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China, Russia anchor trade ties

Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst

A matter of economics: Putin and Hu struck several deals in Moscow.
A matter of economics: Putin and Hu struck several deals in Moscow.

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Presidents Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin's much-awaited agreement to export Siberian oil to China will help anchor ties with Russia on solid commercial benefits.

In a joint statement issued after their summit at the Kremlin, the two leaders also agreed to give a big push to trade and other economic cooperation.

International affairs experts in China think closer ties in trade and energy will help prevent the Sino-Russian "strategic partnership of cooperation" from becoming too vague.

Since relations between the two giant neighbors began to hot up in the mid-1990s, both sides have concentrated on the enunciation of political and diplomatic principles such as the need to counter American "hegemonism" and "unilateralism."

The statement, carried in the official China media on Tuesday, cited the need to forge a "fair and democratic world order" against the backdrop of a rise in "power politics and unilateralism."

However, since similar expressions of global precepts have been made by Chinese and Russian leaders before, Chinese analysts are paying more attention to the economics-related deals struck by Hu in his first visit to Russia as president.

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences expert on Russia Zheng Yu pointed out the construction of a pipeline to pump Siberian oil to the northeast Chinese oilfield of Daqing was highly significant.

Zheng said at the initial stages, 20 million tonnes of crude could be shipped annually, and the capacity could be increased to 30 million tonnes at a later stage.

Pushing up volume

Russian businessmen and engineers will also be involved in the mammoth project to transport gas from western Chinese provinces to the industrialized coastal region.

Chinese and Russian experts agree that the current level of bilateral trade -- just short of US$12 billion last year -- is not commensurate with the partnership relationship between the two neighbors.

Both governments have indicated a wish to push up the trade volume to the region of US$20 billion in 2003.

According to Beijing-based international affairs expert Wang Yizhou, China's economic ties with Russia are lagging between those with the U.S. and Japan by large margins.

Professor Wang said boosting Sino-Russian trade would prevent the Sino-Russian strategic partnership from becoming "insubstantial and hollow."

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