ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, June 23 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an hour-long exclusive interview with Xinhua President Cai Mingzhao ahead of his upcoming visit to China, elaborated his views on bilateral ties, China-Russia trade, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and international cooperation, among other issues.  The following is the full text of Xinhua’s exclusive interview with Putin:

Cai: Honorable President Putin, it is my great pleasure to have an exclusive interview with you here in your beautiful hometown St.Petersburg, ahead of your once-again visit to China. Please allow me to express our respect to you on behalf of Xinhua News Agency.

Putin: Thanks.

Cai: Thanks to the joint efforts made by Chinese President Xi Jinping and you, the China-Russia relationship is currently at its best in history. I believe that today’s interview will also be conducive to our bilateral relations. Shall we start the interview please?

Putin: Yes, please.

Cai: According to our calculation, President Xi had five meetings with you last year. And you are visiting China again very soon. The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has been deepened thanks to the joint efforts made by President Xi and you.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Sino-Russian Good-Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, as well as 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Russia strategic partnership of coordination. What in your opinion are the highlights of China-Russia ties? What are their future prospects? What do you expect from this visit?

Putin: You said our bilateral relations are standing at a very high level, which is your comment on our bilateral ties. Here I want to remind Xinhua readers of two historical junctures:

Twenty years ago, we announced a new type of relations — a strategic partnership; 15 years ago we signed the Sino-Russian Good-Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. As a lot of work has been done since then, trust between Russia and China has reached an unprecedented level and laid a solid foundation for bilateral cooperation.

Since it is a level that probably has never been reached in our relationship in the past, it is very hard for our experts to define today’s common cause that binds our two countries together. In fact, it is not enough now to simply call it a strategic coordination. Therefore, we started to call it “a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.” The word “comprehensive” means that we are cooperating on almost all vital areas, and “strategic” demonstrates the prime importance we are attaching to our relationship.

You mentioned the coordination between President Xi and me. Indeed, the work between us, the work at our level, serves without doubt as an engine for the development of bilateral relations. We are currently discussing together some basic issues in our cooperative strategy. President Xi himself values a lot the development of Russia-China relations. He is a very good friend and reliable partner.

However, the smooth growth of Russia-China ties can not merely depend on our efforts. It calls for further improving the working mechanism between the governments of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. The heads of government of our two countries meet on a regular basis. More than 20 sub-commissions and intergovernmental commissions have been set up — I believe there are 26 sub-commissions in fact. People in these commissions are working diligently and efficiently. Although the two countries are still far from being able to swiftly reach consensus on every complicated problem, we always share the common goal of pushing forward our cooperation no matter how complex the issues are. So we always find a solution.

The difficulties that the global economy is going through are widely known. They are also reflected in the coordination between the two countries. For instance, the trade volume between Russia and China has declined a bit. But we believe it is merely a temporary downtick resulting from the current market prices of certain commodities and differences in exchange rates.

Meanwhile, actions have been taken to solve the major problems. To optimize the bilateral trade structure, we have taken some substantial actions.

I may not remember correctly and may need to check up, over the past year, Russian export of mechanical and technical products to China has grown significantly, by 44 percent. This means a lot to us. We have been negotiating this with the Chinese partners for years. I want to thank our friends for making this a reality, which makes it possible for us to gradually realize our goals in the most important direction. This is our common goal, which we have consensus with. We are going forward together in the direction that we need to go.

Therefore, the most important task in bilateral relations is bringing diversities and higher quality to trade relations, particularly boosting cooperation in high-tech areas.

We are also working together in the fields of space projects and aviation, notably with a joint research on wide-body airplanes and heavy-weight helicopters. We are jointly seeking solutions to ecological problems and continue to launch giant programs in the field of energy, including nuclear energy.

Cai: Russia has a lot of strength in these sectors.

Putin: Indeed, yes. Rosatom (Russian state-owned nuclear corporation) has a remarkable orderbook. The two reactor units at Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant have been operating for eight years and have been recognized for their performance. We are building two more reactor units and I don’t think we will stop there. We should expand our cooperation, not just building more nuclear power plants in China but also broaden our technological collaboration in this respect.

China is now gradually strengthening its presence in our energy market. Not only it’s one of the main shareholders of the Yamal LNG plant, an important liquefied natural gas mega-project, but also China bought 10 percent of the shares of the Siberian-Ural Petrochemical and Gas Company, one of the top chemical shareholding companies in Russia. We welcome such investment by China, not only because of capital inflows but also because it helps deepen our partnership.

On the famous Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway line, we are seeing very good progress, and we are expecting a speed of up to 400 km per hour at some segments. We are closely following the work on the projects, and it may very well be only the beginning of our broad cooperation in infrastructure.

Our cooperation in culture is also of great value, including the Chinese Year and Russia Year, held alternately in our two countries, the Sino-Russian Youth Friendship Exchange Year, the Russian and Chinese Language Year, the Tourism Year, etc. Some of these were proposed by Russia while others were initiated by China. All of them have been very successful and will undoubtedly promote the mutual trust between our two peoples. The importance of these activities is no less than that of mega energy projects like the “Power of Siberia,” by which I am referring to the eastern gas pipe project between Russia and China that supplies China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Apart from this, we have also had steady progress in cooperation on international and military affairs and on military technologies.

We usually discuss all these cooperation when President Xi and I meet. You know, my upcoming visit had packed schedules, very packed actually. So I expect to have friendly meetings with President Xi on a broad range of topics, with mutual trust, as we have always had.

