Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#21 - JRL 8408 - JRL Home
October 13, 2004
President Putin's Interview with the Chinese newspapers Renmin Ribao, Chinese Young Correspondent, and the television channel Chinese Central Television
Moscow, the Kremlin

QUESTION: Mr President, thank you very much for receiving us. The fact that you are giving an interview to us, representatives of the Chinese media, shows that you attach great importance to the development of Russian-Chinese relations.

October 2004 marked 55 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and China. This year has been declared the Year of friendship among the youth of our countries. Against this background, your upcoming visit to China undoubtedly takes on a special meaning. Please tell us what are the conclusions you reach when you look back at the path that has been travelled? How do you assess the prospects for development of relations between our countries? What influence does Russian-Chinese strategic partnership have on international relations as a whole?

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, I would like to say that this year is not just the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. It is also the 55th anniversary of the foundation of the Peoples Republic of China. And so at the start of our meeting I would like to congratulate the great and friendly Chinese people on this major event, this major celebration, and wish all Chinese people the very best, and happiness to every Chinese family.

We closely follow the development of the situation in the Peoples Republic of China, and naturally we note the success that China has had in recent years in its economic development. We really do attach great importance to the development of Russian-Chinese relations. And if we look at the past, then every objective observer will agree with me that in recent years Russian-Chinese relations have made a serious leap forward.

We have overcome all the disputes and disagreements that existed in the past. Today, we have no problems that we cannot discuss together openly and in a friendly manner, and find solutions that are acceptable for both sides.

This is what has been happening in recent years. We appreciate very highly the level of relations that have been established between the Peoples Republic of China and the Russian Federation. We know that the generations of politicians that formed the basis of our relations laid a good foundation. And we on our part, along with the Chinese leadership, the current generation of Chinese politicians, including, I know, Chairman Hu Jintao, also intend not just to strengthen this foundation of relations between the two countries, but to build cooperation that is modern, sound and convenient for both countries.

We have many areas of cooperation. And I think that during this visit I will be able to discuss with the Chinese leadership both political issues and issues of economic and cultural cooperation.

QUESTION: Mr President, I would like to ask a question which greatly concerns the Chinese people. Recently, a series of major terrorist acts have been committed in Russia, and the Chinese government and people express their full solidarity with the people of Russia, and sincerely hope that Russia will conquer terrorism as soon as possible.

Mr President, what measures does Russia intend to take to fight terrorism? What lesson did Russia learn from the Beslan tragedy? And what can other countries, including China, learn in this sphere?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: First of all, I would like to thank the Chinese people and the Chinese leadership for their solidarity with Russia in these difficult times, particularly during the Beslan tragedy. The solidarity of our friends, the support and feeling of fellowship is particularly important in these moments. We know that the Chinese people gave this support sincerely. And this is also worth a great deal.

Terrorism today is not only attacking Russia, but many other countries as well. It is now a common global threat. As we know, social, economic and political injustice lie at the basis of terrorism, and extremism flourishes in this environment and acquires the most dangerous forms terrorism. To fight this common evil effectively and successfully, it is necessary to unite efforts, to learn to speak the same language, and as we assert along with our Chinese partners to move away from the politics of double standards in determining what constitutes terrorism.

We must at last do away with the stereotypes and rhetoric of the cold war, when the same actions by the same organisations, but in different parts of the world depending on the current political situation were declared to be either terrorist acts or a struggle for independence, a struggle of national liberation movements and so on and so forth.

We must understand that terrorists can be distinguished not by the goals that they hide behind, but by the methods that they use. And the key element here is the use of violent methods and the damage done to innocent people. This is the main thing that distinguishes terrorists.

And in the framework of international organisations, above all the UN, we are working with our Chinese friends on this problem. We work together within the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where appropriate structures have been created to solve the problems of the war on terrorism. We work bilaterally with the Peoples Republic of China on these problems.

