Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met twice already in 2019 for summits on economic cooperation.  A series of agreements has been concluded at these meetings, mostly focused on Russian cooperation on China’s Belt and Road infrastructure construction. Putin had initially been hesitant to join in these projects, probably because he saw them as China extending its influence into Central Asia, traditionally under Russian influence.  Now Putin is speaking out in favor of Belt and Road and greater economic cooperation with China.

The two leaders met first in Beijing at an April 2019 international Russian-Chinese economic cooperation Russian-Chinese economic cooperation, where Putin praised the relationship with China and expressed his support for Belt and Road projects.  He has committed to the construction of a 1,200-mile highway in Russia as a link in the ground route from China to Europe, due to be built by 2024.

The two met again in June at a bilateral Russian-Chinese Energy Business Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Putin again praised the relationship with China and highlighted the ongoing expansion of oil pipeline connections between the two countries.  They also used the occasion for the signing of a Russian deal with Huawei to do 5G network construction in Russia.  Following the conference, they announced the formation of a Russian-Chinese joint venture for the maritime transportation of liquefied natural gas from arctic fields to China, using tankers provided by both Russia and China.

This surge in Russian-Chinese economic cooperation seems driven by the sanctions and trade frictions that are hurting their ties to US and European markets.  Since the Russian economy is much smaller than that of Europe or the United States, it is unlikely that Russia can replace these markets if China is blocked out of its relationship with the US.

Link for full report: IR-1710-001 Russia Cooperating w China on Belt and Road 20190620_FINAL.pdf

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