Sino-Russian relations since 1991

Xi Jinping Category:CS1 maint: archived copy as title Li Keqiang
China–Russia relations
Map indicating locations of Russia and China


Diplomatic mission
Russian Embassy, BeijingChinese Embassy, Moscow
Ambassador Andrey DenisovAmbassador Zhang Hanhui
Vladimir Putin with Xi Jinping during a state visit to Moscow in May 2015.
SCO and CSTO members
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Qing dynasty-Russian relations



China–Russia relations, also known as Sino-Russian relations, refers to international relations between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. Diplomatic relations between China and Russia dramatically improved after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991. American scholar Joseph Nye argues:

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, that de facto US–China alliance ended, and a China–Russia rapprochement began. In 1992, the two countries declared that they were pursuing a "constructive partnership"; in 1996, they progressed toward a "strategic partnership"; and in 2001, they signed a treaty of "friendship and cooperation."[1]

The two countries share a long land border which was demarcated in 1991, and they signed a Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation in 2001. On the eve of a 2013 state visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked that the two nations were forging a special relationship.[2] The two countries have enjoyed close relations militarily, economically, and politically, while supporting each other on various global issues.[3][4][5][6] However, Russian commentators have increasingly raised concerns about China's ambitions and influence in Central Asia, an area traditionally within Russian influence.[7]

Country comparison

Common name China Russia
Official name People's Republic of China Russian Federation
Coat of arms National Emblem of the People's Republic of China (2).svg Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation.svg
Flag China Russia
Area 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi)

(including Hong Kong and Macau)

17,125,191 km2 (6,612,073 sq mi)

(including the Crimean Peninsula)

Population 1,418,669,490 146,793,744
Population density 145/km2 (375.5/sq mi) 8.4/km2 (21.8/sq mi)
Capital Beijing Moscow
Largest city Shanghai (26,317,104) Moscow (~12.5 million)
Government Unitary one-party socialist republic Federal semi-presidential republic
First leader Chairman of the CPC Mao Zedong President Boris Yeltsin
Current leaders President & General Secretary of the CPC Xi Jinping
Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang
President Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin
Established 21 September 1949 (People's Republic declared)

1 October 1949 (Proclamation of the People's Republic)

4 December 1982 (current constitution)

25 December 1991 (Russian Federation formed)

26 December 1991 (Soviet Union dissolved)

Official languages Standard Chinese Russian
Currency Renminbi Russian ruble
GDP (nominal) $14.172 trillion (2019) $1.610 trillion (2019)
External debt (nominal) $1.843 trillion (2018 Q4) $539.6 billion (2017)
GDP (PPP) $27.449 trillion (2019) $4.357 trillion (2019)
GDP (nominal) per capita $10,099 (2019) $11,191 (2019)
GDP (PPP) per capita $19,559 (2019) $30,284 (2019)
Human Development Index 0.752 (high) 0.824 (very high)
Expatriates ~75,631 Russians in China ~200,000–400,000 Chinese in Russia
Foreign exchange reserves 3,088,000 (millions of USD) 126,026 (millions of USD)
Military expenditures $228.0 billion (1.9% of GDP) (2018) $610.0 billion (3.1% of GDP) (2018)
Military personnel 3,205,000 (0.23% of population)
  • 2,035,000 (active)
  • 510,000 (reserve)
  • 660,000 (paramilitary)
3,586,128 (4.09% of population)
  • 1,013,628 (active)
  • 2,572,500 (reserve)
  • 0 (paramilitary)
Nuclear warheads


0(?) / 280 (2019)[8] 26,910 / 41,600 (2019)

Leaders of China and Russia from 1991

Boris YeltsinVladimir PutinDmitry MedvedevVladimir PutinJiang ZeminHu JintaoXi Jinping


The relations between two countries were started from the 17th-century, when the Qing dynasty tried to drive Russian settlers out of Manchuria, ended by the signing of the Treaty of Nerchinsk. During the Cold War, China and the USSR were rivals after the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, competing for control of the worldwide Communist movement. There was a serious possibility of a major war in the early 1960s; a brief border war took place in 1969. This enmity began to lessen after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, but relations were poor until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

On December 23, 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin made his first official visit to China.[9]

In December 1998, at the end of Prime Minister Li Peng’s visit to Moscow, Russia and China issued a joint communique pledging to build an ‘equal and reliable partnership’. This reinforced the Sino-Russian view that the United States was their main competitor in the global political scene.

Chinese Paramount leader Xi Jinping presented two pandas to Moscow Zoo at a ceremony with Vladimir Putin on 5 June 2019

In 2001, the close relations between the two countries were formalized with the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, a twenty-year strategic, economic, and – controversially and arguably – an implicit military treaty. A month before the treaty was signed, the two countries joined with junior partners Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The organization is expected to counter the growing influence of the United States military outreach program in Central Asia. The PRC is currently a key purchaser and licensee of Russian military equipment, some of which has been instrumental in the modernization of the People's Liberation Army. It is also a main beneficiary of the Russian Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline.