As for the Beslan tragedy, this is a separate page in the activity of international terrorists and the history of our country. The Ossetian people endured it with great courage. But we must all make conclusions from this. And this primarily concerns the necessity of strengthening political structures and state agencies; improving the activity of law-enforcement bodies and bodies for fighting this extremely dangerous form of crime terrorism. This is currently under investigation as a criminal case, and according conclusions will be made. But to understand that terrorism can only be fought effectively by combining efforts, it is enough to look at whom terrorists targeted in Beslan: defenceless children.

I think that this must reach the hearts not just of every citizen of our planet, but also the hearts and minds of people on whom the according decisions depend. We very much hope that our cooperation will develop effectively.

QUESTION: Mr President, In September this year I came to Russia as part of the Chinese youth delegation. We visited a lot of interesting tourist sites in Russia, and I made many friends. You and Chairman Hu Jintao have declared this year to be the Year of friendship between Chinese and Russian youth. How you do feel about such youth events?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have indeed declared this year to be the Year of friendship between Chinese and Russian youth. But I hope that friendship between Chinese and Russian youth will not just be restricted to this year. It is a symbolic gesture on our part, a desire to give additional stimulus to the development of youth contacts.

I will try to avoid any trite phrases, but it is hard to do this. We all well understand that the future of our countries depends on young people. And so I would very much like for the events that were held this year: youth exchanges, meetings of sportsmen, and the planned meeting with representatives of Russian and Chinese youth in Beijing as part of my visit for all this to help to create an infrastructure of youth exchanges, and to increase the number of people who, like yourself, make new friends and find interests in developing bilateral relations pragmatically. So that interest in the culture of both countries grows, so that business interests arise, and so that there is not just a desire, but a necessity to meet more often and solve various issues or problems that make our countries, our economies and our cultures not only in demand in the world, but would make them more competitive, given that competition on the international scene, in the positive sense of the word, is constantly growing, and we as neighbours, as two great nations, two great peoples need to derive all the positive things that would help to develop our countries.

And in this sense, the young mean a great deal. The young can do a lot. When we discuss issues of economic development and I think we will talk about this further our position, at least in Russia, is that the future in bilateral economic contacts is above all the sphere of high technology. This is where young people have been most successful today. It is not enough to be a leader here; you need to be a specialist, and quite a good, narrow specialist with a profound understanding of your field. Our position is that these priorities in the development of bilateral relations will be taken up by young people of our nations, of our countries, and we expect a lot from this cooperation.

QUESTION: Currently, relations between Russia and China have reached a very high level, and our countries now have the common task of further development and consolidation of these relations.

Please tell us what specific initiatives Russia is advancing to achieve these goals, and what are your expectations from the upcoming visit to China?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course, one of the main areas of our cooperation is the economy. Trade turnover is growing, as you know, and growing at a good rate. Soon, I think, we will reach $20 billion, and in the middle-term perspective we may well reach $60 billion. These figures are quite possible and these goals are quite realistic.

We believe that there should not just be an increase in trade turnover. We need to change the structure of our economic cooperation. A very important role here could be played by the investment committee that has been created by the two governments. As I already said in answer to the last question, I think it would be correct to change the structure by increasing everything in this trade turnover (or rather in this cooperation) this is connected with high technology. Here we have a good experience of cooperation; we only need an additional powerful stimulus to make sure this cooperation is carried out more quickly.

Today there are indeed no problems between Russia and China which cannot be discussed openly and in a friendly manner. This also concerns border issues, and problems of regional cooperation.

Our delegation will include leaders from a number of Russian regions which are adjacent to the border of the Peoples Republic of China. I am certain that they will also reach concrete decisions during this joint work, which at a federal level we will undoubtedly support, because in the development of relations between regions of China and Russia we see excellent prospects for cooperation between the countries as a whole.

QUESTION: Mr President, I have several specific questions on economic cooperation.

Many Chinese viewers know that in recent years, Russia and China have constantly been discussing cooperation in the fuel and energy complex. Can we expect that your visit will help to make a breakthrough in this sphere?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: We have an absolutely open dialogue with our Chinese partners. We know that China is interested in a stable delivery of energy resources from Russia. And Russia is also interested in having China as a reliable and stable partner with growing demands for energy resources.

