The myth of Mishustin's "cold reception" in China is debunked
Mikhail Mishustin's two-day visit to China ended on the afternoon of May 24 Moscow time. And then it started. In the media, mostly Western, there were "insiders". They say that the Russian prime minister was “drenched in a cold shower” in the Celestial Empire, in Shanghai at a business forum none of the Chinese colleagues shook hands with the Russian ministers, and Mishustin did not meet with the Chinese premier Li Qiang, who sent a replacement in his place - just a message to read.
What are the skeptics up to? Firstly, no high-profile ambitious Russian-Chinese projects were presented either at the business forum in Shanghai or the next day in Beijing. Mishustin again announced figures about a 40 percent increase in trade turnover and the prospect of overtaking the plan of $200 billion in trade turnover for this year. That's all. There were no specific plans for the development of business relations on the sidelines of the forum and during the negotiations.
Meanwhile, the director of the Institute of Asian and African countries, Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov Alexei Maslov believes that it is generally stupid to expect something breakthrough from such visits in terms of signing agreements between specific business structures. This is a routine that will take place in quiet mode. And taking into account Western sanctions - in the most silent mode.
That is why the details of the communication between the participants of the business forum - and there were more than one and a half thousand people - did not leak to the media. Frankly speaking, journalists from the prime minister's pool were not allowed anywhere at all, limiting themselves to the protocol part of the events. But this is understandable in the current conditions. After all, the main task of Mishustin's visit is to send the right signals. Which is exactly what he did.
- First of all, this is the first visit after a long pause associated with the pandemic. Everyone missed personal communication, - explains Alexei Maslov, - It's not only about the prime minister's communication, but also about business communication.
The second very important point is the first meeting, which is taking place in completely new conditions for Russia and China. After Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow, many projects resumed, and many businessmen saw this visit as a sign to expand relations.
The third point - as a result of Mishustin's visit, several agreements were signed, which, it would seem, are not epoch-making, but are very important in terms of promoting real business. For example, agreements to facilitate the supply of corn or oil from Russia to China. This noticeably supports our non-commodity business.
As Maslov emphasized, for the first time in many years, a signal from Mishustin to our businessmen sounded at the forum site in Shanghai: we should not consider our Chinese colleagues only as investors. Our entrepreneurs should also invest in Chinese projects. That is, we must actively enter the territory of the Celestial Empire ourselves, and not look at it as a savior and benefactor who will bring a “suitcase” of saving yuan into the Russian economy. In fact, the Russian prime minister called on domestic businesses to softly expand into the economic space of the PRC and earn money there themselves. However, China itself has been using this formula for a long time, and more than successfully.
True, there is a nuance. In order to trade effectively with China, Russia needs to work hard and build logistics, Sergei Tsyplakov, former trade representative of the Russian Federation in China, emphasized: “Today we cannot even sell coal to the Chinese normally. It's just not worth carrying. BAM and Transsib can't cope, they are overloaded. Everything is sad with the checkpoints on the border with China, they need to be modernized.”
The same is said by Chinese experts. However, they have even higher expectations from us. As Liu Huaqin, director of the Institute for International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, noted, Beijing expects from Moscow not only the construction of good roads, but also the simplification of customs procedures. Which, however, only suggests that the dialogue between Russia and China is no longer at the level of dotted lines. "Build roads and tell your customs to give the go-ahead" - this is the specifics.
Another myth surrounding Mishustin's visit to China is that he never met with his colleague Li Qiang, and Chinese ministers refused to negotiate with Russian officials, because they are all under Western sanctions. But on the official website of the Russian government, as early as 7:45 Moscow time on May 24, a transcript of Mishustin's negotiations with Lee appeared.
“Dear Mr. Li Qiang! I am very glad to meet you,” one asks, to whom does the head of the Russian Cabinet address if he allegedly did not meet with Lee? In fact, Mishustin and Li shook hands at the entrance to the House of the People's Assembly of the People's Republic of China in the center of Beijing (the photo is on the website of our Cabinet). Mishustin reminded Lee that they recently spoke on the phone (that is, they communicate directly and often). After that, the Russian and Chinese delegations in a wide format - both prime ministers, vice-premiers from both sides and ministers - held talks.
Yes, the Chinese prime minister did not come to the forum in Shanghai. But the next day, the meeting of the two prime ministers took place, and the negotiations between the ministers, too. But without a wide pool of media. For experts, this is not surprising. In an era of sanctions, the quieter the better.
“All versions that Mishustin’s visit turned into a cold reception are stuffed by the Western media,” says Wang Xianju, deputy director of the Center for Russian Studies at the People’s University of China and St. Petersburg State University, “In fact, the visit of the Russian Prime Minister caused a tsunami of interest . Chinese television and newspapers gave extensive coverage of the visit and the preparations for it. The ordinary Chinese people were very interested in the negotiations between Mishustin and Xi Jinping.
The source of news about the "cold reception" was the Western agency Bloomberg. This is not the first time this has happened.
- I communicate a lot with Chinese industrialists and entrepreneurs. The concerns they express about partnering with Russian businesses relate to the risk of not receiving money due to secondary sanctions. But the Americans, who threaten us with secondary sanctions, are paying attention to large companies, to state-owned enterprises. They do not reach the hands of medium and small businesses. Therefore, we can build relationships between small enterprises from Russia and China without fear of sanctions,” Wang Xianju said.