Russia and China are Vitally Dependent on Each Other

2 сентября 2014

The length of the border between Russia and China constitutes several thousand kilometres. Does it unite us or divide us? Are we partners? What is the role of rare earth metals in our relationship? These are the questions we touched upon in our interview with Russian political scientist Grigory Trofimchuk, a specialist in Russian-Asian relations, head of the Department of Political Consulting of the Asian Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

— The Rare Earth: Gregory Pavlovich, last year in November there was a ‘significant’ plenum held by the CPC Central Committee. What are the current trends in the Chinese economy? They seem to have fundamentally corrected their previous course.
— Yes, at the November Plenum of the CPC Central Committee took important decisions, set ambitious goals and objectives, planned new ambitious economic projects. There is too much to talk about in great detail, but let’s take the topic of the broader liberalization of China’s financial arrangements: they asked themselves: ‘To what extent must we continue to invest in the dollar, the currency of a foreign country, i.e. to invest in the economy of a foreign country?’ Thus it was decided to focus on the yuan — meaning on China’s own internal strengths. There is a certain danger here, as China now has huge dollar savings. And nobody knows how America will behave in the foreseeable future. In this sense we can take a different look at Russian - Chinese relations. Precisely in relation to finance. If we have some mutual transactions in the future, we will try work without the dollar and will move to settlements in national currencies. In this sense, we emphasise again the importance of Sino-Russian relations. Since Russia and China are bordering countries, together forming almost one continent - from the White to the Yellow Sea — we can hold this defense, this ‘fortress’ infinitely, due to the proximity of our geography and fates. Naturally, we would only do this if we had specific agreements – political, economic, and so on.

— Do we Russians want the Chinese to develop our Far East?
— My opinion: we first need to revive our own Far East - its economy. And then it will be easier to negotiate with China, to develop a mutually beneficial partnership, and not just to sell them our wood and raw materials. Although I think that we still have to sell raw materials to China, since this is one of the things that connects us politically and globally. We ‘ve become more than partners for each other. We’ve begun to be vitally dependent on each other.

— Gregory Pavlovich, how important is China for Russia as a partner in the development of the Arctic?
— It is very important. Russia is virtually alone in the group of the so-called five major Arctic countries. Meanwhile, the West is constantly expanding the list of these countries, inventing new formulas. And now they’re speaking about France and Italy as participants in the Arctic projects. It turns out that the four countries that by default oppose Russia in the Arctic have added a whole new range of potential opponents. So in this case we can see how China has become of global significance to us in terms of partner-projects in the Arctic. But in this regard we too have become vitally important for China: through the Bering Strait, through Chukotka, in fact, we control the narrow entrance to the Arctic that’s in the interests of China. And China now is increasing its icebreaker fleet. It is clear that the Northern Sea Route is very important for China, primarily as an economic route. Some believe that in this sense Russia should be wary of China. I think we need to think clearly here, sanely and, most importantly, globally, strategically. And strategically this is advantageous for us.

— Gregory Pavlovich, our magazine is called ‘The Rare Earth’. Hence, the last and very important question about China’s interest in the topic of rare earth elements...
— China is actively interested in this issue for good reason. Modern technologies require the use of virtually the entire periodic table. And we know that a country that is expanding its influence on the political and global scale, just physically, structurally cannot do without the use of such materials. Because they are used in every mobile phone - anywhere and everywhere. China understands that it can and should be one of the leaders in the development of the rare earth materials industry. Rare earth natural resources are finite, limited, however China has about a quarter of the world’s reserves of this kind of material. So, to implement its technological breakthrough, China has to dominate in the rare earth area — it is prompted to do so by the global situation. I believe that China has already achieved a great deal here, and not only in the production of rare earth resources and the concentration of these materials in their hands, but also in the information sphere. Because now, at the words «The Rare Earth» it is China that immediately pops in your head.
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