There are no problems here of a political, ideological or economic nature to stop us from developing our relations in the energy sphere. Russia is actively developing atomic and fuel energy. We are prepared to further develop our cooperation in energy generation. We want to cooperate, and will cooperate with China, given the prospects for development of its northern, northwest and northeast territories, and we will cooperate on delivering raw energy materials to China.

Chairman Hu Jintao and I discussed this issue when he was in Moscow, and we discussed specific projects. We welcome the intentions of the Chinese side to invest $12 million and more in the Russian economy, as was announced during the visit by the Chinese Premier. I repeat, we would like all these investments to be distributed evenly, given the future of our economic relations, which as I have already said and I repeat, must be directed above all to development in high technology spheres. But we realise the importance of energy, and will welcome Chinese involvement in this joint work.

There is the issue about the routes of our pipe-line transport. I think you will understand me, I will say it quite openly and honestly: above all we must be guided by our national interests, we must develop the eastern territories of the Russian Federation, the territories of the Far East, because we must plan and carry out major infrastructural projects there. Therefore, the final decision will be made based on these considerations, but we also take into account the interests of our partners. We thank that the Peoples Republic of China a consumer of this raw energy is interested for transport infrastructure to develop not just in the east of the Russian Federation (including pipeline transport) but for the development of this transport infrastructure to be a good stimulus for additional exploration work, so that Russian energy resources are fully valued, so that Chinese consumers, taking into account the development plans of the economy of the Peoples Republic of China, know how much, in what time frames and what raw energy Chinese factories can receive from Russia.

We will discuss this quite openly with our Chinese friends, and I am sure that we will find solutions that are acceptable both for us and for our partners.

QUESTION: We just mentioned the issue of the border. In recent years there has been major progress in solving this issue of Russian-Chinese relations. I would like to know: during your visit, will any possibility for final regulation of the border issue between Russia and China be examined?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Our Foreign Ministry has worked intensively on solving these issues for a long time. One must give them their due, their work was guided by considerations of good-neighbourly relations, looking to the future, taking into account the regional interests of both Russia and China.

I would very much like for these talks, for this work, to be completed, and completed taking the interests of China and Russia into account. I hope that this will take place in the near future.

QUESTION: Thanks to the joint efforts of Russia and China, trade and economic cooperation between our countries has developed very dynamically. And it is clear that the basis for this should be equal rights and mutual gain. At the same time, we must take into account the commonly accepted rules of international trade. Will our countries be able to make give bilateral trade and economic cooperation a strategic partnership, keeping to the above-mentioned principles? How do you assess our bilateral partner relations, our cooperation and our interaction on the international scene?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not think that there are any obstacles for our economic relations to become a strategic partnership, definitively, firmly and long-term.

As for relations in the framework of international organisations, above all in the World Trade Organisation, I am certain that both China and Russia have major prospects here, as we can unify the rules that we work by.

But both Russia and China and many other countries must continue to fight to ensure that the rules of international economic relations are fair and democratic. And a great deal remains to be done here in the discussion process in the system of the World Trade Organisation. We and our Chinese partners have a full understanding of this and a common method for solving these problems.

As in the political sphere, in the security sphere the world must be multi-polar; and in the economic sphere it must be fair and democratic. The world economic order must not again and again produce poverty, destitution and lawlessness. To pay off the debts of economically undeveloped countries is of course a noble task, but it would be better to create a system which does not give rise to this injustice every year, every month and every day, and does not lead to a growth in these debts this is what we must aim for.

Russias possible entry into the World Trade Organisation, in my opinion, is beneficial for both Russia and China, given the scale of our cooperation and its prospects. We have certain agreements with our Chinese partners. I expect that they will be realised at future talks.

QUESTION: Will you have any specific ideas about Russia joining the WTO during your visit to China?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: As I just said, we are continuing talks with our Chinese partners. Although, when the Chinese Premier visited Russia, we talked about this at length and in detail, including in private conversation. Our idea is simple: we want to join the World Trade Organisation on standard conditions without any discrimination. Chinese specialists and our Chinese friends support us in this, just as we support their position that the condition for China to function in the World Trade Organisation must be without any biased relation to the Chinese economy.