Liam Carson, emerging Europe economist at Capital Economics, said in 2019:

Policymakers in both countries have actively tried to strengthen trade ties in recent years. And it's no coincidence that this surge in Russia-China trade has come at the same time that the US has tightened sanctions on Russia and concerns about the US-China trade war have intensified.

— Liam Carson[10]

By 2019, both nations had serious grievances with the United States. For China the issues were control of the South China Sea, trade policies, and piracy of American technology. For Russia, the main issue was severe Economic penalties imposed by the US and Europe to punish its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. China and Russia differ on some policies. China does not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea, and Russia does not support China's claims in the South China Sea. Nevertheless, China and Russia pulled together on the best terms since the late 1950s. There was no formal alliance, but an informal agreement to coordinate diplomatic and economic moves, and build up an alliance against the United States.[11][12]

Ukrainian-born journalist Yaroslav Trofimov, the chief foreign-affairs correspondent of The Wall Street Journal, argues in 2019:

Though there is no overt ideological alignment between Russia and China today, the two governments share a hostility to dissent, deep suspicion of Western interference and a strong desire to impose tighter controls over their own societies. Mr. Xi has presided over a push to stamp out corruption and bolster the Communist party’s role in the economy and the society at large—a campaign akin to Mr. Putin’s earlier effort to tame Russian oligarchs and crush political opposition. China was inspired by Russia’s legislation cracking down on nongovernmental organizations, while Russian officials have expressed admiration for China’s comprehensive internet censorship and “social credit” plan to rank citizens based on their loyalty and behavior.[13]


On May 29, 1994, during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to Beijing, Russian and Chinese officials signed an agreement on the Sino-Russian Border Management System intended to facilitate border trade and hinder criminal activity.[9] On September 3 that year, a demarcation agreement was signed fixing the boundary along a disputed 55-km stretch of the western Sino-Russian border.

The 2004 Complementary Agreement between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation on the Eastern Section of the China–Russia Boundary[14] stated that Russia agrees to transfer a part of Abagaitu Islet, whole Yinlong (Tarabarov) Island, about a half of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island and some adjacent islets to China. A border dispute between Russia and China, standing since Japanese invasion of Manchuria of 1931, was resolved. These Amur River islands were until then administered by Russia and claimed by China. The event was meant to foster feelings of reconciliation and cooperation between the two countries by their leaders. The transfer has been ratified by both the Chinese National People's Congress and the Russian State Duma. The official transfer ceremony was held on-site on October 14, 2008.

The Republic of China, based on Taiwan, refused to relinquish its claims to parts of disputed islands remaining in Russian possession.[citation needed]

Claim over Vladivostok

The Russian Far East, including Vladivostok was territory that belonged to the Qing dynasty of China and was ceded to the Russian Empire in the 1858 Treaty of Aigun and the 1860 Treaty of Peking at the culmination of the Second Opium War. In China, these are widely regarded as unequal treaties.[15]

In July 2020, in response to Russian celebrations on Chinese social media website Weibo for 160 years of Vladivostok, the official Chinese broadcaster CGTN said "This tweet of Russian embassy to China isn't so welcome on Weibo. The history of Vladivostok is far from 1860 when Russia built a military harbour. The city was Hai Shen Wai as Chinese land - before Russia annexed it". The statement was echoed by several Chinese diplomats and social media users.[16][17]

Economic relations

Economic relations between Russia and China demonstrate mixed trends. Trade between the two countries was running at between $5 billion and $8 billion per year in the 1990s, but grew steadily from then onwards. It was on course to hit $100 billion – the previous goal – until the 2008 crisis interceded. Trade slumped back to around $60 billion in 2015 and 2016 but started to recover again in 2017.[18] Both countries are expecting to raise the trade volume to $200 billion by 2024.[19]

In 2008–2009, when Russia experienced a financial crisis, there was a sharp increase in borrowing from China. But this trend did not last more than a year or two. However, starting from 2013, the borrowing started growing steadily.[20]

Most of Russia's exports to China are from the mining and petrochemicals sector.[21]

The main form of cooperation in the overall complex of economic relations between Russia and China is trade. In 2003-2013 the mutual trade turnover increased 7.7 times, in 2014 the scale of bilateral operations increased even more. The aggravation of relations between Russia and Western countries has contributed to the expansion of economic ties with China. By 2020, the parties plan to increase bilateral trade to $200 billion. According to the Federal Сustoms Service (FCS) of the Russian Federation, in 2016 the foreign trade turnover of Russia and China amounted to $66.1 billion (in 2015 - $63.6 billion). Russia has a negative trade balance with China: in 2016 exports amounted to 28 billion, imports - 38.1 billion (in 2015, respectively 28.6 and 35.9 billion). The share of China in foreign trade of Russia grew from 12.1% in 2015 to 14.1% in 2016. Since 2010 China is the largest trading partner of Russia.[22]

