Thursday, June 7, 2018

Interview with China Media Group


Ahead of his visit to People’s Republic of China, the President of Russia answered questions from President of China Media Group Shen Haixiong.
June 6, 2018
Ahead of his visit to People’s Republic of China, the President of Russia answered questions from President of China Media Group Shen Haixiong.
Ahead of his visit to People’s Republic of China, the President of Russia answered questions from President of China Media Group Shen Haixiong.
President of China Media Group Shen Haixiong: Mr President, thank you very much for accepting China Media Group’s request for this interview. On May 7, you were inaugurated as President of Russia. We broadcasted the ceremony online. I watched the entire broadcast, about 45 minutes, and was deeply moved. Please tell me how is your fourth speech different from the previous ones? What were your feelings?
Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to thank you for your interest in Russia and for your decision to meet here today. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes to the Chinese people. We know that we have many friends in China. And the fact that you watched the inauguration online shows that the ceremony, and Russia in general, are of interest to the Chinese. I would like to wish the Chinese people all the best, happiness and prosperity for every Chinese family.
Speaking about the new term as President of the Russian Federation, if you were watching the ceremony, you probably heard what I was talking about. Russia’s continued progressive development as well as ensuring economic growth, introducing more innovations, developing infrastructure, healthcare and education and, of course, providing security are all our priorities, and when I say “our,” I refer to myself and my team.
We will focus on positioning Russia on the global stage as a country that adheres to the principles of international law, respects its partners’ interests and, of course, will protect its own interests.
In this sense, I would like to say that we pay great attention to cooperating with our traditional and reliable partners, allies and friends. The People’s Republic of China is, of course, among them.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.

I noted that, starting wi your Address to the Federal Assembly, you often mention the Russian dream. As you may know, the Chinese people are also trying to realise the Chinese dream introduced by President Xi Jinping. In what aspects, in your opinion, are these dreams similar and different?
Vladimir Putin: Russia and China are neighbours. We have been interacting for centuries, and our historical ties and roots go very deep. It is not by chance that in recent decades, as neighbours, we have built a relationship that probably cannot be compared with anything in the world. It is truly built on consideration of each other’s interests.
Look, in 2001, we signed the Treaty of Friendship and Neighborliness, but this treaty is only the foundation we have built our current relationship on. With every year passing, we add new paint and new floors to that building; it is growing taller and stronger. This is no accident: it means that we have many things in common, including our approaches to building our states and to our people, and this is very important.
Take what President Xi Jinping said at the latest party congress. What lies at the foundation of everything he said? The aspiration to improve people’s lives. This goal may be achieved by different means, but it is the same for us; Russia cannot have any other goal but improving its citizens’ lives. It informs the way we think about how to build Russian-Chinese relations to achieve these goals, to ensure our external security and work together to create a new kind of economy based on the latest innovations, the digital economy, advances in genetics and the best ways to manage society, the state and the economy itself. So we have many things in common. And I believe that we will succeed if we join our efforts.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you very much.
Last year you met with the leaders of China more than with those of any other country. You met with Xi Jinping five times. You also awarded President Xi Jinping the Order of St Andrew, the highest award in Russia. Please share your impressions of your interactions with President Xi Jinping.
Vladimir Putin: You know, I cannot share some things, as these are personal observations and a personal relationship. But President Xi Jinping is probably the only world leader I have celebrated one of my birthdays with. Either because I did not have that kind of relationship or because schedules would not permit it, I had never celebrated a birthday with any of my foreign colleagues before. But I did with President Xi Jinping. And then (I already spoke about it publicly, there is no secret here), it was a very simple event. I will be frank, I do not know, he probably will not be angry with me if I share that we drank a shot of vodka and just cut up some sausage. We just did it at the end of a workday. But I want to start with this, if we are talking about personal characteristics.
He is a very accessible and sincere person. But at the same time, he is a very reliable partner. I can be sure that if I reach an agreement with President Xi Jinping, we will both always strive to meet our obligations. This is the first thing.
Second. Like many leaders of other countries – this, I think, unites all of us – in his work, he strives for the best result for the benefit of every person in his own country.
He is a good analyst and it is interesting to discuss world problems and economic issues with him. Therefore, he is a very comfortable partner for me and a good and reliable friend.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you. I share your sentiments.
In several days you will leave for the Chinese city of Qingdao to take part in the SCO summit. You will also pay an official visit to China. What do you think can be done to make the organisation’s work more effective and positive following its expansion?
Vladimir Putin: The SCO was initially established as a relatively modest organisation to deal with issues between Russia, China and a number of former Soviet republics.
Let me repeat, our goals were relatively modest, but in the process of gradually addressing them we realised that we have many things in common, in the sense that we can achieve more significant results than simply frontier matters. And the SCO began to develop. After India and Pakistan were admitted to the SCO, it became clear that comprehensive work should begin, begin in China, and also that the SCO has become a global organisation.
