13 october, 2009 14:00  

Question: Mr Prime Minister, I am deputy general director of the Xinhua news agency. My name is Peng Shujie.

First of all, allow me, on behalf of all my colleagues, to thank you for finding the time to give us an interview in the course of your busy visit.

Vladimir Putin: Not at all. If there were no meeting with the press, the impression would be that we have not done any work with our Chinese colleagues. No one would know anything about it.

Question: Before we start asking our questions, I would also like on behalf of us all to wish you a happy birthday, if a week late.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, this year we are marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and at the same time the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries.

What do you think of China's development over these 60 years and also of the level of bilateral relations? What would you like to wish the Chinese people on this important date?

Vladimir Putin: This is a great event in the life of the Chinese people and the Chinese state - 60 years of the People's Republic of China. But in this connection I would like to say that 60 years is only a short span in the life of the Chinese nation. When we say these words - all over the world, China and the Chinese people are spoken of as a great state and a great nation - when we say these words, we mean that China has existed for thousands of years and is a unique and one of the most important world cultures.

But Chinese history is very involved and many-sided, and often has been tragic.

It seems to me that 60 years ago a very important event occurred in the life of the Chinese people - China found a basis which allowed it to develop despite all the troubles of the previous 60 years. After all, it is a basis that permits it to develop nowadays at absolutely record rates.

I would like to note that my country, the Soviet Union, recognised the People's Republic of China immediately, on the next day after the PRC was proclaimed. That was the first international recognition of China, of a new China. Today I want on my own behalf, on behalf of the Russian leadership and all citizens of Russia to congratulate the People's Republic of China on this anniversary and wish happiness to every Chinese family. 

Question: Mr Prime Minister, I represent Central Chinese Television.

I am very happy to say that this is the fourth time I have been able to meet with you - until now these meetings were not in Beijing, and now we meet for the first time in China. I think this is your first official visit to China as a Prime Minister.

I would like to ask you the following question. You are currently Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and were President of the Russian Federation before that.

What is your personal view of the changes in your status and in the character of your work? What do you think are your first priority tasks as Prime Minister? 

Vladimir Putin: You must have heard that some time ago when I was performing the duties of President, was the President of Russia, we drew up a plan for Russia's development until 2020, a sort of a master blueprint for the country's growth.

I took a very active part in drafting this strategic development plan, and now, working as Chairman of the Government, the main executive body in Russia, I have a unique opportunity to start implementing this plan, putting it into operation. I am very pleased about that. 

It concerns economic development, above all the innovative part of this development. It also concerns the social sphere, healthcare, pensions, and infrastructure development.

Today, of course, we are all in a unique situation because of the global financial and economic crisis. And overcoming this crisis is the most critical point of our efforts. And it is, of course, a great challenge. The problems are very acute and large-scale. On the whole, I like addressing things on such a scale and so sharply defined. It always fills me with motivation.

So I am very satisfied both with my position and the practical content of the work I am doing.

On the whole, we are also managing to cope with the tasks facing us. This likewise cannot but give satisfaction, although, of course, like any sane person, I think, each of us always has the feeling that one could do more and better.

Question: My name is Ma Li, deputy editor-in-chief of Renmin Ribao. The Year of Russia and China and the Year of China in Russia were held successfully in 2006 and 2007, respectively. They left a deep imprint on the two countries' history.

In 2009, we are conducting the Year of the Russian Language in China, and next year we will have the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia. They will certainly promote cultural contacts and cooperation between our countries.

What is your impression of these events? And what projects could be planned for the future, after we implement the above programme?

Vladimir Putin: I believe that cultural cooperation between our countries is very important. I think it is an absolute must for promoting our interaction in the economy and politics, and our military technical cooperation. The sphere of cultural relations is the base on which the main structure - mutual trust - can be built. It is the crucial prerequisite for promoting relations in all the above spheres.

During the "national years", our countries conducted over 600 events in different regions, and not only in Beijing and Moscow.

Over 200 events were held during the Year of the Russian Language in China, including student exchanges, meetings of university heads, seminars and competitions of the Russian language and Russian folk songs. These events embraced thousands, hundreds of thousands and possibly even millions of people. One does not have to be a millionaire, a wealthy person or a state official to take part in these events. Ordinary people in our countries could easily participate in these events. This is encouraging mutual interest between nations and individuals, and enhancing the trust between us.

Next year we will conduct the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia. Together with our Chinese friends, we are planning a large number of joint events at the same level, notably youth and student exchanges, meetings of professionals and fans of Chinese culture, as well as a competition of Chinese songs. In a word, we have very interesting and embracing plans.

But we are not going to stop at that. We will search for new forms and spheres of interaction, and I am confident that we will find them. This is a never-ending process, and in Russia we are going to give it a lot of attention, together with our Chinese colleagues.

Question: China and Russia are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRIC and the G20; they are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, which allows them to influence global development. How can Russia and China strengthen their interaction in different spheres amid recent radical changes and the global financial crisis? Should they coordinate more tightly their actions on the international arena?

