Full text of Xinhua’s interview with Putin

Xinhua, May 15, 2024 — 

MOSCOW — On the eve of his two-day state visit to China, which starts on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a written interview with Xinhua.

The following is the full text of the interview.

Question: In March 2023, President Xi Jinping chose Russia as a destination for his first foreign visit after his re-election as President of the People’s Republic of China. This year, upon your re-election as President of the Russian Federation, you, in turn, have chosen China for your first foreign visit. We have noted that over the last decade or so, President Xi Jinping and you have met more than 40 times in various bilateral and multilateral settings. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia. What is your assessment of your contacts with Chinese President Xi Jinping? What do you expect from your upcoming visit to China? What is your forecast for the further development of Russia-China relations?

Answer: I am pleased to be able to address the multimillion audience of Xinhua, one of the world’s leading and most trusted news agencies and share my vision of the future Russia-China partnership. I would like to highlight that it has always relied on the principles of equality and trust, mutual respect for the sovereignty and consideration of each other’s interests. A special and prominent role in the development of our relations has belonged to wise and shrewd politicians and state leaders, such as Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China.

We first met back in March 2010, and we have been seeing and calling each other regularly ever since. President Xi maintains a respectful, friendly, open and at the same time business-like style of communication. Our every meeting is not just a dialogue between old friends, which is important, too, just like for everyone, – but also a fruitful exchange of views on the most topical issues on the bilateral and international agenda.

I have fond memories of the state visit of President Xi Jinping to Russia in March 2023, immediately after his re-election as President of the PRC. Just like in 2013, our country was the first one he visited as head of China. We had more than five hours of a face-to-face conversation, and the next day we followed an extensive and substantive official schedule.

This unprecedented level of strategic partnership between our countries determined my choice of China as the first state to be visited after the official inauguration as the president of the Russian Federation.

I have emphasized on many occasions that our peoples are bound by a long and strong tradition of friendship and cooperation. That is one of the most important pillars of bilateral relations. During World War II, Soviet and Chinese soldiers stood up together against Japanese militarism. We remember and value the contribution of the Chinese people to the common Victory. It was China that held back major forces of Japanese militarists, making it possible for the Soviet Union to focus on defeating Nazism in Europe. And, of course, we are grateful to our Chinese friends for their careful attitude to war memorials, to the memory of Soviet citizens who had fought for the liberation of China and supported the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people, their righteous fight against the invaders. Today, Russia-China relations have reached the highest level ever, and despite the difficult global situation continue to get stronger.

This year is special for our countries. October 1 marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The country is approaching this significant historical date with outstanding achievements, which we welcome as old, reliable and time-tested friends.

The USSR was the first to recognize the PRC on the second day of its existence. So in early October, we will also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Over the three quarters of a century, our countries have travelled a long and at times difficult way. We have learnt well the lessons of the history of our relationship at different stages of their development. Today, we know that the synergy of complementary strengths provides a powerful impetus for rapid comprehensive development.

It is important that Russia-China ties as they are today, are free from the influence of either ideology or political trends. Their multidimensional development is an informed strategic choice based on the wide convergence of core national interests, profound mutual trust, strong public support and sincere friendship between the peoples of the two countries. I am talking about our joint efforts to strengthen the sovereignty, protect the territorial integrity and security of our countries. In a broader sense, we are working to contribute to the development and prosperity of Russia and China by enhancing equal, mutually beneficial economic and humanitarian cooperation, and strengthen foreign policy coordination in the interests of building a just multipolar world order. All this is the key to a future success of our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era.

Question: Today, practical trade and economic cooperation between China and Russia is constantly developing. Last year, the US$200 billion trade turnover target you had set together with Chinese President Xi Jinping was surpassed ahead of schedule. In your opinion, what are the new specific features and growth points of practical trade and economic cooperation between China and Russia? In which areas Chinese-Russian trade and economic cooperation is likely to achieve even greater breakthroughs in future?

Answer: Trade and economic relations between our countries are developing at a fast pace, showing strong immunity to external challenges and crises. Over the past five years, we have doubled the Russia-China turnover: it reached US$227.8 billion last year, against US$111 billion in 2019. More than 90% of settlements between our companies are made in national currencies. So it would be more accurate to say that bilateral trade currently totals about 20 trillion rubles, or nearly 1.6 trillion yuan. China has remained our key business partner for 13 years, and in 2023, Russia ranked 4th among the PRC’s major trading partners.