More than half of Russia's exports to China come from mineral fuels, oil and petroleum products (60.7%), followed by wood and wood products (9.4%), non-ferrous metals (9%), fish and seafood (3.5%), chemical products (3.3%). The main categories of imports to Russia from China are machinery and equipment (35.9%), clothing (13.7%), chemical products (9.1%), fur and fur products (5.6%), footwear (5.3%) and furniture (3%). According to the General Сustoms Administration of China, bilateral trade in January–May 2017 increased by 26.1% in annual terms, amounting to $32.3 billion, and mutual trade in 2017 may exceed $80 billion According to the Ministry of Commerce of China, as of January 1, 2016, the volume of accumulated direct Russian investments in China amounted to $946.9 million and Chinese investments - ten times more. They are estimated at $8.94 billion.[22]

Participation in such organizations as BRICS and RIC (Russia-India-China) has a significant importance for Russian-Chinese economic relations. At the Russian-Chinese summit held in Shanghai, Vladimir Putin and XI Jinping stressed that "Russia and China stand for the transformation of BRICS into a mechanism of cooperation and coordination on a wide range of global financial, economic and international political problems, including the establishment of a closer economic partnership, the early establishment of the BRICS development Bank and the formation of a; for the expansion of joint efforts of representation and voting rights of States with emerging markets and developing countries in the system of global economic governance, for the formation of an open world economy; for the deepening of cooperation in the field of foreign policy, including in the settlement of regional conflicts".[23]

To facilitate financial transactions in the regions, China and Russia will conclude a currency swap. Central banks, with whom China has signed currency swaps, are able to issue loans to their banks in yuan. A currency swap agreement was signed with Russia in the amount of 150 billion yuan ($25 billion). Currency swaps will make the ruble and the yuan more stable, which in turn will have a positive impact on the stability of the global financial system. Additionally, the expansion of currency trading may facilitate investment processes. By investing in an economy that is now facing certain problems due to the fall of the ruble and oil prices, China is carrying out soft expansion and supports one of its main partners. China and Russia have long advocated reducing the role of the dollar in international trade, and both aim to create conditions for the development of bilateral trade and mutual investment. The rate of de-dollarization chosen by the countries is due to the rapid growth of the RMB's share in international payments and settlements (Oct. 2013. - 0.84%, Dec. 2014. - 2.17%, Feb. 2015. At 1.81%).[24] The conclusion of a currency swap makes it possible to facilitate payments, as there is an imitation of the internal currency, which speeds up the transfer procedure and minimizes the cost of conversion.

Qing dynasty-Russian relations



In 2013, China initiated the creation of the economic zone - the "New silk road". This project is designed primarily to strengthen economic ties and cooperation, attract investors from Asia and other parts of the world to actively participate in the creation of the "silk road economic belt of the XXI century". The zone should extend from China to Europe through Central Asia and Russia. An important role in the financing of these projects should be played by the creation of the AIIB, to which Russia is a party. In recent years, China and Russia have stepped up cooperation in the construction of cross-border infrastructure. New Eurasian transport routes are being built: the railway" Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe", the route" Western Europe - Western China", which will pass through Russia. In northeast China and the Russian far East, both countries are actively promoting the construction of bridges, ports and other projects. It is planned to increase the volume of bilateral trade between China and Russia to $200 billion by the end of 2020. Russia has shown interest in cooperating with the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The creation of the EAEU is posed to serve as an important platform for multilateral cooperation in the region, as all participants are friendly neighbors and partners of Russia, as well as traditional partners of China. Russia is interested in creating a free trade zone of the EAEU and China, as well as the use of the national currency in this region. [25]

Energy relations

On 21 May 2014, China and Russia signed a $400 billion gas deal. Starting 2019, Russia plans to provide natural gas to China for the next 30 years.

Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, energy relations between China and Russia have been generally marked by cooperation and a regard for mutual geopolitical and strategic interests. China's fast-growing economy places increasing pressure on itself to secure energy imports, while Russia's economy is largely driven by the demand for the export of natural resources. China became a petroleum importer for the first time in 1993, had become the world's second-largest oil consuming country as of 2011, and the world's largest overall energy consumer as of 2010.[26][27] In a report released January 2012, the China Petroleum and Chemical Industry Federation estimated that the country's crude oil consumption would increase to 480 million tonnes in 2012, or 9.6 million barrels per day. The group also forecast that natural gas consumption would rise 15.3 percent to 148.2 billion cubic meters (bcd).[28] Given its geographical proximity to China and position as one of the world's largest oil producers and natural gas exporters, Russia has been an obvious candidate for meeting this increased demand.[29] While energy relations have been primarily related to oil, gas, and coal, there have also been partnerships with regard to nuclear and renewable (wind and water) energy technology.[30]

From the mid-1990s, when the tightening of global energy markets coincided with his rise to power, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled the importance of oil and particularly natural gas for Russia's emergence as a global power.[31] Long-term prospects for Russian gas exports to China will be affected by several global pricing trends.[32] Surges in liquefied natural gas (LNG) capacity, the increasingly competitive nature of Central Asian gas supplies, advances in shale gas technology, and potential greenhouse gas policies may all impact Chinese consumption.[33]

Despite frequent declarations of goodwill and bilateral energy cooperation, Chinese-Russian energy relations since 1991 have been limited by mutual suspicions, pricing concerns, inadequate transportation infrastructure, and competition for influence in Eurasia.[34][35] Russian leaders have expressed growing concerns regarding Chinese, Japanese and Korean settlement in the energy-rich but sparsely-populated Russian Far East as well as increased Chinese investment in and control of Russian energy ventures. China's growing oil and gas partnerships with former Soviet Central Asian republics like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan have also been a source of conflict, as Chinese policy makers act warily in this region given Moscow's traditional dominant regional influence. (See references below).


