraging developments can be seen there, the situation remains difficult. Moreover, they have just emerged from the crisis caused by strained relations between the executive power and the parliament which had a ripple effect on the economy.
Therefore, if emerging markets do not do their fair share, the global economy will remain in a semi-depression. The International Monetary Fund has downgraded this year’s global growth forecast. They revised it down to 2%-3% . So, if we fail to make a consolidated effort (the same holds true for the monetary system and the future of international finance), there will be no recovery.
But we are not going to sit on our hands. Instead, we are going to work alongside other countries and use all kinds of platforms, such as the G20, BRICS and other forums where we meet to discuss the future of the global economy.
Moderator: Thank you for your answer. An internet user says that at some point in time you pursued tough anti-corruption policies. He would like to learn more about Russia’s experience in combating this evil and hear what you think about China’s efforts.
Dmitry Medvedev: I do not overestimate our success in this area. Indeed, some time ago I spearheaded several anticorruption bills. First of all, the very term was included in the Russian legislation following my legislative initiatives. Second, Russia adopted an important law requiring that public officials make their tax returns public. This is an unprecedented move for Russia.
Recently, Russia adopted a law requiring officials to disclose information about their spending, since we wanted to see how their spending correlates with their incomes. Whenever you see a significant gap, you start wondering about sources of additional income. The most recent anticorruption initiative is about foreign assets owned by public officials. This strict rule bans government employees from owning foreign assets, be it shares or businesses. They are also required to close their foreign bank accounts. We are doing this because if you take decisions affecting the fate of your home country and economy, you should face the risks along with the economy, rather than place your savings with foreign banks. I believe that this is a fair approach. But I can’t say that we have turned the tide and everything is all right now. Corruption is a major system-wide problem in Russia and we still need to put in a lot of effort to remedy the situation. We have been following China’s experience closely. Your practice is based on the Chinese tradition; we have experience of our own, while other countries have their own experience. It’s interesting. Admittedly, a number of tough measures you take are incompatible with our legislation. But I think that measures of this sort do bear fruit and achieve their aim. To what extent they achieve them is a matter for experts to judge. But let me reiterate: We have carefully analysed China’s practice in fighting this very dangerous scene.
Moderator: As a Russian leader, you have already declared your income and expenses. How do you estimate the reactions?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think they are absolutely normal. Like any other public official with an obligation to make such declarations, I have done so for several years, both as President and Prime Minister. Everyone is clear about presidential or prime ministerial incomes and property owned by them and their families. I think it’s normal practice. That’s the way it is the world over, nothing special.
Moderator: Thank you. I see the next question comes from a user who is fond of traveling. He says he is an inveterate traveler and visits Russia quite often, but Russia’s visa regulations are somewhat complicated. Can we expect the Russian visa regulations to be simplified?
Dmitry Medvedev: Visa regulations vary across countries. We have visa-free travel with some countries and visa-based arrangements with others. With some countries we have strict visa regulations, with others less strict regulations. Let’s focus on the Russian-Chinese relations. We have taken a number of steps forward in this regard and in promoting our cultural relations, humanitarian contacts and tourism. I think that we will continue taking decisions to allow Chinese tourists visit the Russian Federation and the Russian tourists visit the ancient and very exciting China and see modern China. This is why we will, of course, work to improve visa regulations for the benefit of Russian-Chinese relations.
Moderator: I think that Chinese internet users are eager to visit Russia. Thank you for answering this question. Let’s move on to the next question. A user would like to ask you what educational institutions you would recommend to foreigners residing in Russia for studying Russian?
Dmitry Medvedev: We have many good educational institutions. We have the renowned classical universities, such as Russia’s largest Moscow State University and St. Petersburg State University, which I graduated from, and which is probably the oldest Russian university with good classical traditions of teaching Russian and foreign languages, including Chinese. But there are also many newer good institutions of higher learning. I will not list them all, but if we bear in mind the geographical aspect, we have created the new Far Eastern University on Russky Island in Vladivostok. It has a brand new campus and I think it offers good opportunities for studying Russian and other foreign languages and for studying in general. But there are other universities as well. It’s a matter of personal choice.
Let me say one more thing. We have approximately 25,000 Chinese students at home, and the absolute majority of them have come at their own initiative and on the basis of contracts. About 500 of them enjoy free tuition, which means that their education fees are paid from the Russian budget. Approximately 15,000 Russian students – also a considerable figure – are enrolled in Chinese universities. The grand total is 40,000 people. But we have agreed that this figure should grow to 100,000 within the next few years. I believe that this is fully in line with our countries’ potentials and our current mutual relations.
Moderator: Which language do you think is easier for a foreigner to learn, Russian or Chinese?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think that our two languages are not the easiest ones on this planet. I’ve always believed that a person who has mastered Chinese deserves respect for that alone, because it’s an ancient, difficult, and a very rich language with a specific writing system. I’ve spoken Russian all my life, and it’s not the easiest language in the world, either. I can say that this certainly affects those who study Russian. On the other hand, a person with a good knowledge of Russian can partake of the riches of Russian classical literature which is an element of general world culture in its own right.
Moderator: Thank you for your answer. You’ve just answered the more official questions; let’s now move on to the less official ones.
As you may be aware, you have many fans in China who are keen to know more about you and your personal life. Would you mind reading some of these questions and answering them?
Dmitry Medvedev: I will do it with pleasure. I have looked through a number of the questions addressed to me personally and would like to try and answer some of them – not all, of course, because there are far too many. Let’s go over these questions together. I hope the Chinese internet audience will not be offended that I’m unable to answer all the questions.
I hope that the Chinese online audience will not take offence if I reply to just a small number of questions, rather than all of them. But, as we say in Russia, a good beginning makes a good ending.
