Russia’s future development primarily depends on how its economic development is organized. Also, it depends on how it responds and contributes to a more stable society, how harmonized its relationships are with the neighbours and with some great powers.
Valdaiclub.com interview with FENG Shaolei, participant of the VIII summit of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Dean, School of Advanced International and Area Studies (SAIAS), East China Normal University; Director, Centre for Russian Studies, East China Normal University.
How does China react to possible global competition with the United States? Is this competition real?
It is possible that there will be no global confrontation between the United States and China. I hope this idea becomes reality. Actually, China’s reform and open-up in the past three decades is based on the open-up of its whole eastern coastal area, which are strategically vulnerable and hard to defend. This has already clearly indicated China’s determination to follow firmly the path of peaceful development against wars. The current situation needs China and the United States to provide a joint response not only for the sake of current development but also to achieve stability in the future. The United States as the only superpower and China as the biggest developing country should engage in much deeper cooperation to promote not only domestic development but also globalized development. My understanding is that there has been major progress in the top level dialogue between the U.S. and China. Of course, we also face tough challenges internally and externally but it would be better to involve not only the political elites on both sides but also some other social groups, such as intellectuals or even ordinary people, who may be more helpful in dealing with such tough challenges.
What role does China award to Russia in its global strategy? What do the Chinese think about Russia, Russia’s power and Russia’s geopolitical stances?
Obviously, China and Russia do not have the same relationship as it was between China and the Soviet Union. Both Russia and China face different challenges from the outside in economic and political spheres. Moreover, both countries face some big and serious challenges in the field of internal management and political development. However, Russia’s future development primarily depends on how its economic development is organized. Second, it depends on how it responds and contributes to a more stable society, how harmonized its relationships are with the neighbours and with some great powers. I do not expect Russia to return to the politics of the Soviet Union. Although China and Russia will not necessarily form an alliance, still Russia and China can and should have a real long-term strategic partnership.
How do the Chinese elites and you personally assess the Eurasian Union project proposed by Putin?
The Eurasian Union project is a new phenomenon, a new development. Obviously, there are historic, cultural and economic grounds for setting up such organizations; we respect the free choices of Russian and Eurasian people. Certainly, needless to say, we need to find a way to deepen cooperation among different organizations in this region. For example, the SCO has already achieved such big achievements, so in this decade we should continue trying to find common ground to harmonize development. Besides, the SCO has also helped to solve very important issues of the Eurasian region. So it is imperative to create a new mechanism for developing inter-organizational relations.
Is it possible that Afghanistan can become a major project aimed at deepening cooperation in the region?
After 2014 the situation will become uncertain, so not only Russia but also China should respond to this county’s future, though we couldn’t do things similar to NATO member-states or some of the western countries. The first thing we should be concerned about is stabilizing the political and economic situation in that country and helping to maintain the country’s security. Also China could do something in the field of infrastructure, because there are a lot of projects that can be implemented. Moreover, Beijing and Moscow can train and educate the local residents and start general projects on a grass-root level which is absolutely needed to help the locals to create a normal situation in the country. China should cooperate more actively with Russia, because our joint potentials can be implemented in this region.