RECENTLY, the General Administration of Customs of China agreed to add the Russian port city of Vladivostok as a transit port for domestic transportation of goods in Jilin province, which has attracted attention and interpretations from both domestic and international public opinion from different perspectives. This is good news, as it contributes to the development of China, Russia and the East Asian region. It has been associated with imagination and many ideas, but has also led to some misunderstandings and distortions.
Jilin and Heilongjiang province do not have sea ports and have long relied on the Dalian Port in Liaoning province to transport goods by sea. If they transit through the port of Vladivostok in the future, it will shorten the land transportation distance by more than hundreds of kilometers, and the cost will be greatly reduced. For Vladivostok and the Russian Far East, a deeper and closer connection with the northeastern region of China will undoubtedly bring more development opportunities. These all have strong certainty, and worth expectations by both China and Russia.
However, things are not that simple. Some media reports say this means that Russia has reopened Vladivostok to China after 163 years. This naturally evokes historical memories and emotions among many Chinese netizens. Some foreign media outlets have taken the opportunity to claim that "Russia may be becoming a vassal state of China," in an attempt to stir up concerns about China in Russian society and add materials to the special version of "China threat theory" tailored for Russia. This is a deliberate denigration of Russia and a malicious intention to sow discord in the new type of major-country relationship between China and Russia.
We do not need to overly interpret the participation of Vladivostok as a transit port in domestic transportation of goods, nor should we make it operate at an overload with unnecessary implications. Vladivostok is not the only foreign port to be used as a transit port for domestic trade in China. Since 2007, it has been involved in the pilot operation of "cross-border transportation of domestic goods" in China together with the Vostochny and Nakhodka ports. Since then, China has also carried out transits in North Korea's Rajin Port and Russia's Zarubino Port. Now, with the steady progress of the two countries' relations, especially the emphasis on "facilitating cross-border logistics and transportation" in the joint statement by the leaders of the two countries in March, the greater role played by Vladivostok port as Russia's biggest port in Far East is a natural development.
The participation of the Vladivostok port in China's trading system is an epitome of the continuous progress of China-Russia border trade cooperation in recent years. It has significant enlightenment in the current international environment. Every day, shipping containers carrying goods and tourists from both countries shuttle back and forth along the long border between China and Russia, creating a truly beautiful landscape. As we all know, in many countries, the border is heavily guarded, with tension, confrontation, and even armed conflicts. In contrast, the vitality and peace demonstrated on the China-Russia border make it all the more precious.
When some Western media see cooperation between China and Russia, they reflexively associate it with the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In fact, since the beginning of this century, the rapid development of the Asia-Pacific economy has prompted Russia to focus on promoting a new round of Far East development strategy. Ultimately, the enormous potential of the Far East comes from its being a part of the cooperation highland of the Asia-Pacific region. Let the Far East region keep pace with the trends and rhythms of cooperation and development in the Asia-Pacific region - it is a move that conforms to the trend of the times. In recent years, the economic development of the Far East region has accelerated, and new progress has been made in the construction of free ports, making it poised to become the next highland of cooperation.
This also indicates that the commercial cooperation between China and Russia in the Far East reflects not only the mutual trust and friendship between the two countries, but also follows market rules. It should also be noted that the current cooperation between China and Russia in the Far East is still underestimated and has great potential to be unleashed. In this regard, some specific obstacles in the bilateral border trade cooperation need to be further cleared up, such as the low customs clearance efficiency of the Russian side and the inadequate implementation of Far East development policies, which have to some extent impacted the investment willingness of Chinese enterprises in the past. We hope that with Russia's greater efforts in promoting the development strategy of the Far East in the future, bilateral border trade will be more prosperous.
The comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between China and Russia for the new era ultimately needs to be reflected in the success of specific joint projects. If the two countries can work together to turn the eastern end of the Eurasian continent into a huge market and energy supply and output area, it will not only benefit both countries and their peoples, but also be a positive asset for the stability of the global supply chain and economic development in the Asia-Pacific region and even the world. Doing this well will be another contribution of the new type of major-country relations between China and Russia to the world.
This article was first published in the Global Times on May 16, 2023. The Global Times is an English-language Chinese tabloid under the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party. The views expressed here are the paper's and not necessarily those of The Manila Times.