The official relationship between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation has been upgraded three times since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1991. Beginning as “good-neighborly and mutually beneficial” in December 1992, it evolved into a “constructive partnership” in September 1994, and finally a “strategic partnership of coordination” in April 1996.[36] In September 1999, the two countries began joint construction of a nuclear power station at Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province with an installed capacity of 2 million kW, one of the first situations of mutual energy cooperation.[37] The late 1990s

Sino-Russian relations



also marked the beginning of feasibility studies for natural gas and oil pipeline projects in Western and Eastern Siberia. In 2001, Russian company Yukos proposed the unprecedented Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO)

Sino-Soviet relations


Soviet Union

Oil Pipeline Project, which would link Yukos's oil refinery in Angarsk to Daqing, in northern China.[38] At the time, rail routes were the only means of transporting oil into the growing Chinese market.

The project stalled in October 2003, when Yukos chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested on charges including tax evasion and fraud, and the Russian government launched an immediate investigation into the company.[39][40] Many speculated that the series of events were politically motivated, given that Mr. Khodorkovsky had been a vocal opponent of President Putin.[41] A week after Mr. Khodorkovsky's arrest, China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue publicly announced that the Kremlin investigation would not impact the proposed China-Russia oil pipeline project.[42]

In September 2004, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao met with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov in Moscow, where the two heads of government signed agreements affirming Russia's promise to set the route of a proposed pipeline from Eastern Siberia to the Pacific, with priority given to laying a pipeline spur to China, as well as to increase rail oil exports to China to 10 million tons (200,000 b/d) in 2005 and 15 million tons (300,000 b/d) in 2006.[43] Four days before Wen's visit, Yukos, then the largest supplier of Russian oil to China and Russia's biggest oil producer, publicly announced that rail shipments of crude oil to the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) would end beginning on September 28, 2004. The Kremlin had begun auctioning off the troubled company's operating assets a month prior in August.[44]

Gazprom, Soyuzneftegaz, and the Chinese Embassy in Moscow all expressed interest in Yuganskneftegaz, a main arm of Yukos.[45] The subsidiary was ultimately acquired by Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft for roughly $9.3 billion. In February 2005, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin revealed that Chinese banks provided $6 billion in financing the Rosneft acquisition. This financing was reportedly secured by long-term oil delivery contracts between Rosneft and the CNPC.[46] In the same month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied that China provided "funds" for the deal. The Foreign Ministry could not confirm whether there were any "loans" involved, ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.[47]

State-owned Lukoil became China's largest Russian oil supplier when CNPC reached a strategic cooperation agreement with the company in September 2006.[48] As promised during Premier Wen's visit to Moscow in 2004, construction on a direct pipeline spur to China began in March 2006, when CNPC signed an agreement providing state oil producer Transneft $400 million for constructing a pipeline from Skovorodino, about 70 km (43 mi) from the Chinese border. In the same month, CNPC agreed to a set of principles establishing future joint ventures with Rosneft.[49][50]

In 2006, Gazprom was made responsible for all exports of gas from Russia's eastern Siberian fields, outside of sales made through production sharing agreements (PSAs).[51][52] This was another move widely seen to be politically motivated, since successful commercial develop

Sino-Soviet relations
Map indicating locations of China and Soviet Union


Soviet Union

ment of these fields and export to Asian markets would be impossible without Gazprom – and therefore Kremlin – involvement. [Ibid]. Two years prior, Gazprom acknowledged in an annual shareholder report a plan for supplying natural gas to China. Two routes, roughly equal in capacity, would be constructed, with a total volume of 68 billion cubic meters of gas per annum. An Altai pipeline would link West Siberian fields with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China, while the eastern pipeline would run from Yakutia into northeastern China.[53][54]

Chinese domestic natural gas consumption roughly matched domestic production in 2004. Since then, however, its rate of growth and more sustainable energy profile compared to oil inevitably led to a surge in Chinese natural gas imports.[54] In March 2006, CNPC signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gazprom for the delivery of natural gas to China, which officially began pricing negotiations between Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller and Chen Geng, then head of the CNPC. In September 2007, the Russian Federation Industry and Energy Ministry approved a development plan for an integrated gas production, transportation, and supply system in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, taking into account potential gas exports to China and other Asia-Pacific countries. Gazprom was appointed by the Russian Government as the Eastern Gas Program execution coordinator.[55]

