Russia's Putin vows close China ties under Medvedev
Russian president Vladimir Putin promised China on Thursday that Moscow would maintain its strong ties with Beijing under his successor, Dmitry Medvedev. Putin, who rules the world's second-biggest oil exporter, says relations with China are at an historic high while Chinese leader Hu Jintao describes Putin as his "good friend". "Putin and Hu Jintao exchanged sincere wishes of success in future work for the stable development of the two countries in the period after the election of the new Russian president," the Kremlin press office said in a statement. "Putin underlined that the course of comprehensive development of Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation will be continued in the future," the Kremlin said.
The two leaders meet regularly and Hu was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Medvedev after his March 2 election as Russia's next president. Medvedev, who will be sworn in as president in May, told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday that he would seek continuity in Russian foreign policy. Russia is eager to boost exports of oil, gas and nuclear products to China, the world's second biggest consumer of oil and power, though China's growing world clout is watched with some anxiety by Moscow's elite. China, set to overtake Germany as the world's third biggest economy, is Russia's number two trading partner after the European Union with $35 billion in 2007 bilateral trade. China's state-owned Sinopec Group has a multi-billion dollar investment with Russia's biggest oil producer, Rosneft. They jointly run Siberia's UdmurtNeft oil producer and share the Sakhalin-3 Veninsk exploration block off Russia's Pacific coast.
Russia, whose $1.3 trillion economy is booming for a tenth straight year, has forged close ties with China on a number of world issues, including Iran and North Korea. But relations over the past century between Moscow and Beijing have run hot and cold. China and the Soviet Union went from being best friends in the 1950s to suspicious rivals a decade later when they fought a series of border skirmishes after falling out over ideological principles. In 2007, Putin and Hu presided over their two countries' biggest joint military exercises as part of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a regional grouping of growing importance that includes Russia, China and Central Asian states.
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CHINA AND RUSSIA: THE GENDARMES OF EURASIA
Russia has been the most prominent supporter of China’s actions in Tibet. On March 17, Moscow applauded China’s determined effort to suppress “unlawful actions” in the autonomous region. The next day, in an article published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that the unrest in Tibet was linked to Kosovo’s declaration of independence. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. “There are grounds to believe that all this happens not by chance," Lavrov said. “The situation in Kosovo is the most vivid example of ethnic separatism," Lavrov continued. “Developments in other parts of the world also make it possible to suppose that we are witnessing only the beginning of an utterly explosive process." Russia’s strong show of support for China suggests that the two states might intervene in the event that anti-government protests broke out in one of the SCO member states in Central Asia. The possibility of such unrest in the region is not so far-fetched.
The state of Uzbekistan’s economy has some observers believing that Tashkent remains a potential site of unrest, despite the appearance of Islam Karimov’s regime being in complete control. Kyrgyzstan, or course, has been a hotbed of instability since the 2005 ouster of former president Askar Akayev. And Tajikistan, where the economic infrastructure came crashing down during the harshest winter in a generation, also can be counted as a potential candidate for anti-government protests. There is good reason to believe that if unrest breaks out in Central Asia -- whether it is connected to a rigged election, an unexpected succession or the implosion of the economy -- the Chinese crackdown in Tibet can provide a repression blueprint. China and Russia have already used the SCO to prepare for several possible contingencies. The SCO’s Peace Mission military exercises in 2007, for example, dealt with a possible militant uprising, as well as with a refugee scenario. Thus, specific response plans for several different Central Asian scenarios would seem to exist. Russia, naturally, is best positioned to lead a potential intervention in Central Asia. Under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia maintains bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It also has the ability to quickly deploy troops to Uzbekistan under terms of a 2006 bilateral agreement.
It is possible to view the SCO, given its dedication to propping up the authoritarian order in Central Asia, as a present-day analogue to the Holy Alliance -- the 19th century entente in which Russia, Austria and Prussia dedicated themselves to the maintaining Europe’s then autocratic order. As the Tibetan example suggests, China and Russia, whether in Tibet or potentially in Central Asia, have eagerly embraced the role of gendarme of Eurasia.
China trade to Russia through Manzhouli port up 27% in 2007
Trade to Russia through Manzhouli, China's largest land port in the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, topped 8.43 billion U.S. dollars in 2007, up 27percent from the previous year. Imports from Russia through the port totaled 7.44 billion U.S dollars, up 21.4 percent from the previous year. Exports to Russia increased 96 percent to 990 million U.S. dollars in 2007, according to Manzhouli customs on Thursday. Crude oil imports contributed to the trade boom. China imported more than nine million tons of crude worth 4.55 billion U.S. dollars via Manzhouli customs in 2007. It accounted for more than half of the total trade revenue. The imports mainly consisted of wood, crude oil and chemical products, while exports were mainly mechanical and electrical products, vegetables, fruits and textiles.
Iran Willing to Become Full Member of SCO
Iran has applied to the Secretariat of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to become its full member, RIA Novosti reported. Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki declared his country’s intention to change the observer’s status at SCO to the status of permanent member after he met with President of Tadjikistan Emomali Rakhmonov in Dushanbe. Tadjikistan backs up this intention of Iran, the official specified. Tadjikistan has been the SCO member since the time of its establishment and presides in this organization in 2008. Mottaki said his country proceeds with cooperating with IAEA but develops its own nuclear program at the same time. Manouchehr Mottaki and Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta are in Dushanbe now, deliberating with Tadjikistan’s authorities on issues of three-party cooperation, including setting up a common TV Channel that will broadcast in the Persian language and building a railway road from Tadjikistan to Iran via Afghanistan. The visits of Afghanistan’s and Iran’s foreign ministers to Tadjikistan set the stage for the meeting of presidents of those countries.