“Trade relations are not political”

China announces that it will continue its trade with Russia, targeted by Western sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. For Xu Poling a specialist on Russia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, trade relations must come out of a “ cold war mentality

“. Trade at any cost with Russia. China again this week opposed sanctions against Russia which it calls “ unilateral ” and “ ineffective ” to solve problems. Chinese diplomacy recalled at the same time that the relationship between the two neighbors was a “ strategic partnership and not a wedding ring. A strengthened partnership during the signing of the joint Sino-Russian declaration on February 4 on the occasion of the visit of Vladimir Putin to Beijing, among the rare heads of state present in the stands of the ceremony of the Olympic Games in winter boycotted by the United States and its allies. This agreement has a large energy component. Oil and gas contracts over more than two decades that will relieve the immense energy needs of Chinese megacities, some of which were subjected at the end of last summer tomega power outages

. China and Russia will continue to cooperate in trade, in the spirit of mutual respect, mutual benefit and equality. repeated Wang Wenbin, one of the spokespersons of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But, for now, it’s hard to see whether China will go so far as to risk secondary sanctions by supporting via

its banks lending and demand for financing from Russian banks. The support so far is done symbolically and at the individual level by Vladimir Putin’s fans in China. The commercial operation launched by the Chamber of Commerce of the Russian Federation in China would have some success according toChinese state media . Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, the number of visitors to the “Russian State Pavilion” has reportedly skyrocketed to 1.2 million subscribers. This e-commerce platform under the leadership of the Russian Embassy has even been robbed by the “pro-Russians”, many in uncensored Chinese opinion. Cookies, chocolates, honey, cereal, wine and vodka were out of stock on Friday. The business ambassador to China thus thanked the “ Chinese friends to support Russia “, calling them, in these” difficult moments

», to a consumption of the heart and reason.

RFI: For many analysts, China is the only country that can ease the sanctions targeting the Russian economy. Do you fear that Chinese banks or companies could suffer sanctions in return? Xu Poling:

Trade between China and Russia is a normal country-to-country relationship. We always say that we are not allied with Russia, but that the exchanges between our two countries are particularly complementary, fair and mutually beneficial. Trade relations have nothing to do with politics. Do you want China to lack something, to import no more products from Russia? Europe also imports energy from Russia and finding alternatives will take time. Let’s see if the Europeans can find a solution within five years. Personally, I don’t think that’s possible. Europe cannot do without Russian gas. And what are you going to say if European countries continue to buy Russian gas? That they are financing the war in Ukraine? That does not make sense !

Some European countries are considering reducing or stopping their acquisitions of Russian gas…

That’s not why China has to do the same. If we decided to buy energy from the European Union, could Europe supply it to us? If we decide to buy energy from the United States, will they be ready to sell it to us at a reasonable and friendly price? I am surprised that the question is approached in this way. It’s a Cold War mentality. China has a tough enough back to resist such threats.

Why does China not condemn Russia?

China has always been in a process of cooperation. We want the world to become richer, to live in peace and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries. The United States, on the other hand, will fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. Because the United States always breaks the rules, it makes its own rules. Then they dare to talk about invasion hoping that everyone will have the same black and white vision of things. You are also deputy director of the Center for Studies on the project “one belt, one road”, do you think that the war in Ukraine can cut the “ new silk roads » Chinese?

I don’t know, it depends on the choice of Eastern European countries. An American expert recently declared that with this conflict, Europe risked entering into recession. It is up to the Europeans to decide. For our part, we maintain trade relations with Ukraine and Russia, as we do with the EU and the United States.

According to Bloomberg, senior Chinese government officials have asked to prioritize securing the supply of energy and raw materials, due to the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia…

I have never heard of this. We know the National Development and Reform Commission well, we have many working meetings with them and they have never shared such information with us. Regarding China’s energy security, you will find that in the past two years, in addition to natural gas, the rest of the imported energy has decreased. Regarding food, China published a white paper on the subject in 1996. China is 95% self-sufficient in basic products.

Will yuan transactions eventually allow Russia to circumvent sanctions? It is possible that the use of [l’autre nom de la monnaie chinoise, NDLR] renminbi

increases with this crisis. Generally, we use the money we have. If there is no more way to pay in dollars, then you use other currencies. Between China and Russia, the use of the yuan is safer than the US dollar. If you want to save in dollars and the United States freezes behind your accounts and prevents you from using your money, it sure is sobering.

What are the key points of Sino-Russian trade relations?

We are Russia’s largest trading partner. China needs energy and Russia needs Chinese machinery and equipment. We maintain complementary business relationships. After all, the United States badly needs Chinese factories to produce at low cost and allow Americans to maintain their standard of living. We do not send guns or artillery pieces to Russia, we only sell and buy products, including oil. We export clothes, we buy food, those who find fault with it should be ashamed.

Interview by Stéphane Lagarde and Louise May

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