Cai: Thank you. You mentioned the growth of economic and trade cooperation, and a lot of the mega cooperation projects, which are very encouraging. You have said many times that we should align the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) with the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China. China’s economic sector is following this closely. So specifically what do you suggest the two countries do in this respect? How can we leverage on the alignment of these development plans to promote the economic and trade cooperation between China and Russia?

Putin: What you’ve raised is an interesting topic. We know that President Xi Jinping put forward the Silk Road Economic Belt. We think that Xi’s proposal is very well-timed and appealing, and the initiative holds great potential as it aims to expand China’s cooperation with the world. China’s neighbors naturally come first in such cooperation, as the road, wherever it leads to eventually, first goes through the neighboring countries.

We are undertaking two negotiations: one is bilateral between Russia and China, and the other is between China and the EEU. Just recently, the five member countries of the EEU discussed relevant issues in Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan). We all agreed to develop our cooperation with China within the framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative.

I have to be absolutely frank with you. Of course, we do have to take care of the interests of our producers. But we share the consensus that our fundamental approach to world economic development and our cooperation with China is to gradually eliminate the various barriers to our common cause of opening up. So I think what we can do at the first stage is to establish a free trade area.

We are realists. We are aware that it is impossible at the first stage to rule out exceptions and special cases, but we should be clear about where we want to go. Given that more and more countries in our region are enthusiastic about our cooperation, in order to achieve our aim, we shall try to create favorable conditions for what we call Eurasian cooperation, and we shall try to avoid establishing a closed economic and trade bloc.

Cai: Thank you. The 16th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is to be held in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent. Established 15 years ago, the SCO, with both China and Russia as founding member states, has played an important role in boosting regional security and development. What’s your anticipation for the upcoming summit? And what do you think of the SCO mechanism?

Putin: The SCO, at its early days, set itself pretty low-profile goals. I want to say those goals were both important and pragmatic, which were aimed at addressing various kinds of problems in cooperation along the borders. However, whether they are easy or not, those issues were still no more than cooperation along the borders. But we are aware that those issues would have stayed unsolved for decades without sincerity and could be easily solved with enough sincerity. Whether those issues could be solved or not depends on a country’s internal situation and how it conducts itself on the world stage, to a great extent.

It was based on their utmost sincerity that Russia, China and other SCO member states achieved all of the pre-set goals in this area. Obviously, it is advisable for us not to abandon this mechanism and to cherish our achievements as well as the current development level of the inter-relations among all the SCO member states. As a matter of fact, we have begun to solve other problems through the SCO mechanism, starting with cooperation in a number of fields. Such cooperation is not only political but also involves infrastructure construction. We have also begun to discuss issues concerning security and drug trafficking, among others.

I will not say that we have achieved many magical results or that we have carried out a series of exemplary operations. But I will say the SCO has become a popular and attractive organization in the region. Many countries around the world have expressed willingness to join it.

At the SCO Ufa Summit last year, we decided to initiate the procedure of admitting India and Pakistan into the bloc. At the Tashkent summit, we will implement the decision and hold discussions on other countries’ willingness to participate in the work of the organization.

The expansion of the SCO’s functions and the increase in its member numbers, particularly the inclusion of those important countries mentioned above, have made it an authoritative and popular international organization in the region and the world at large.

As the international situation is complex and diverse, some countries might differ from others in terms of stance and opinion over certain international issues. Although their inclusion into the SCO might not offer solution to their disagreements, we will make efforts in paving the way for the settlement of those issues. We are full of expectations for that.

Cai: Thank you. Today the world faces many grave challenges, including a sluggish global economic recovery, instability and volatility in some regions, rampant terrorist activities, and environmental problems such as climate change. As two influential and responsible major countries, China and Russia are important forces in maintaining world peace and stability, especially under such challenging international situations. So, what additional efforts do you think China and Russia should make to maintain world peace and improve global governance?

Putin: As you know, coordination between Russia and China on the global stage is itself a stabilizing factor in international affairs.

Let’s recall Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address at the ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations. Please recall his words. He advocated for all controversial issues to be resolved in accordance with international law and through peaceful means only. President Xi also said China stands ready to aid poor countries, and even put forward specific measures accordingly. He is one of the few national leaders who are dedicated to international poverty reduction. It is these positions, instead of just geographic proximity, that unite us in international affairs.

Apart from our cooperation within the framework of the SCO, we have been cooperating with each other within the BRICS framework as well. Actually, we jointly created the BRICS mechanism. We also have active cooperation with each other at the United Nations.

In retrospect, it was my country, the then Soviet Union, that tried its best to help the People’s Republic of China secure its permanent seat at the UN Security Council, a respectable place where we always think China should be. Until today, we have always been very happy that this happened, as our two countries, in the language of diplomacy, have the same or very similar viewpoints in international affairs. Such alignment of our stances is also substantiated at the technical level. We have maintained contact regularly, and carried out consultations on global and regional affairs. We see each other as close allies, so of course we always listen to each other, by this I mean we keep in mind each other’s interests.

I believe that during my visit to the People’s Republic of China, our cooperation will continue to follow this spirit.

Cai: Thank you Mr. President. We sincerely look forward to your visit to China and wish you enormous success. I would also like to tell you that during your visit, Xinhua News Agency and Tass News Agency will sign a new cooperative agreement.

Putin: You have been a great help on this front. Thank you. In today’s world, the work of news reporting is no less important than that of diplomats.

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