Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang have reiterated their countries’ commitment to increasing bilateral trade to USD 200 billion annually by 2025, up 400% from more than USD 40 billion so far this year (2016).
Such a dramatic increase within such a short timeframe sounds quite optimistic – record high was around USD 95 billion in 2014 – however the depth and the scope of the Russian-Chinese bilateral relations did grow in recent years, up to the point that Medvedev said the two countries could be considering a preferential trade regime, perhaps a first step towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) someday in the future.
A Russian-China fifth intergovernmental commission will start working soon on growing bilateral trade and industrial interactions in Russia’s Far East and China’s North East. Also, Russian companies like Gazprom and Chinese banks like the China Development Bank (CDB) are said to negotiate significant financing deals after the latter agreed to lend Vnesheconombank (VDB) USD 1 billion, a first in 15 years for a Russian state-run company.
More importantly, Russian companies have been increasingly opening up to Chinese equity like Russia’s oil giant Rosneft that agreed to sell a 20% stake in Verkhenchonskneftegaz (VCNG) to China’s Beijing Gas Group. Beyond figures like US-China bilateral trade at USD 660 billion in 2015 – that is 10 times Russia-China’s USD 65 billion in 2015 – the Russian-Chinese relationship bets on building long-term political substance and strategic relevance.