QUESTION: After the events of 11 September and the Iraq war, many changes have taken place in the world. How has Russian foreign policy reacted to this? Have there been any changes or not?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The most important thing that happened I have already said this is the realisation that the world should not only change in the speeches of politicians, but in the practical activity of those that give orders, based on the political level. All political structures, all special services, all law-enforcement departments which are designed to fight terrorism must realise that the bipolar world has ceased to exist, that the cold war is over, and that new threats have appeared, which can only be opposed by combining efforts. They must rid themselves of the illusion that one group of international terrorists can be used against their evident or supposed geopolitical opponents, and call on the international community to fight the other group with joint efforts. These double standards need to be abandoned. And this is the most important thing.

I think that everyone is beginning to realise this. We will press for these methods in the framework of international organisations, as I already said, in the framework of the UN, and work here together with our Chinese partners very closely: we have a common method for solving these issues.

QUESTION: You have stressed several times that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a new mechanism which has a positive influence on international relations.

How do you assess the efforts made by the Chinese side in creating the SCO and strengthening its role? And will this organisation play a more active role in broad international spheres besides the sphere of ensuring security in Central Asia?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Yes, I think it will play this role.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has gone through significant changes since the idea of creating this organisation was born. It was created as a tool to solve border issues with newly formed nations that appeared after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and to solve border issues of these countries with the Peoples Republic of China. It must be said that it completely justified the tasks that were put before it from the moment that it was formed.

Indeed, the vast majority of border problems have been solved. They have been solved effectively and to the benefit of all countries which set the task of regulating them. The solution of these problems created a good basis for expanding the activity of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It has begun to have a completely different significance and influence in the world in the atmosphere that was formed during joint work.

During our work, we began to raise problems of coordination in the political sphere, in the war on terrorism, and finally began to set and solve issues of cooperation in the economic sphere. At one of the last meetings, incidentally, the Chinese delegation proposed the initiative for investments of a very respectable level in countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which can only be welcomed by all member countries. And of course, this is all done in the interests of all countries, including above all the interests of the Peoples Republic of China itself, as this is a good tool for developing economic cooperation and influence in this region of the world, which we also welcome.

Today, many countries of the region are showing an interest in participating in the work of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and in different qualities. I think that this clearly shows that the significance and influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on international processes is growing. I am certain that it will continue to grow.

QUESTION: In recent years, relations between Russia and the European Union have been constantly expanding. Contacts with Europe are an important area of Russias foreign policy. At the same time, certain problems arise as they become closer. One of these problems is that in Russia and the European Union, the mechanism of interaction between society and power works differently.

Mr President, in your opinion, what is the nature of this difference? Is it a temporary phenomenon connected with the transitional period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, or is it a long-term phenomenon that is founded on Russian national traditions and history?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: For us, the European Union is one of our major partners in virtually all spheres. The European Union accounts for almost half of our trade turnover.

Furthermore, Russia is a Eurasian country with the main political and economic centres in its European part. At the basis of our cooperation is a common culture and religious community. We are linked to Europe by many things. To say that we have disagreement is possible, and necessary. That has always been, and always will be the case between partners with an enormous range of interaction.

Today we are working with the European Union on the creation of four so-called common spaces: the Common economic space, a common space of foreign security, a common space of internal security, and a common space in the sphere of the economy, education and science, and the humanitarian sphere.

All this shows that we have common goals, and I am sure, a common future. It is of course possible to say that the forms of interaction between society and state are different in the European Union and Russia. And there is nothing unusual in this, because all the countries, including within the European Union, differ significantly from one another in the organisation of interaction between society and state, between regions and the centre.

Let us take Great Britain as an example. No one says that Great Britain is a country with a tyrannical regime. It is a democratic country, this is acknowledged by all the countries in the world. At the same time, not only English people live in Great Britain.