This is an obvious fact, because our countries account for a quarter of the global GDP, 43 percent of the world’s population and 23 percent of the planet’s total area. The resources are immense. Considering the growth dynamics in Asia, in China and India, we will try to give a boost to Russia’s economy and support the dynamics we need.
All of this, together with our military capabilities, constitutes a huge force that we, of course, will not use for confrontation but for establishing the necessary conditions for multifaceted cooperation between our countries and with other countries as well, wherever they are on the globe.
Of course, joint efforts of such a powerful group will be an important factor for our own development, and will also influence the international situation. I am confident that this influence will be positive.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
Qingdao is a beautiful coastal city famous for its seafood and beer. Do you plan to try it?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I would like to. I like both seafood and beer, although I try not to drink often, but I would like to taste it and will gladly do so.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
This year, the Belt and Road Initiative marks its fifth anniversary. President Xi Jinping said that this initiative aims to build a community of humanity’s common destiny. What do you think about this concept?
Vladimir Putin: We have always supported this idea. President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative has both economic and humanitarian elements. First of all, we are speaking about the economy and the infrastructure. We believe this is a useful, important and promising initiative. It meets our efforts to build the Eurasian Economic Union.
In addition, recently, on May 17, the Eurasian Economic Union and China signed an agreement on economic cooperation. For now, it does not concern lowering tariffs, but other very important issues, such as trade policy, technical regulations and phytosanitary control. In fact, we are making a very important step towards removing the barriers to economic cooperation.
Still, President Xi Jinping’s idea, as we see it, is more global: it aims to develop cooperation with all countries and continents. We have a general idea of Eurasian economic cooperation. I think that all of this adds up and may have a positive outcome. Speaking about the idea’s infrastructure element, let me say that we know about our Chinese partners’ interest in working along the Northern Sea Route.
We welcome it. However, this is not the only area; we have good plans for industrial cooperation and railway infrastructure development as well. These are all powerful and promising areas that will for sure become the foundation of our cooperation.
Today China is Russia’s number one trade partner. Last year, trade reached $87 billion, and this year, the growth in the first four months was the same as during all of last year. This is a very good pace that we must keep up and even increase.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
In the published May Executive Orders, great attention is paid to improving living standards and the development of the digital economy. What else can Russia and China do to deepen cooperation in these areas in your opinion?
Vladimir Putin: This is one of the key areas. We know how much attention both President Xi Jinping and the Government of the People's Republic of China pay to the development of modern forms of management and to such promising areas as the digital economy. We believe that this, of course, is closely related to such important areas of the future technological order as robotics and artificial intelligence.
In the modern world, all major discoveries, the most promising discoveries are made at the intersection of sciences. This includes biology, genetics, and other areas that, of course, will make those who succeed in them leaders of world development. And we, not forgetting about our traditional spheres of cooperation, will, of course, strive to join our efforts with our Chinese friends in these key areas of today and especially tomorrow.
We have relevant ideas, plans and some developments of our own. We know that China already has had significant achievements. For example, in the field of the internet of things and digital commerce. However, this will not be enough for successful development in the short term for both China and Russia. We need to develop digital technologies in industry, in infrastructure, in energy, including in the electric power industry, and in alternative types of energy. There we can and need to introduce the latest developments, the latest achievements. If we do this, we will be absolute leaders. We will strive for this.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
Despite the fact that everyone is striving for equitable dialogue and cooperation, you now face acute challenges. I mean the sanctions of the Western countries targeting the Russian economy and other pressure. Where will Russian-US relations and Russia's relations with Western countries go from here, in your view?
Vladimir Putin: I look forward to good, positive relations. We are not surprised by any restrictions or sanctions; this does not frighten us and will never force us to abandon our independent, sovereign path of development.
I believe that either Russia will be sovereign, or it will not exist at all. And, of course, the Russian people will always choose the first. I think the Chinese people feel the same. There is no other way for us. But we understand that our partners are trying to limit our development by imposing these restrictions and sanctions.
I have no doubt that this, as lawyers say, is an exercise in futility, and nothing will come of it. This policy primarily hurts those who initiated it. However, I believe that common sense will still prevail, that all illegal restrictions that are harmful to the development of the world economy will be gradually removed, and we will normalise our relations with all partners, including the United States, and other countries that did their bidding and also imposed these sanctions.
By the way, those who, as I said, did the US’s bidding, are beginning to suffer from what the United States is starting to impose on these countries themselves. All this taken together gradually – and I am not gloating or being sarcastic – but it all speaks to the fact that these means cannot be universal, and sooner or later it will become obvious that their use harms everyone, including the initiators of these initiatives. In the end, I hope that our relations will normalise one way or another.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
Since the beginning of this year, some positive changes have occurred in some hotbeds such as the Korean Peninsula and Syria. However, the situation remains unclear. What do you think about Russia’s role in resolving these crises and where can Russia and China cooperate on this?
Vladimir Putin: Speaking about the Korean peninsula, our approaches, as diplomats say, are the same or similar. Probably the first. We were the initiators of a roadmap for the settlement process on the Korean Peninsula. Recently, China has done a lot to defuse the situation somewhat. We are very happy to see this and will provide any support we can.
