Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustine, visiting China, on Tuesday hailed the strong ties between the two countries and hoped for an increase in their trade, before a meeting scheduled for Wednesday with President Xi Jinping.
"Russia cherishes the centuries-old ties with China," the prime minister said at an economic forum in Shanghai, according to a video released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"I am sure that this year we will achieve the goal set by heads of state Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to increase our trade to 200 billion dollars," he added, referring to a figure announced during the meeting. of a summit in March in Moscow.
China is Russia's biggest trading partner, and trade between the two countries hit a record high - $190 billion - last year, according to data from China Customs.
Beijing and Moscow have increased economic cooperation and diplomatic contacts in recent years, especially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with analysts saying China now has the upper hand in the relationship, given Russia's international isolation .
Arrived Monday evening in Shanghai, Mr. Michoustine was to participate in a Russia-China business forum and visit a petrochemical research institute, according to the Kremlin.
The forum invited a number of Russian businessmen targeted by Western sanctions, particularly in the key sectors of steel, mining and fertilizers, according to the Bloomberg agency.
The Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Energy, Alexandre Novak, was also present. "Energy supplies are growing in large volumes and have increased significantly in 2022. And in 2023 there will be another increase, by about 40%," he said, quoted by Russian news agencies.
China last year became Russia's largest customer in the energy sector, allowing Moscow, under Western sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine, not to see its gas exports collapse.
Mikhail Michoustin will travel to Beijing on Wednesday, where he will meet President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Qiang, according to the Russian state agency Tass.
"Last year, Russia was subjected to sanctions of an unprecedented scale. (...) We resisted and we continue our progressive development," he told the Shanghai forum on Tuesday.
"I am convinced that deepening ties between Russia and China and intensifying their cooperation will have a positive effect on strengthening the economies of both countries," he added.
Asked about potential Western criticism of this bilateral relationship, Mao Ning, spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assured that it was a "normal economic and commercial cooperation (...), on the basis of equality and mutual benefit".
“We have always opposed unilateral sanctions not authorized by the UN Security Council and extraterritorial jurisdiction,” she recalled.
"The cooperation between China and Russia does not target any third party and does not allow any interference or coercion by any third party," she also stressed.
Beijing claims to be neutral in this conflict and has never publicly condemned the Russian invasion.
In February, the Chinese government issued a document calling for a "political settlement" of the conflict and respecting the territorial integrity of all countries - implying Ukraine included.
At a March summit in Moscow, President Xi invited his counterpart Vladimir Putin to come to Beijing.
05/23/2023 13:21:52 - Shanghai (AFP) - © 2023 AFP