Russian-Chinese Section of the Valdai Club discussed Russia’s Strategy in Asia
The Russian-Chinese section of the Valdai International Discussion Club concluded work in Shanghai, China, on December 4.
The conference, “China and Russia in Asia,” was sponsored by the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), RIA Novosti, and the Center for Russia Studies of the East China Pedagogical University.
The conference was attended by eminent scholars and experts in economics, politics and international relations from leading universities and research centers of Russia, China, India, Japan and Singapore.
The Russian participants presented points from a report entitled “Towards the Great Ocean: Russia and Asia, or Russia in Asia” that analyzes the challenges and opportunities for Russia and the Asia Pacific Region (APR) in the context of regional integration processes and the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership. The report also assesses the tools and priorities of Russia’s Asia policy, as well as prospects for cooperation between Russia, APR countries and regional organizations and institutions.
The participants discussed prospects for Russia’s cooperation with China and other APR countries, including how to overcome economic and political obstacles hindering Russia’s return to this rapidly developing region.
Russia and China are on the threshold of a breakthrough in relations, SVOP President Sergei Karaganov said at the start of the meeting. In his view, there is a growing awareness in Russia of China’s importance for Russian economic development. Russia now has a unique opportunity to reorient itself toward Asia, particularly as its other foreign policy vectors (such as the European Union) are blocked for the time being by systemic crisis or socio-political instability (the Arab spring and the situation in Afghanistan). The APR, therefore, is perhaps the only reserve for Russia’s foreign and foreign-economic policies, Karaganov said.
Valdai’s Russian-Chinese section plays a crucial role in forming the conceptual basis of Russian-Chinese relations and provides effective support to the leadership of both countries, said Li Fenglin, former PRC ambassador to Russia and member of the PRC Foreign Ministry’s Consultative Council for Foreign Policy.
The Russian participants believe that it is crucial for Russia to gain an economic and political foothold in the Asia Pacific Region for the sake of its inner stability and international competitiveness. But it is impossible to strengthen the eastern vector in Russia’s development (an integral component of which is a series of measures to develop Siberia and the Far East) without improving trade and economic relations and political interaction with the leading Asian countries, primarily China. Nor is it possible without taking into account the interests of other active regional players.
Russia’s strategy in Asia should be focused on the APR’ progress and on Russia’s emergence as a full-fledged Pacific power. In this regard, some Russian participants suggested establishing an “Asian capital” and transferring to it some of Moscow’s functions. In their view, this might play an important symbolic role comparable in scale and historic significance with Peter I’s founding of St. Petersburg.
Another recommendation was to develop new security and cooperation formats in the region. As part of the preparations for the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok, the participants suggested establishing a standing mechanism for interstate consultations in Asia modeled on the Helsinki Process. This would make it possible to raise the level of reciprocal notification on national decision-making, specifically in the military-political sphere. The APEC summit is just around the corner, and this work must be intensified, experts believe. In the future, a specialized international format, the Pacific Security and Development Pact, might be contemplated.
The Valdai Club came into being in 2004. It was founded by RIA Novosti jointly with the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, The Moscow News, Russia in Global Affairs, and Russia Profile. The club owes its name to the location of its first conference. It aims to promote dialogue among Russian and foreign scientists, politicians and journalists, and to analyze political, economic and social processes in Russia and worldwide. In the eight years since its founding, the club’s proceedings have involved more than 400 members of the international expert community from 36 countries.