Our countries have made an informed choice in favour of equal and mutually beneficial economic ties a long time ago. We are systematically and consistently developing strategic cooperation in the energy sector, working on new large-scale energy projects. Supplies of Russian agricultural produce to the Chinese market are showing positive dynamics; investment and production initiatives are implemented, and transport and logistics corridors between our countries are smoothly functioning and expanding. Given global turbulence and economic issues in the West, such results prove yet again the strategic wisdom of our sovereign course and pursuit of national interests.

As for our plans, we will try to establish closer cooperation in industry and high-tech, outer space and peaceful atom, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and other innovative sectors. We will keep working to provide favourable legal and organizational conditions for that and develop transport and financial infrastructure. I believe that Russian-Chinese economic ties have great prospects.

Question: The friendship between China and Russia goes on for generations, and the cultures of the two countries are deeply intertwined. This year and next year, in line with the agreements reached between you and President Xi Jinping, the China-Russia Years of Culture will be held. What is the role of cultural exchanges in expanding cooperation and friendship between our countries, as you see it? What is your personal perception of Chinese culture and what is your experience of it?

Answer: I have said more than once and will say again: Russia and China have been inextricably linked for centuries, both by an extensive common border and by close cultural and people-to-people ties. In the distant past, only rare tidings of China reached our country with merchants. Later on, the first embassies appeared, and the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, which made a truly invaluable contribution to the collection and systematization of knowledge about China, was organized in Beijing. The 19th century saw the first students of the Chinese language in Russia, followed by the first university departments as well as the first attempts at compiling dictionaries.

During the reign of Catherine the Great, Chinese art came into fashion. For example, the interiors of the Chinese Room of the Catherine Palace, the Empress’s private chambers, were richly decorated with lacquer panels from China. Unfortunately, the interior was completely destroyed during the Great Patriotic War, but restoration is underway involving specialists from China.

Today, Chinese culture and art are also of great interest to the Russian public. There are about 90,000 students and schoolchildren who study Chinese in our country. Tours of Chinese performing companies and exhibitions featuring Chinese artists are always a great success. Since the quarantine restrictions were removed, the tourist flow has been growing dynamically. Last year, more than 730,000 Russians visited the PRC.

I know that people in China are also keen to get acquainted with Russian literature, art and traditions. Our eminent theatre groups and musicians regularly perform in China, museums organize their exhibitions, and Russian films are run in cinemas. We are most willing to introduce our Chinese friends to historical, artistic and cultural heritage of multi-ethnic Russia in all its diversity.

To this end, President of China Xi Jinping and I decided to declare 2024 and 2025 cross years of culture between Russia and China, so as to implement this large-scale project in conjunction with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. We expect the program of activities to be vibrant and abundant. A number of major events have already taken place. For example, in Moscow, for the first time, broad New Year celebrations were held according to the lunar calendar, while in Beijing and Xi’an, Chinese citizens got an opportunity to learn about the tradition of our holiday Maslenitsa at the Farewell to the Russian Winter festival.

Russia, just like China, firmly relies on the principles of multiculturalism, advocates the equality of cultures and the preservation of national identity. These and other important issues were in the focus of the 2023 St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum. A representative Chinese delegation most actively participated in the Forum. The free discussions held at the Forum are particularly important at this time, as they contribute to building a respectful dialogue between civilizations.

We intend to promote new formats of interaction, such as the Intervision International Popular Song Contest. China is the key partner in this project, which aims to spread and popularize national song schools.

As for my personal attitude to Chinese culture, I would like to emphasize that I am always eager to discover China’s unique and authentic traditions, especially during my visits to the PRC. I know quite a bit about your martial arts, including Wushu, which is very popular in our country. I also have respect for Chinese philosophy. My family members are also interested in China, and some of them are learning Chinese.

Question: This year, Russia has assumed the BRICS Chairmanship, and the current year is also the first year of “greater BRICS cooperation.” Please tell us about Russia’s priorities and plan of events as the BRICS Chair. What is to be done to facilitate harmonious integration of new members into the BRICS cooperation mechanism? How do you see the role of the BRICS mechanism in the global arena? What could be done to make “greater BRICS cooperation” even more fruitful?