Vladimir Putin: First I would like to answer your first question, about the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, and to remind you that the Soviet Union always believed that China had a right to have a befitting place in the UN Security Council. I believe that the UN Security Council is the main floor of our cooperation. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, we are doing much within that organisation to strengthen international peace and security.

There are many problems in the world and many floors for addressing them. There are such floors in Asia, where we are closely cooperating with China in the APEC. In 2012, Russia will host the APEC summit in its Far Eastern region.

The G20 is a new mechanism which is taking shape now. I believe that it is an effective instrument because it involves all of the world's leading economies. We also have our own floor, created to deal with border problems, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. It has proved very useful because nearly all of the objectives it was created to attain have been attained. Today it has broken out of the limitations set at its establishment. The SCO has become a broad and highly respected international organisation, which regional countries are aspiring to join.

The world today is not a safe, balanced or predictable place. Unfortunately, it is none of this. Modern world is facing a large number of economic, security, environmental and other threats.

Cooperation between Russia and China is a vital element of global stability. We regard it as a vital element, and are developing our cooperation with China proceeding from this assumption, being aware of our mutual responsibility for international peace, security and sustainable development.

I would like to point out that both China and Russia are pursuing a peaceful foreign policy. They are not fighting anywhere and their armed forces are not deployed anywhere abroad. Despite this, our stance on some key international problems is crucial for their solution.

It is a consolidated view of some problems and ability to harmonise stands on key issues of international development that often calm the situation and play a stabilising role.

What I am saying now is not empty talk, not a declaration. The consolidated stand of China and Russia on different problems has restrained some of our less cautious colleagues. It has also facilitated the solution of some problems, in particular, in the sphere of global food security and economic development. Some problems, for example environmental ones, cannot be effectively resolved without a consolidated stand of such countries as Russia and China.

I say it again - we are aware of this, and this is why we have a caring attitude to our relations, and are satisfied with the level of cooperation China and Russia have recently attained on the world arena.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, everyone would like to ask you if you and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao think that your visit will boost practical cooperation between our countries.

Interregional cooperation is a key element of bilateral relations. This year our Governments approved a programme for cooperation between the north-eastern provinces of China and Russia's Far East and western and eastern Siberia.

What practical measures do you plan to take to implement this programme and to continue to encourage cooperation between our regions?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, interregional cooperation is absolutely vital. Life, especially social and economic life, consists of events in the regions.

This is why the Russian President and the Chinese President have coordinated a programme of international cooperation until 2018.

On the whole, our trade and economic cooperation has risen quite high. Last year our bilateral trade totalled $56 billion. It will decline in terms of value this year because of the global economic crisis, but at the same time it will grow in physical terms.

We know that China has a programme for developing its north-eastern provinces. In Russia we have a similar programme for the development of the trans-Baikal region, eastern Siberia and the Far East. It is clear that coordination of our efforts to develop these regions in China and Russia can produce a synergic effect, to use a fashionable term.

What regions could be involved, or rather, which regions do we consider most promising in terms of these programmes? Well, they are listed in the programmes I have mentioned here.

I am referring to cooperation in the sphere of high technologies and trade in commodities with a high degree of conversion. By the way, the physical volume of our trade in high-conversion goods has grown despite the crisis and although our trade has somewhat declined in terms of value.

I am referring to the deep processing of timber and also to construction materials.

I am also referring to the energy industry - speaking about the regional aspects, we can say that we have started electricity supplies to China from Russia's Far East for the first time in years.

I also mean nuclear power generation, hydrocarbons and infrastructure development.

When you asked me about regional cooperation, I remembered another vital agreement that certainly influences interregional cooperation - the agreement on mutual investment.

In my opinion, it is a crucial agreement that offers additional opportunities for joint work, including directly between regions. This basis we are working to create is already producing practical results.

The fourth Russian-Chinese economic forum has opened today. Immediately upon its opening, the sides have signed contracts worth more than $3 billion. In other words, we have broad opportunities and we will use them.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, you have just mentioned energy cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the context of interregional cooperation. It is obviously one of the most important issues. Given its booming development, China's need for energy resources is certainly on the rise. Therefore, we are giving priority to this cooperation. We think that our two countries can complement each other in many ways. We have been especially successful in this sphere lately. A very important meeting took place recently between Gazprom and the Chinese National Oil and Gas Company.

Speaking of energy cooperation, do you think there are still any obstacles to development here? If yes, what are they? Is Russia willing to support China's development with energy? Is Russia ready to accept Chinese investment in its own economy? What do you think of this? What is Russia's strategy? What is your personal opinion?

Vladimir Putin: Our economy is absolutely open - even more open than in other countries. I mean, first of all, our western neighbours.

We have a traditional advantage in the energy sphere. First of all, Russia is one of the absolute global leaders in nuclear energy. And we are very open here, too. We do more than build facilities overseas. We join efforts with other recognised leaders. Our leading nuclear energy company, Rosatom, has recently signed what in fact is a strategic cooperation agreement with another recognised global leader, Siemens. Their cooperation will include operation on third countries' markets, exchange of assets and technologies, etc. We are actively cooperating with China, too: The Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant is being built jointly with Russian professionals.