The English today are Anglo-Saxons who moved to this territory from continental Europe at a certain time in world history. They were German tribes who gave the name to England. But there are also British citizens living in other areas, in Wales. There are citizens who have always considered themselves to be mountain people Scots. It is a complex society. Nevertheless, the heads of executive bodies of power in the region are members of the British government, they are appointed directly. No one says that this is a bad thing.

For Britain, with its special features of historical development, its special features of culture and so on, this system of organising interaction between regions and the centre, between society and power as the inhabitants of the country decided is optimal.

In other countries of the European Union this system is different. I wont give any examples, but anyone who is interested in these problems will agree with me. The same goes for Russia. But we have a common vision that at the basis of these processes, at the basis of the development of the state, there should be democracy. And, taking into account the special features of our historical development, our experience and the realities of the present day, we will strive to build a political system and organise mutual relations between state and society so that they not only do not violate the system of democracy, but strengthen it. So that they allow citizens of the Russian Federation to play a full part in the life of society and state, and not to weaken the state but to strengthen it, to strengthen our country, and make it more powerful and competitive in international affairs. And to create an economy which ultimately works for ordinary citizens, and increases the prosperity of citizens of the Russian Federation.

QUESTION: Many people in the world and in Russia consider you to be a very strong person and a successful leader. You have great support and popularity in Russia. You are greatly respected here. There is even a popular song which, when translated into Chinese, goes like this: If you marry, then you should marry a person like Putin. How do you assess your popularity and charm in the eyes of Russians? I would also like to know, what does Putin mean for Russia today?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Allow me not to answer the last question.

As for the first question, I always try to keep to certain rules. Above all, not to lie, and to tell the truth, whether it is pleasant or not. Our people deserve to be spoken to in the language of truth. This is the first point.

Secondly, I never pose, as used to be said of our party and state figures of the Soviet period, as a major contemporary political figure. A person who does the sort of work that I do must retain human feelings which allow him to understand how ordinary citizens live, and what problems they encounter in everyday life. He must do this to be able to formulate mechanisms and choose tools to solve these problems, and objectively and honestly to assess the results of his actions.

We know that a great deal has been done in recent years, but I also know that a great deal has not been done. And I would like results to be more significant and more prominent, and better to reflect not just on the general health of the nation, but on the pockets of citizens of the Russian Federation, on their prosperity and well-being, on the growth of their income, and so that everyone feels safe and psychologically comfortable.

We still need to do a great deal. There are more tasks that lie before us than problems that we have already solved. So we are not light-headed with success. We will continue to work. We will work persistently, and I expect that our cooperation with the Peoples Republic of China will make a significant contribution to solving tasks faced by Russia, and accordingly by China.

QUESTION: Mr President, I read a book about you, and it said that when you were a child you did not want to be involved in politics. Why did you change your mind later?

And a second question. You are the President of a great power. Could you tell us about the moments that were the most pleasant and the most difficult for you? And what would you like your daughters to do?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would like my daughters to do whatever is most interesting for them. An area where they can realise themselves as people. And this is a choice that they must make themselves.

As for memorable moments of course I mainly remember difficult moments, tragic moments, when our citizens face difficulties or suffer I always feel this very keenly.

Any pleasant moments? I repeat, I dont want to focus my attention on them, or the attention of the Government or my office, as this always holds back progress. You always start to think that youre too good to plan anything or carry anything out. You need to spend more time analysing mistakes.

Indeed, I never intended to go into politics. Things happened that way. And it hardly depended on me at all. It was simply an administrative career. And after I reached a certain level of this administrative career, the first President of Russia, Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin, proposed for me to run for President of Russia. In fact, this is where my political activity began, something I had never done or planned in the past. This is how things turned out.

QUESTION: One last question from all three of us. What would you like to wish the Chinese people?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The Chinese people are very close to us. They are close because we have been neighbours for hundreds of years. We have an enormous interest in Chinese culture and Chinese history.

But in recent years, another feeling has increasingly been added to this traditional interest a feeling of respect for the hard-working and talented Chinese people for carrying out such grandiose plans in a short period of time. This shows once again that Chinese are both talented and hard-working people.

I would like to wish happiness and prosperity to every Chinese family.

Thank you very much.