Russia's desire to diversify its export markets has been matched by China's willingness to invest in Russian energy production and infrastructure. Russian policymakers, however, have expressed reserve about increased Chinese influence in the energy sector. In 2002, CNPC attempted to bid for Russian oil firm Slavneft, but withdrew just weeks later.[56][57] International news sources suggested the bid failed partly due to anti-foreign sentiment in the Duma, Russia's lower parliamentary house.[58][59][60][61] Slavneft was privatized by parity owners TNK (later OAO TNK-BP) and Sibneft (later OAO Gazprom Neft) soon afterwards. In 2004, Slavneft was then acquired by TNK-BP, the product of a merger between the Alfa Access Renova Consortium (AAR, Alfa Group) and British Petroleum (BP).[62]

In 2006, Russia denied CNPC a significant stake in OAO Rosneft. When the Russian company went public, CNPC was allowed to purchase $500 million worth of shares, one-sixth of the $3 billion it had sought.[63][64] The financial crisis triggered in 2008 gave China its opportunity to invest in Russia on a grander scale through a loans for oil program.[65] In 2009 and 2010, China's long-term energy-backed loans (EBL) extended large sums of capital to companies and entities not only in Russia, but also in Brazil, Ecuador, Turkmenistan and Venezuela. [Ibid].

Growing Chinese investment is speculated to be about more than energy security for China. Chinese news agency Xinhua reported in 2010 that many Chinese enterprises believe the Russian market will allow them to become truly global.[66] Gao Jixiang, Associate Research Fellow of the Russian Economy Research Office of the Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reported that China's investments in Russia totaled $1.374 billion as of 2007, and were projected to reach $12 billion by 2020.[67] In 2008–09 alone, total investments rose 25.4% to $2.24 billion and direct investment went from $240 million to $410 million.[68]

Meeting between Dmitry Medvedev and Hu Jintao at the 2009 APEC Summit.

2009 marked the 60th anniversary of established diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing, and also coincided with the signing of over 40 contracts worth roughly $3 billion.[69] President Hu Jintao of China and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia conferred three times in four days during mid-June—at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Yekaterinburg, at the first-ever heads-of-state meeting of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and again when Hu made a state visit to Moscow from June 16–18, representing what many saw to be a high-water mark in Chinese-Russian relations.[70]

Growing economic closeness also seemed to suggest a growing political alliance. In an interview with China Central TV on the day of Hu's arrival in Russia, Medvedev cited the high-level exchanges and other bilateral achievements in what both governments refer to as their "strategic partnership" as evidence of what he called "the highest level of ties in the history of Russian-Chinese relations."[71] A joint statement released by the two heads of state expanded upon how the two governments usually pledge mutual support for their sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Russian government explicitly affirmed that Tibet along with Taiwan are "inalienable parts of the Chinese territory", while the Chinese supported "Russia's efforts in maintaining peace and stability in the region of Caucasus."[72] During Hu's visit, however, Gazprom announced it could not begin delivering natural gas to China in 2011 as planned, because of pricing disagreements. Construction of the Western Siberian Altai pipeline, which could deliver over 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China, was supposed to begin in 2008. A senior Gazprom official observed, "As soon as there is a price, we will start the construction, but this is a complicated issue."[73]

September 27, 2010 marked the completion of the 1,000-kilometre (620 mi) Russia-China Crude Pipeline. Stretching from Russia's Skovorodino station to China's Mohe station, it was the first pipeline ever built between China and Russia.[74] In April 2009, Rosneft and Transneft had signed deals with CNPC guaranteeing the pipeline's production of 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day for twenty years as part of a $25 billion loan-for-oil agreement.[75] Upon the pipeline's completion in 2010, CNPC also signed a general agreement with Transneft over the operation of the pipeline, a framework agreement with Gazprom to import natural gas to China from 2015 onwards, an agreement with Rosneft on extending oil supply to the Russia-China Crude Pipeline, and an agreement with Lukoil on expanding strategic cooperation.[76] Both sides hailed the series of agreements as a "new era" in co-operation, and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told reporters in Beijing that Russia was "ready to meet China's full demand in gas" going forward. [Ibid]

Andrei Slepnev, a Russian deputy economic development minister, announced in 2009 that Russia and China not only had good prospects for cooperation in oil and gas, but also nuclear power engineering as well as space exploration.[69] In September 2010, President Putin reaffirmed the potential nuclear future of Russia and China's energy relations, saying "Of course, our cooperation with China is not limited to just hydrocarbons … Russia is China's main partner in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, and equipment supplies here amount to billions of dollars".[77] However, as of 2011, Russian officials have remained reluctant to transfer nuclear energy technologies and other knowledge products to Chinese partners. Industry experts have pointed out that while proprietary technology would protect Russian exports from being displaced by lower-cost Chinese products in third-party markets, such an approach may reinforce Chinese doubts about Russia's reliability as a long-term energy partner.[34]

The Russian oil industry has not only been burdened by corporate struggles such as with Yukos and political disagreements between the countries, but also by the reoccurring breaches in safety. From the Kazakh riots[78] to endless environmental concerns,[79][80][81] but most recently the capsizing of an oil platform that was allowed to operate in the north late in the season and was being towed under adverse maritime conditions.[82] Incidents such as these cannot help but give potential foreign investment, which the region needs, pause as to the reliability of Russian energy supplies.[according to whom?]