I have already mentioned power generation and electricity supplies to China.

With regard to oil and gas our cooperation is expanding upstream and downstream, including production, building infrastructure facilities such as pipelines, and oil exports to China. Gas exports are possible in the future, too.

As for oil, we are currently implementing a large project to export oil to China. We have signed a 20-year contract and built a whole pipeline system for the project. We have laid over 2,000 km of pipelines, including a terminal on the Chinese border near Skovorodino.

The Chinese partners, in turn, are laying their pipelines on the other side of the border, to joint them with the Russian ones. They also undertook to build an underground crossing of the river Amur.

The possibility of building an oil refinery in China as part of the project is currently under discussion.

Also let us not forget another important sphere - coal supplies. The supplies are growing. China has cutting edge technologies for using this kind of fuel, transforming it into gas and even liquid.

With regard to gas, I have already said that the negotiations are underway and we are likely to reach an understanding. Details, such as whether we will supply gas through pipelines or as LNG, as well as the prices, should be discussed at the corporate level. These issues are part of economic relations' live tissue.

What is important is that we have a need and an opportunity to work together. In this sense, the Chinese and Russian economies certainly complement each other effectively. This cooperation has decades to run.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, your answer has confirmed my opinion that the two countries' trade and economic cooperation has a very large potential and, more importantly, there are encouraging trends. It is only natural that there would be certain hitches, just like in any cooperation. How would you suggest to deal with problems in our bilateral relations, such as the so-called "gray customs clearance", and other issues? Do you think these are just circumstantial problems and can be dealt with as part of a general strategy aimed at strengthening our relations? Or, do you think these problems are deep-rooted and will have significant repercussions for bilateral relations?

Vladimir Putin: You know, Russia and China have been neighbours for millennia. The two countries are close just like people living next door who very often have mutual issues to resolve.

People who live close to each other wish to join their efforts. In most cases they have enough common sense to build mutual relations as best as they can, so that both live better.

Mutual respect implies an ability to listen and to understand each other's problems.

What does "gray customs clearance" mean for any country? It means that certain products flow into its market uncontrolled.

What does an uncontrolled flow of goods mean? It means loss of tools to regulate specific industries.

What can the consequences be? Certain industrial companies slide into stagnation or even close down. People lose their jobs, which aggravates the country's employment situation on top of the current recession. That would be a real problem.

Therefore, what we need to do is work out a unified approach in our bilateral economic relations. We need a set of rules, easy to understand and used by both countries. Only in this case will we be able to predict how our relations will develop and how specific products would fare on the market. We will certainly make every effort in relations with our Chinese partners - to ensure that there are transparent rules, that they are interpreted in the same way by both partners, clear and predictable.

I believe that what I just described is a perfectly normal and civilised way of building bilateral relations. Any obstacles preventing this kind of development should be dealt with as current issues, tactical maybe, but they have nothing to do with the strategy of bilateral relations development. We are certainly capable of building civilised relations, and we will do it.

Question: Mr Prime Minister, I would like to ask my last question. First of all, let me emphasise that the three of us here, we represent three of China's most influential media sources. Therefore, this interview will have the broadest audience possible. So let me ask you something.

You know that you are very well known in China. You also often find yourself in the spotlight of global media. People like your energy and your resolution. You have been seen piloting an airplane and a submarine. Many people would like to follow your example.

Would you please tell us more about your hobbies? How do you spend your spare hours? I know how modest you are and how reluctantly you talk about your personal life. But could you please tell us a bit more than you usually tell reporters about yourself, since you know that we represent an extremely broad audience in China?

Vladimir Putin: I must admit that my spare hours are very rare. And I certainly try to use even my spare time to increase my potential required for my work, because I think any person primarily fulfils his or her potential and ambitions in their job.

I remember my first meeting with President Hu Jintao, even before he was elected President. He was in Russia on a routine visit, which was not widely publicised. I met him as the President of Russia. Do you know what surprised me most? Hu Jintao was not a well-known global-scale politician, but I had an impression that he had given a lot of thinking to China's policies, that he knew the country's life and international problems inside out.

This kind of professionalism and attention to detail in an obscure politician was really unexpected; I was amazed by him.

Let me return to my key message. A person fulfils his or her potential in their professional activity. In their spare time, there are certain things a person needs to do to remain effective. I mean first of all sports and health conditioning exercises, something I try to do daily. Also, one needs to maintain and expand their knowledge of humanities and the arts, such as literature and music. I have been trying to do that as well. I love history. I also love travelling around the country.

China is a very large and interesting country. But please believe me, Russia is no less interesting, with its rich history, culture and unique arts of its diverse peoples.

I am confident that this is an unfailing source of our interest in each other which will always draw Russians to China and vice versa.

I appreciate your attention and interest you have shown in our delegation's visit to China.

All the best to you and thank you very much.