The events to look forward to in Russia-China relations in 2021 include the continued growth of Russian-Chinese trade, the signing of a docking agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and China, Chinese investments in the Russian Far East, and the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries in the process of solving international problems.

Strategic partnership

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the most accurate commentary on the relations between the two countries at his annual press conference in December.

There is a national consensus in Russia on the development of relations with China and that regardless of the election results, Russia and China will be strategic partners in the long historical period ahead. The logic of a comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and China has been formed, and relations between the two countries are moving forward in all spheres.

Common challenges and threats in the international arena

In 2021, Russia and China will maintain the same position on major global issues, including the resolution of the Korean crisis and the Syrian conflict. 2020 saw the joint initiative of Russia and China on the ‘double pause’. This position is constructive and is the only initiative that so far promises to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Korean crisis.

Cooperation between the two countries on the situation on the Korean Peninsula is the most successful example of foreign policy coordination between independent and sovereign powers in the world today. The two countries can use this experience to develop a consistent policy on Syria and focus on the settlement of the situation in that country after the conflict.”

The U.S. Factor

Foreign policy factors will also help strengthen Russian-Chinese relations, while both countries will have to encounter tough challenges.

In the U.S. National Security Strategy announced by Biden, Russia and China are described as countries that issue serious challenges to Washington. This means that the U.S. will develop a corresponding strategy for our two countries and those regions in which we are interested.”

The U.S. will try to prevent China and Russia from consolidating their positions in these regions. However, that factor will only contribute to the strengthening of Russian-Chinese relations.

Investment in the Far East

The trend of steady growth in the volume of trade between the two countries is seen as one of the achievements of Russian-Chinese relations in 2017. According to data from China’s General Administration of Customs, in the first 11 months of 2017, the trade volume between Russia and China grew by 21.8% compared to last year, reaching $76.06 billion.

It should be noted that our trade volume is less significant today and more attention should be paid to the structure of trade. At the moment that structure has not changed and is dominated by energy.”

Trade volume may grow in 2021 due to an increase in Russian exports of non-raw materials to China, including electronic platforms.

There is demand in the Chinese market for Russian sunflower oil, as well as for expanded trade in flour and flour products. There is a need for dialogue with China on the issue of expanding quotas for Russian producers.” Cooperation in the Far East could also be a driver for the development of Russian-Chinese trade and economic relations in 2021.

Chinese investments currently amount to $4 billion, accounting for 7% of total investments in the region and 85% of total foreign investments.

The increase in Chinese investments in the region is likely to come from the development of LNG projects, cross-border infrastructure development, the development of overdevelopment zones, and the active participation of Chinese companies in housing construction.”

Eurasian Economic Union agreement with China

The Eurasian Economic Union’s economic partnership agreement with China is almost ready to be signed, probably in early 2022.

One of the most anticipated events is the agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and China. However, the agreement still needs to be improved in terms of its practical content. For a long time, the significance of the docking has remained only at the political level and should involve specific economic projects.”

This is a non-preferential agreement, i.e. it does not provide for reduction of tariffs. But it is very important for the Eurasian Economic Union, because the integration union needs to be legitimized, including for the World Trade Organization and the integration process in the Asia-Pacific region. This is politically important.

Increased tourist traffic

The Russian tourism industry is very much looking forward to the 2018 group travel visa-free agreement being modified due to current conditions. Under the new agreement, the minimum group size will be reduced to three people and the possible in-country stay was extended to 21 days, and no Russian invitation is required.

With the introduction of electronic document delivery methods, the work of tour companies will be simplified. Russian tourists will be able to travel to China in small groups without individual visas, and Chinese tourists will be able to recuperate and treat in sanatoriums in Russia that offer a 21-day course of treatment.

Much of the growth of Chinese tourists is being pinned on electronic visas. The system was introduced within the Vladivostok Free Port in 2020. It is expected that the system will be extended to eight regions from 2021. The system is most popular among Chinese citizens: 2,300 Chinese tourists have already used it to travel to Vladivostok.

E-visa is an important initiative to attract individual tourists to Russia. It is expected that the electronic visa system will be introduced in Kaliningrad, the westernmost point of Russia, and in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, which are popular with Chinese tourists.