Question 1098 came from a user in the Jiangsu Province. This excellent, serious question is absolutely down to the point. Here is what he says: “You are familiar with the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi.” That’s right, and I often quote him in my speeches. “Please could you talk about any other areas of Chinese life which interest you? Do you like Chinese culture, and which aspects in particular?” Actually, I believe that it is impossible to understand a country without a good knowledge of its history, although history is a very complicated subject and a very complicated science. Speaking of Laozi, I believe that this is the quintessence of Chinese culture. I will not conceal the fact that, even today, during our talks, my counterpart, Premier Li Keqiang, and myself have quoted Laozi, including his exhortation to be careful in what we say and to speak less but better.
Indeed, when you read Laozi’s statements, you realise how profound they are. I will quote one statement, which, in my opinion, is absolutely universal. It was true 2,000 years ago, and it is true in the 21st century. “He who conquers others is strong; he who conquers himself is mighty.” As I see it, this universal concept can be applied anytime and to anyone because conquering oneself involves the greatest number of difficulties and is the hardest-won kind of victory. Indeed, we are talking about a victory over yourself, be it concerning something small or something great.
As for other aspects I find interesting, frankly speaking, the entire Chinese culture is without doubt very multi-faceted and extremely fascinating. Medicine, for example. Currently, traditional Chinese medicine is very popular all over the world, and this is true in Russia also. Or take Chinese cinematography. Chinese cuisine is also very popular in the world. Therefore I believe it is wrong to divide culture into high-brow and everyday culture. To my mind, the entire spectrum of culture is a cross section of a society and can provide insight into the development of such a huge country as China.
Moderator: Thank you for your appreciation of Chinese culture. I would also like to thank the user from the Jiangsu Province. Let’s have the next question, please.
Dmitry Medvedev: Let’s continue. Here is a question from Zang Hai Sang Tian. I don’t know whether I got the name right.
Moderator: Very correct. Your pronunciation is very correct.
Dmitry Medvedev: Excellent. This user would like to know whether I have a hobby. He says he knows I did weightlifting and rowing at the university and wants to know what sport I like nowadays. Of course, I have a hobby, just like anyone else. As I see it, my hobbies are quite ordinary. I like sport, books and photography. I take pictures from time to time. I have even brought some with me here, and I will give you a little present later on. However, I find it hard to take photos because of my work. I have to take snaps from a car, or other means of transport. I remember travelling across China and taking pictures from a high-speed train. Some of them came out okay. As for sport, I, of course, did weightlifting for a while. I did canoeing for longer, and I still try to follow it. At the moment, I don’t do either, but I try to swim virtually every day, and I also cycle. I think this is very important for keeping in good shape.
Moderator: Thank you for your answer. Indeed, one’s health is very important. We hope that you will continue doing this.
Let’s have the next question, please.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I am ready to continue.
A user named Tianshi has asked what my favourite books are and about the principles by which I live.
Well, I have told you about my principles. For example, I like the principles of Laozi and other wise men, and not just Chinese philosophers. There are basic moral principles which are a must for anyone.
As for my favourite books, I am not unique in this respect. I have been reading Russian classics for a long time, actually since childhood, and I told you about them today. They are Chekhov, Gogol and Dostoyevsky. I also read modern writers, but why am I drawing your attention to Russian classics? Because they are part of our complex but great Russian culture. I would recommend that anyone who is interested in Russian literature, including our Chinese friends who might read Russian books in Chinese – but it would be best if they read them in Russian, read the books of these splendid writers who have not lost relevance even though they were written in the 19th or early 20th centuries. Read them, and you will enjoy them and also understand Russia better.
Moderator: I know that Russia has a good education system and a rich history and culture. Do you have any advice about education for Chinese young people?
Dmitry Medvedev: I can only say that anyone who is interested in Russian culture or science is welcome to our country. You can study our culture and science at our universities, but you can also use the internet which has made distance a non-word. You can go to any website about Russia and you will find a great deal of interesting information there, and you can do it anywhere, in China or any other country. So I think this is the simplest way to be introduced to Russian culture and science and to see what Russia is all about. On the other hand, it is always better to see it with your own eyes.
Moderator: Thank you very much, Mr Prime Minister. Oh how time flies! It is very nice talking with you, Mr Prime Minister. Our users have shown considerable interest and have many questions, but we cannot answer all of them because we have a time limit. Before we finish, Mr Prime Minister will choose the question he liked best and will leave a gift for the person who asked it. Let’s see who gets it. Please, Mr Prime Minister.
Dmitry Medvedev: You know, I actually liked all the questions because they were all good. However, I believe that the questions that bring us together, which unite those who live in Russia with China and its history, should enjoy priority. This is why I give priority to Xi Zhu who asked question 1098 about Laozi and the history and culture of China. I think this would be the right thing to do.
Moderator: We congratulate Mr Xi Zhu from the Jiangsu Province. You got lucky today! Thank you. Mr Prime Minister, can we ask you what gift you have prepared?
Dmitry Medvedev: It is a simple gift: I will give Mr Xi Zhu from the Jiangsu Province a book of photographs which I took from a window while visiting many countries, including China. I hope that he will look through it and will like what he sees. I will also present a copy of this book to Xinhua.
Moderator: Thank you very much.
Dmitry Medvedev: The user will get his book, and this is a copy which I am presenting with warmest regards to the Xinhua agency. It is in Russian, but it is a photo album. This is a view of Russia (shows the cover).
Moderator: We again congratulate Mr Xi Zhu from the Jiangsu Province. This is a book of photographs made by Mr Prime Minister and here is his signature. This is a very valuable gift. Congratulations! Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. We will look forward to our next meeting. This concludes our session. Good-bye.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.