Russia-China partnership future

The hi-tech alliance has been long in the making, it is rather an acknowledgment of long-time efforts

pic by BERNAMA

Two pandas, the new arrivals to the Moscow Zoo, might be the main highlight of the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia last week.

The large crowds confirmed that conviction. But Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and its 5G contracts were definitely more important.

The question of bank payments in national currencies and limiting the dollar omnipotence were equally vital issues, although still not very clear.

Both issues boil down to a one million-dollar question: Exactly how close to each other Moscow and Beijing are willing to be?

Xi’s visit to Moscow and St Petersburg has officially upgraded our relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era”.

The two leaders are now also officially, “best friends”. So, it remains to be seen what it means in practice, vis-a-vis a severe confrontation of both nations with the US.

We all know that the problem is not just about deficits in US-China trade. It’s also about technological superiority for the coming decades.

So, it’s good to see that during this visit, Russia has officially designated Huawei to lead us into our 5G future.

The mutual pilot tests for some of the 5G miracles may start this year. In fact, they have already started.

Nobody had any doubts that in the oncoming technological cold war, Russia would inevitably pick up China as the main partner.

Even if there was no anti-Russian sanctions and pressure — as in accusing Moscow of all possible crimes, even if we just looked at the purely technological side of the problem — is there anyone else more capable in the field of 5G than Huawei?

The news about the big 5G agreement signed in Moscow means that, from now on Russia will firmly place itself in the Chinese technological sphere, if there will have to be such sphere in the world.

It also means that Russia’s economy has improved its chances of being ultra-modern and competitive for decades to come.

Huawei has long been active in the Russian hi-tech world. There are at least two local research centres exporting solutions to Huawei on 5G research, plus purely Russian operational systems for mobile telephones and many other things.

The security systems developed in Russia are also reputed to be better than the Chinese ones and they too are not new in China’s market.

All in all, that hi-tech alliance has been long in the making and the documents signed in the presence of Xi and Vladimir Putin, are not a letter of intent. They are rather an acknowledgment of long-time efforts.

Financing is a very different story. Yes, the two leaders have also signed an intergovernmental agreement on the wider use of yuan and ruble in bilateral trade.

Is it the same agreement that failed to be signed in December last year after China backed off? Or maybe it’s just its weak imitation. There is no clear answer so far. In any case, we have the most contentious issue between the “comprehensive strategic partners”.

An article was published on the eve of Xi Jinping’s visit in the opposition daily, the Kommersant. Being in the Opposition means that you stress on the negative. So, the daily has collected a lot of opinions of those who do not like Russia’s growing friendship with China.

Bankers are at the forefront of the negativists. Russian bankers are often Western oriented and nostalgic about the pre-sanctions era when they were getting all kinds of credits from Western banks.

These people have circulated a definitely false idea of “China actually joining Western sanctions against Russia”.

China in general, in fact has saved Russia from these sanctions with huge intergovernmental projects, but private Chinese banks give no credit and try to avoid dealing with anything Russian, fearing American sanctions on their other operations.

Dealing in national currency is a popular remedy for such cases. Russia, China, Brazil and other nations are fond of talking about creating a non-Western, alternative financial system for a better and safer world.

But to make it happen is not so easy. Thus, we all waited for the documents to be signed with China.

Of course there would still be reasons for China to stall it even today, if not for the recent America’s refusal to conclude a trading deal with Beijing.

Nobody wanted to provoke the US with that kind of action but since it’s happened, all kinds of Russian-Chinese agreements be it military, hi-tech or financial, seem to be more logical now.

But it does not stop sceptical minds from scanning the new financial agreement with China, saying something like “that’s not all that we wanted, and we still have to see how the implementation of that agreement will look in practice”.

  • Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories, as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.