Russian Far East (RFE)

In 1996, the Russian Federation completed two production sharing agreements (PSA) for oil and gas exploration off the northeast coast of the Sakhalin Islands. The Sakhalin-I project, operated by Exxon Neftegas Limited (ENL), has estimated potential recoverable reserves are estimated at 307 million tons of oil (2.3 billion bbn) and 485 billion cubic meters of gas as of 2002.[83][84] ENL, a subsidiary of US-based ExxonMobil, holds a 30 percent interest in the project while Rosneft holds 20 percent via its affiliates RN-Astra (8.5 percent) and Sakhalinmorneftegas-Shelf (11.5 percent). Japanese consortium SODECO and Indian state-owned oil company ONGC Videsh Ltd. holds the remaining 50 percent (30 and 20 percent, respectively).

The Sakhalin-II project is managed by the Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. (Sakhalin Energy). As of 2011, Russian state monopoly Gazprom holds 50% plus 1 share, RoyalDutch Shell 27.5%, Mitsui 12.5% and Mitsubishi 10%.[85] Gazprom purchased its majority stake from Sakhalin-2 operator Royal Dutch Shell in 2006. The project had been placed permanently on hold by environmental regulators, but moved forward after the sale.[86] The series of events led to widespread speculation that environmental violations may have been used to as a bargaining chip in the deal.[87] Sakhalin-II consists of two 800-km pipelines running from the northeast of the island to Prigorodnoye (Prigorodnoe) in Aniva Bay at the southern end. The consortium built Russia's first liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Prigorodnoye. Industry sources speculated that "some in Russia hope to sell China gas from Sakhalin-2's or other facilities' future LNG holdings now that it has mastered the technology".[88] Sakhalin-II LNG first started flowing in 2009, heading to markets in Japan, South Korea and the United States.

In December 2003, CNPC and Sakhalin Energy signed a frame agreement on exploration and development in Russia's Sakhalin oilfield [89] ExxonMobil also looked towards the Chinese market, making preliminary agreements on supplying Sakhalin-I gas to China as early as 2002. On November 2, 2004, CNPC began negotiations with ExxonMobil on possible long-term gas deliveries from Sakhalin-1.[90] Negotiations were concluded in October 2006, when Exxon and CNPC officially announced an agreement. Under the deal, Sakhalin-1 could sell up to 10 billion cubic meters of gas to China over 20 years by pipeline. The plan met strong opposition from Gazprom, which has a rival pipeline project and controls all Russian gas exports apart from sales through PSAs such as Sakhalin-1.[91] In August 2006, Sakhalin-I's De-Kastri oil terminal began exporting processed petroleum to markets including China, Japan, and South Korea.[92]

The influence of Russia's regional energy trade has led to a sense of local uneasiness as to the foreign countries' influence. In 2000, President Putin warned a Siberian audience that unless Russia intensified the region's development, the Russian Far East would end up speaking Chinese, Japanese and Korean.[93][94] In 2002, the Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Potapov, expressed serious concerns about the region's combined remoteness, weak infrastructure, declining population, and wealth "in very diverse resources".[95][96] Political figures like Viktor Ozerov, Chairman of the Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee, warned of military threats in the Far East and decried the predatory use of the region's resources, and large-scale illegal immigration, though scholars pointed out that no imminent threat was visible.[97] Dmitri Trenin stated that, 'the principal domestic reason is the situation of eastern Russia, especially East Siberia and the Russian Far East. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the territories have been going through a deep crisis. The former model of their development is inapplicable; a new model is yet to be devised and implemented. Meanwhile, the vast region has been going through depopulation, deindustrialization, and general degradation. ... The quality of Moscow's statesmanship will be tested by whether it can rise up to the challenge in the East."[98] The RFE has been one of the most difficult areas to transition between the structure of the Soviet Union and the still developing Russian state due to the lack of economic self-sufficiency in the region or any prospects of stable growth.

In September 2005, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref promised a doubling of state support for the RFE to $612 million in 2006, and consideration of allocating a new $2.5 billion infrastructure fund for projects there.[99] A year later, at the end of 2006, Putin reiterated that the socio-economic isolation of the RFE represented a threat to national security, and advocated yet another new socioeconomic commission and regional development strategy to be formed. He specifically pointed to the perceived threat of foreign immigration in the Far East.[100] Scholars and regional experts have suggested that China's rapid economic growth (especially relative to Russia's GDP growth rate) lies at the bottom of anxieties concerning the RFE. While the Russian and Chinese economies were roughly the same size in 1993, China's grew to over 3.5 times larger than Russia's by 2008. Even since 1998, when Russia began a rapid economic recovery, China has grown at a faster rate; the gap has only widened since the global economic crisis and falling energy prices of the late 2000s. China's growth has led to the creation of new productive capacity, whereas Russia's recovery has been based largely on reutilizing Soviet-era capacity that had idled in the early 1990s.[101][102] China's growing appetite for raw materials therefore coincides with Russia's increasing dependency on foreign investment.