As you know, the Russian Foreign Minister is in North Korea now having talks with its leaders, including on a settlement process.
We can also see that the North Korean leaders have taken unexpected, even for me – I would even say unprecedented – steps to de-escalate the situation. First, they announced that they would stop nuclear testing. In addition, they have already destroyed one of their largest nuclear test sites. Of course, these are all practical steps towards denuclearisation, which is our common final goal.
I can understand the North Korean leadership when they talk about the security guarantees they need for total denuclearisation. How else could it be? There is no other way imaginable, especially after what happened in Libya and Iraq. The North Koreans have not forgotten. So of course, they would demand guarantees. Today it is difficult to say what these guarantees may look like or when they will come into effect. However, we can, and should, move towards this goal: to de-escalate tensions and, ultimately, to denuclearise.
It is a pity that our Western partners, the United States and, unfortunately, South Korea have not stopped their military exercises and maneuvers that do nothing to aid de-escalation. But I still hope that this meeting – a very brave and mature decision US President Donald Trump has made, to have direct contacts with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – will take place, and we all expect a positive outcome. The roadmap I have mentioned, the Russian-Chinese roadmap, has points on the settlement process in North Korea, the next phase of which is promoting relations between all the counties responsible for this de-escalation.
The next phase is multifaceted cooperation among all stakeholders, first of all, to draft these security guarantees. And, of course, Russia has always proposed this, and it remains on the table: a trilateral economic project between Russia and the northern and southern parts of the Korean Peninsula. Primarily, these would be infrastructure projects, such as railway construction (actually, China could join them) between Russia, North Korea and South Korea. We are talking about pipelines. We can also think about building other energy facilities. There are many opportunities for joint work both in a three-party and four-party format: we only have to move towards them. We will all be eagerly awaiting the outcome of the meeting between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and will support it in any way we can.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
I have just mentioned our corporation's online projects, such as “Who’s a Fan of Vladimir Putin?” So I have several questions we received from our users. Over 40 million users took part in these events. Now I would like, on behalf of our users, to ask you four questions.
Vladimir Putin: Please do.
Shen Haixiong: The first one. Russia is the host of this year's football World Cup. What kind of results do you think the Russian national team can achieve?
Vladimir Putin:  The person who asked this question mentioned that Russia is the host of this tournament. So our main and essential goal, as the host country, is to provide good organisation of the World Cup and make it a real festival for millions of football fans all around the world. This will be our main achievement.
As regards the national team, I have to acknowledge that, sadly, our team has not enjoyed great results lately. But we, all the fans and football lovers in Russia, have high hopes that our team will make a good showing, play a modern, interesting and beautiful style of football, and fight to the finish.
Shen Haixiong: Which team do you think will win?
Vladimir Putin: This is a tough question. There are many contenders. There are Latin American teams – Argentina and Brazil. At previous World Cups, the German team has performed brilliantly, and the Spanish team has played a beautiful brand of football too. There will certainly be other contenders, but only the best will win.
Shen Haixiong: Will you watch the World Cup matches?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I will. Also, as the President of the host country, I will be attending the opening and closing ceremonies. I will check my schedule. I will attend more matches if I can.
Shen Haixiong: Who is your favourite footballer?
Vladimir Putin: There are footballers whom I consider outstanding and whom I can definitely call my favourite. Lev Yashin among Russian and Soviet players, and Pele among foreign ones. I also like Maradona very much.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
All our users know that you love sports. What sports do you currently play? How much time do you spend on it a day?
Vladimir Putin: Every day I spend about 2–2.5 hours doing sports. I go to the gym, I swim, sometimes I get out on the mat, if I have sparring partners, and sometimes I play hockey. Not really play hockey but try to.
Shen Haixiong: In the news, we often see you onboard a fighter jet or a submarine. Our users consider you a super-president. If you were not involved in politics, what would be your profession?
Vladimir Putin: I worked in the intelligence service of the Soviet Union, in the foreign intelligence service of the Soviet Union. I already have a profession. (Laughing.) But I graduated from St Petersburg State University with a degree in law, so I could have worked as a lawyer, but I worked all my life in security agencies and in foreign intelligence in the Soviet Union. Then I worked in the executive authorities in St Petersburg. I enjoyed each of these activities. I think that I really could work as a lawyer.
Shen Haixiong: Thank you.
In 2016, when you participated in the G20 summit in Hangzhou, you brought as a gift a carton of Russian ice cream. Will you bring something this year?
Vladimir Putin: Yes. (Laughing.)
I brought it because President Xi Jinping mentioned that he loves Russian ice cream, so I brought it for him as a gift.
He and I exchange trifles occasionally. But it will ruin the surprise, if I tell you in advance what I will bring him as a gift. It will be a secret between me and you, I will whisper it in your ear later. (Laughing.)
Shen Haixiong: Thank you very much, Mr President, for today's interview. We wish you good luck and success in your fourth term and in hosting the World Cup.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you!

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