Answer: Russia’s BRICS Chairmanship has gained a steady momentum. Full-scale work is underway on all three main pillars of cooperation – politics and security, the economy and finance, culture and people-to-people contacts.

One of the main goals of the Russian Chairmanship is undoubtedly the seamless integration of the BRICS new members. We are actively assisting them in joining the existing network of cooperation mechanisms.

As another priority, we seek to continue coordinated work to enhance the visibility of the association in global affairs and build its capacity to promote a more democratic, stable and fair architecture of international relations. I would like to particularly stress that cooperation within BRICS relies on the principles of mutual respect, equality, openness and consensus. That is why countries of the Global South and East, which see BRICS as a platform for their voices to be certainly heard and taken into account, find our association so attractive.

Russian agencies, business and public circles have prepared an extensive agenda for the Chairmanship. This includes a wide range of areas for enhancing interaction, including finance, agriculture, energy, intellectual property, healthcare, education and space exploration. Moreover, such niche and knowledge-intensive topics as nanotechnology, nuclear medicine and biotechnology are being discussed by experts in relevant fields.

We have held quite a few specialized events: in total, the Chairmanship plan envisages more than 200 of them. In addition to expert and ministerial meetings, they include numerous cultural events and youth activities. The BRICS Sports Games will take place in Kazan in June, and in October, the city will host the BRICS Summit.

Question: Multilateral mechanisms such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are currently working to bring countries of the Global South together in the spirit of equality, openness, transparency and inclusiveness, and are contributing to reforming the system of global governance. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized that he is looking forward to working with Russia to strengthen strategic cooperation in multilateral settings and implement the principles of genuine multilateralism. How do you assess cooperation between China and Russia within BRICS, the SCO and other multilateral mechanisms? In your opinion, what is the role of the two countries’ interaction in the international arena in promoting a community with a shared future for mankind.

Answer: Earth is the cradle of humanity, our common home, and we are all equal as its inhabitants. I am convinced that this view is shared by most people on the planet. However, the countries that affiliate themselves with the so-called “golden billion” do not seem to think so. US-led Western elites refuse to respect civilizational and cultural diversity and reject centuries-old traditional values. Seeking to retain their global dominance, they have usurped the right to tell other nations whom they may, or must not, make friends and cooperate with, and to deny them the right to choose their own development models. They disregard other countries’ sovereign interests. They seek to ensure their well-being at the expense of other states, just like in the old days, and resort to neo-colonial methods to that end.

Needless to say, neither Russia nor its partners are happy with this state of affairs. We have actively contributed to launching multilateral associations and mechanisms that are independent of the West and are successfully operating. In their work they build on the principles of equality, justice, transparency, respect and consideration of each other’s interests.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, which have well established themselves as key pillars of the emerging multipolar world order, can be cited as vivid examples of such mutually beneficial cooperation. They have come to be reputable and dynamic international platforms whose participants build constructive political, security, economic and cultural and people-to-people interaction. Hence the ever increasing interest of other states in the work of these associations and the growing number of their participants.

Our countries have similar or coinciding positions on key issues on the international agenda. We advocate for the primacy of international law, equal, indivisible, comprehensive and sustainable security at both the global and regional level with the UN’s central coordinating role. We also reject Western attempts to impose an order based on lies and hypocrisy, on some mythical rules of no one knows whose making.

Question: From the outset of the Ukraine crisis, China has engaged in active efforts to find a political solution to it. During his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on April 16, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined four principles for the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ukraine. On February 24, 2023, China published a position paper on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis. What is your assessment of China’s stance and efforts on this issue?

Answer: We commend China’s approaches to resolving the crisis in Ukraine. Beijing is well aware of its root causes and global geopolitical significance, which is reflected in its 12-point plan entitled “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis” published in February 2023. The ideas and proposals contained in the document show the genuine desire of our Chinese friends to help stabilize the situation.

As for the additional four principles of conflict resolution recently voiced by President Xi Jinping, they seamlessly fit in the above-mentioned plan. Beijing proposes practicable and constructive steps to achieve peace by refraining from pursuing vested interests and constant escalation of tensions, minimizing the negative impact of the conflict on the global economy and the stability of global value chains. The steps build on the idea that we need to forego the “Cold War mentality” and ensure indivisible security and respect for international law and the UN Charter in their entirety and interrelation. They could therefore lay the groundwork for a political and diplomatic process that would take into account Russia’s security concerns and contribute to achieving a long-term and sustainable peace.