Russian officials have repeatedly reiterated their opposition to being merely China's natural resources storehouse.[103] As early as 2001, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin warned that if Russia failed to become "a worthy economic partner" for Asia and the Pacific Rim, "China and the Southeast Asian countries will steamroll Siberia and the Far East."[104][105] At the start of his presidency in September 2008, Dmitri Medvedev echoed similar concerns, warning a Kamchatka audience that if Russia fails to develop the RFE it could turn into a raw material base for more developed Asian countries and "unless we speed up our efforts, we can lose everything."[106][107]

Regional experts have pointed out that despite these increasingly vocal concerns, the local economy of the RFE has become increasingly reliant on Chinese goods, services, and labor over the past decade; furthermore, local out-migration shows little sign of reversing. For all the early promise under Putin, Moscow's policy towards the RFE has not seemed effective as of 2008.[108]

Dmitri Trenin of the Moscow branch of the Carnegie Endowment has argued that Siberia's development could become Russia's most urgent challenge.[109] Failure to develop the region into more than a raw material outpost could lead to what he calls a "Chinese takeover of the region, not by migration but rather by economic means of trade and tourism ." [Ibid]

Russia's plans for this region have revolved around building energy infrastructure to leverage exports and attracting investment so that the capital will be available for modernizing regional infrastructure.[110][111] These plans largely depend on foreign investments, which Russian companies have grudgingly acknowledged. In 2008, a consortium of Chinese engineering firms led by Harbin Turbine signed an agreement with Russian power producer OGK to produce coal-fired turbines in the RFE, adding 41,000 megawatts of new generating capacity by 2011. Stanislav Nevynitsyn, Executive Director of OGK, admitted, "It is simply a necessity for us to work with the Chinese – we will not get the capacity built otherwise."[112] Through loans to Russia's Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs, Vnesheconombank (VEB), China became a major stockholder in Lukoil in 2009.[113] In the same year, after having excluded foreign firms from bidding on the huge Udokan copper mine in Southeast Siberia, Moscow welcomed Chinese, South Korean, and Kazakh miners and refiners back into the bidding process.[114][115]

As part of the 'Russia's Energy Strategy till 2020' the Russian government launched a program of creating a unified gas production, transportation and supply system in Eastern Siberia and the RFE in 2006. The program would ultimately provide affirmation of an all-Russia gas system from the Baltic Sea up to the Pacific Ocean."[116] Russian policymakers have also suggested building an international center for spent fuel and nuclear energy in the RFE, hoping to raise the profile in the export of nuclear energy to the global market.[117]

In 2009, Gazprom was awarded subsurface licenses for the Kirinsky, Vostochno-Odoptinsky and Ayashsky blocks to begin the Sakhalin-III project.[118] Geological exploration has been underway at the Kirinskoye field and, as of 2009, natural gas production is scheduled for 2014. The field will become one of the natural gas sources for the Sakhalin–Khabarovsk–Vladivostok gas transmission system (GTS). The first GTS start-up complex will be 1,350 km, with a capacity of 6 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year.[119]

Central Asia

In 1996, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan formed the Shanghai Five, a collaborative body that was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) with the addition of Uzbekistan in 2001.[120] As members of the SCO, China and Russia have cooperated in military exercises like counterterrorism drills in Kyrgyzstan in 2002 and in Kazakhstan and China in 2003.[121]

Russian and Chinese leaders regularly call for greater cooperation and coordination in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation between their two countries in the context of their broader goal of promoting of multilateral diplomacy.[122][123][124] In a joint statement issued on May 23, 2008, Russia and China asserted that “International security is comprehensive and inalienable, and some countries’ security cannot be guaranteed at the cost of some others’, including expanding military and political allies.”[125] Zhao Huasheng, Director of Russian and Central Asian Studies at Fudan University’s Shanghai Cooperation Center, has argued that economic cooperation will ensure the long-term relevance of the SCO, as current security threats recede.[126] While China and Russia do enjoy some bilateral energy cooperation, which experts predict will continue to grow in the future, the two countries have emerged as rivals for Central Asian oil and gas supplies.[127] With the rise in the price of oil in the mid-2000s, Russia has sought to renew its influence in Central Asia, in particular the region's southern flank, to guarantee access to gas supplies for reexport to Europe and for its own domestic needs. As China’s energy needs have grown and its policymakers have sought to develop its western provinces, China, too, has sought to expand its influence in Central Asia.[121]

In 2007, at a meeting of SCO prime ministers in Tashkent, Russian Premier Viktor Zubkov reiterated Moscow's desire to forge a Central Asian energy "club" within the SCO, which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO energy club could be set up as soon as 2008, Russian Deputy Industry and Energy Minister Ivan Materov announced in Tashkent. However, he insisted that the club would not amount to a sort of mini-OPEC. Political and economic analysts in Moscow believe the Kremlin is keen to establish an energy club as a means to prevent a possible clash with China over Central Asia's energy resources.[128]

At a May 2007 SCO summit in Turkmenbashi, Russian, Kazakh and Turkmen leaders announced the expansion of the Prikaspiisky gas pipeline from Turkmenistan into Russia.[129] The plan has stalled due to several obstacles, including price disagreements and the economic recession of the late 2000s. (Ibid).[130][131]

