In Russia, the highly publicized and widely publicized visit of the country’s prime minister and business elite to China took an unexpected turn. A huge delegation tasked with “expanding economic ties” and “securing Beijing’s help on Western sanctions” turned into a “cold shower” for Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and his entourage, according to The Moscow Times.
According to Vedomosti, top Chinese government officials and heads of major Chinese companies have refused to meet with their Russian counterparts, most of whom are on Western sanctions lists.
A serious force of Russian business and government representatives left Moscow for Shanghai: four vice prime ministers, several ministers, heads of Sberbank and VTB, billionaire businessmen. The Chinese accepted the Russian delegation, but sent their assistants instead of politicians of the appropriate level.
M. Mishustin’s counterpart in China – Chairman of the State Council Li Qiang – did not find time to participate in the Russia-China forum and instead sent the vice-premier to read the report.
“The Chinese welcome it warmly, but they are very afraid of sanctions,” a source in Russia close to the forum organizers explained to Vedomosti. “Even those big businessmen who wanted or were ready to appear publicly were not allowed by the government – they don’t want to take even a minimal risk.”
Another interlocutor of the Russian publication noted that the Chinese were so scrupulous in complying with the sanctions that one of the members of the Russian delegation was not allowed to exchange 100 dollars for yuan at a local currency exchange point. It turns out that this person was not even on the sanctions lists, but has the same last name as the one on there. “They didn’t even take into account the different initials,” the Russian representative complained to the country’s media. While walking the red carpet at the Shanghai airport, he had a meeting with the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, to whom he publicly “conveyed wishes from his friend Putin” and spoke about “the united approach of Moscow and Beijing to all essential issues.”
M. Mišustinas was happy about the growing volume of trade with China and hoped that the 200 bln. dollars per year goal will already be reached this year. Trade volumes between China and Russia have indeed increased significantly after the West announced sanctions against Russia, but China’s own economy has nothing to be happy about – in the first quarter of this year, the total export and export index shrank by 2.9 percent compared to the same period last year. Trade with the United States suffered the most, shrinking to $161 billion. (in the first quarter) – as much as 13.1 percent.
Apparently, that is why Xi Jinping was much more restrained than the Russian Prime Minister: “China is ready to continue, together with Russia, strong support for each other on issues that affect the fundamental interests of both sides.”
Russian business representatives interviewed by “Vedomosti” claimed that it is very difficult to negotiate with the Chinese. “The Chinese are traditionally delicate, but the negotiations are clearly not taking place in a peer-to-peer (equal rights) format. For now, Russia, unfortunately, participates on the terms of a junior partner,” a Russian business representative was quoted in the publication.
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