Unfortunately, neither Ukraine nor its Western patrons support these initiatives. They are not ready to engage in an equal, honest and open dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests. They are reluctant to discuss the underlying causes, the very origins of the global crisis, which has manifested itself, inter alia, in the dramatic situation around Ukraine. Why? Because today’s global shocks have been provoked precisely by their policies in the previous years and decades.

Instead, Western elites are stubbornly working to “punish” Russia, isolate and weaken it, supplying the Kiev authorities with money and arms. They have imposed almost 16,000 unilateral illegitimate sanctions against our country. They are threatening to dismember our country. They are illegally trying to appropriate our foreign assets. They are turning a blind eye to the resurgence of Nazism and to Ukraine-sponsored terrorist attacks in our territory.

We are seeking a comprehensive, sustainable and just settlement of this conflict through peaceful means. We are open to a dialogue on Ukraine, but such negotiations must take into account the interests of all countries involved in the conflict, including ours. They must also involve a substantive discussion on global stability and security guarantees for Russia’s opponents and, naturally, for Russia itself. Needless to say, these must be reliable guarantees. That is where the main problem is, since we are dealing with states whose ruling circles seek to substitute the world order based on international law with an “order based on certain rules,” which they keep talking about but which no one has ever seen, no one has agreed to, and which, apparently, tend to change depending on the current political situation and interests of those who invent these rules.

Russia stands ready for negotiations; moreover, we had engaged in such negotiations. On April 15, 2022, in Istanbul, together with the Ukrainian delegation, we drafted a peace agreement, taking into account the demands of the Ukrainian side, including those on future security guarantees for Ukraine. Moreover, the head of the Ukrainian delegation initialled the main provisions of the draft document. Our Western partners tried to convince us that in order to finalize and sign the agreement, it was necessary to provide conditions. The main point was that Russian troops be withdrawn away from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. And so we did. But instead of signing the peace agreement, the Ukrainian side suddenly announced the cessation of negotiations. Later on, Ukrainian officials stated that they had done so, inter alia, because their Western allies had recommended that they continue hostilities and apply joint efforts to achieve Russia’s strategic defeat. We have never refused to negotiate.

Question: In your Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on February 29, 2024, you elaborated on Russia’s development goals for the next six years and relevant measures. On March 20, at a meeting with your election team, you called for building a new Russia, in order to make your country even stronger, more attractive and effective. What are your plans in state-building for this new term of office? How do you expect to achieve your goals?

Answer: The Address sets objective and essential goals pertaining to the development of all regions of the country, the economy, and the social sphere; they include addressing demographic problems, increasing the birth rate, providing support to families with children, fighting poverty and inequality. We recognize the scale of these challenges and can provide solutions. To do this we will rely on the consolidated will of our people, the necessary resources and capabilities, and the rich experience of interaction between the state, businesses and the civil society.

In addition, over the past few years, tremendous work has been done to establish an effective economic management system. The government and relevant agencies use big data sets, advanced digital platforms and computer networks spanning all sectors of the national economy throughout the country. We will continue with this work and seek to improve the efficiency of long-term planning and the implementation of programs and national projects.

Today, Russia is one of the world’s top five countries in terms of purchasing power parity. Now we are aiming for the top four largest economies on the planet. We prioritize such tasks as ensuring quality and the effective development across all spheres, as well as increasing our citizens’ well-being.

It is impossible to achieve quality economic changes without a sustained salary growth. To achieve this, we plan to increase labour productivity through the across-the-board adoption of scientific advances, new technologies and innovations, automation and robotization, and the creation of modern jobs. At the same time, we will engage in training competent, forward-thinking professionals who will implement greenfield projects and work in industry and the social sphere.

Our priorities certainly include training fresh talent for public and municipal government. We have a whole range of relevant programs, competitions and projects in place. We have also provided ample opportunities at the federal and regional levels to help talented people who love their homeland unlock their potential. These are people who are ready to assume responsibility, serve Russia honestly and faithfully, and, most importantly, who have proved it in deed, both in doing their work and going through the toughest hardships when defending our Fatherland and our people.

I am confident that we will implement all the strategic plans we have set. We are willing to work together with our partners worldwide, including China, our good neighbour and trusted friend.

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