The agenda of the first day of the Valdai Club’s Russian-Chinese conference, which kicked off in Shanghai on April 25, was extraordinarily intense, including four sessions, dozens of interviews and discussions on the sidelines. The sheer number of participants – more than 50 officials and leading experts from Russia and China and more than 30 speakers – demonstrates that the two sides need dialogue and, according to Andrey Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, “want to move together along the path of cognition and prediction of changes in the international environment.”
This year, Russian and Chinese participants in the Valdai Club conference convened in Shanghai to discuss “the contemporary development challenges” for Russia and China and to find answers to the most acute questions outlined in the event programme (which is also available in the .pdf format).
Most sessions were held under the Chatham House Rule, which guarantees anonymity of discussions, enabling all participants to freely exchange their views. But even the first, open session, featuring the perspectives of Russia and China on the situation in the world, was, according to Sergei Karaganov, Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics of the Higher School of Economics, “unusually candid” (his exclusive interview is available on our website.)
So, participants in the first session tried to answer the question of what to do in the situation of unilateral war which the West has semi-officially declared to Russia and China. It became obvious from the presentations and subsequent discussion that the two countries’ vision of the threat emanating from the West is in many ways similar. And this is a new trend in bilateral relations.
Chen Dongxiao, president of the Shanghai Academy of International Studies, outlined the contradiction between the signs of a new world in convergence and a new cold war. He pointed out that the hegemonic system led by the US is changing, with America becoming a major unstable force in the world.
Sergei Karaganov noted, in turn, that the cause of all these changes is the end of the West’s power domination and military superiority, which had allowed it to establish its own rules and tilt the world’s gross national product in its favor.
According to Yu Bin, professor of political science at Wittenberg University, it is not only the disintegration of the liberal world order, introducing uncertainty to the international system, but also the new strategy of its former leaders, namely the US and Britain, which leads to unpredictability of the world situation.
Both Russian and Chinese participants in the session noted that what is taking place is a coordinated attack from the West trying to pressure Russia and China simultaneously. The West pushed Russia away and it became closer with China, while the global balance of power changed. The next 10-15 years is the time to create a new world order, and Russia and China must support each other to remain relevant on the international arena and ensure that this world order will not repeat the old one.
Participants in the closed sessions of the Russian-Chinese conference discussed the most significant areas of cooperation between the countries against the background of international pressure, the consequences of transformation of the Chinese economy, and the common tasks of the two countries in the construction of Greater Eurasia.
The speakers noted that Moscow and Beijing must synchronize their vision of the future and sketched three most important directions for Russia and China, which are the key role of the state in economic modernization and development, the preservation of human resources and ensuring internal and external security.
It was noted that the transformation of the Chinese economy would play a role in the world economy comparable to the one played by the Chinese economic growth as such. These changes, however, reduce the Russian-Chinese economic complementarity, which was based on a combination of Russian resources and Chinese labour. Now we need to rely on a new complementarity, with China as a consumer, and Russia as a producer of goods. The participants agreed that it is necessary to move to settlements in national currencies, to increase joint investments and reduce non-tariff barriers, which are abundant in China.
Discussing the prospects for cooperation within the framework of Greater Eurasia, the conference participants noted that the interaction of the two countries in Eurasia is extremely necessary – especially because the US is counting on a conflict between Russia and China.
Prior to the Russian-Chinese conference, Andrey Bystritskiy, Sergey Karaganov, Timofey Bordachev, and Sergey Luzyanin held an unofficial meeting with Chinese VIP participants, including Dai Bingguo, a renowned Chinese statesman, and Zhang Deguang, former Chinese Ambassador to Russia.
The Valdai Club conference in Shanghai lasts for two days with two more sessions to come. Participants will discuss mutual perceptions of the elites, media, and society of China and Russia, as well as the role of traditional culture in the modern world and bilateral relations in particular.