Uncertainty over the Prikaspiisky route has given China an opening, especially in Turkmenistan. During a brief visit to Ashgabat, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao called for efforts "to step up bilateral trade cooperation to a new level." Berdymukhamedov, in turn, expressed interest in "working closely" with China on a natural gas pipeline project, Xinhua reported. In December 2005, Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev inaugurated Atasu-Alashankou pipeline to ship oil to China. The $800 million Atasu-Alashankou route still needs Russian crude oil from Western Siberia, transported via the Omsk-Pavlodar-Shymkent pipeline, to reach its full annual capacity of 20 million tons by 2010.[132] Although China and its Central Asian partners view their expanding cooperation as a means of diversifying their energy partnerships, Russia has enjoyed success in other major energy projects. In November 2007, two Russian companies (TNK-BP and GazpromNeft) signed an agreement with KazTransOil to ship up to 5 million tons of oil annually to China via the Omsk-Pavlodar-Atasu-Alanshakou pipeline. In the first quarter of 2008, 300,000 tons of Russian crude oil were exported to China along this route.[133] Moreover, a Russian engineering company, Stroytransgaz, won a tender to build Turkmenistan's section of the gas pipeline to China.[134]

Latest developments in May 2014 announced that China and Russia reached a 30-year gas deal where "Russia would supply 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year to China".[135] These developments continue to show Russia and China's attempts to work together outside of USA confinements.

Trade in national currencies

On November 23, 2010, at a meeting of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, it was announced that Russia and China have decided to use their own national currencies for bilateral trade, instead of the U.S. dollar. The move was aimed to further improve the relations between Beijing and Moscow and to protect their domestic economies during the financial crisis of 2007–2008. The trading of the Chinese yuan against the Russian ruble started in the Chinese interbank market, while the yuan's trading against the ruble started on the Russian foreign exchange market in December 2010.[136][137]

In coordination with other emerging economies, the 2010 BRIC summit was held in Brasília in April 2010.

In 2014, Beijing and Moscow signed a 150 billion yuan central bank liquidity swap line agreement to get around American sanctions on their behaviors.[138]

In December 2014, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged to offer financial support to Russia and support the Ruble if needed, in light of the currency's depreciation.[139]

Military relations

After the EU arms embargo on China imposed as a consequence of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, China became a reliable client for Russian military exports, making up 25–50% of all foreign military sales.[140] On November 9, 1993, Russian Defence Minister Pavel Grachev and Chinese Defence Minister Chi Haotian signed a five-year defence cooperation agreement paving the way for an increase in the number of military attachés stationed in their respective capitals. On July 12, 1994 the Russian and Chinese defence ministers signed a border security agreement designed to prevent potentially dangerous military incidents, such as unintentional radar jamming and airspace violations.

On October 19, 1999, Defence Minister of China, General Chi Haotian, after meeting with Syrian Defence Minister Mustafa Tlass in Damascus, Syria to discuss expanding military ties between Syria and China, flew directly to Israel and met with Ehud Barak, the then Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Israel where they discussed military relations. Among the military arrangements was a 1 billion dollar Israeli-Russian sale of military aircraft to China, which were to be jointly produced by Russia and Israel.[141]

In 2004, the Russian Foreign Ministry blocked both the sale of the Su-35 and Tupolev Tu-22M bombers to China over concerns about the arrangements for Chinese production of the Sukhoi Su-27SK (known as the Shenyang J-11).[142] Originally, the licensing agreement required that engines and avionics be sourced by Russian suppliers, however by 2004 these components were being produced domestically.[143]

Currently, China focuses on domestic weapon designs and manufacturing, while still importing certain military products from Russia such as jet engines. China decided to become independent in its defense sector and become competitive in global arms markets; its defense sector is rapidly developing and maturing. Gaps in certain capability remain – most notably in the development of some sophisticated electronic systems and sufficiently reliable and powerful propulsion systems – but China's defense industry is now producing warships and submarines, land systems and aircraft that provide the Chinese armed forces with a capability edge over most military operating in the Asia-Pacific. Where indigenous capability still falls short, China procures from Russia and, until local industry eventually bridges the gap, it hopes that quantity will overcome quality.[144] China's 2015 Defense White Paper called for "independent innovation" and the "sustainable development" of advanced weaponry and equipment.[144]

In December 2019, Rostec officials accused China of intellectual property theft of a range of military technologies.[145] In June 2020, Russia charged one of its Arctic scientists of passing sensitive information to China.[146]

Mutual perceptions by the countries' populations

Since 1995, Russians have consistently held positive views of China. As of September 2018, 75% of Russians view China favorably, with only 13% expressing a negative opinion.[147] According to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, 71% of Russians have a favorable view of China, with 18% expressing an unfavorable view.[148] Similarly, a YouGov survey found that 71% of the Chinese think Russia has a positive effect on world affairs, while 15% view it negatively.[149]

According to a 2017 BBC World Service poll, 74% of the Chinese view Russia's influence positively, with 18% expressing a negative view, while 44% of Russians view China's influence positively and 23% negatively.[150]

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