Putin talks tech, energy cooperation in China's Harbin

Russia's president seeks partnerships with China to aid the war effort and boost the Russian economy.
By Qian Lang for RFA Mandarin
2024.05.17
Putin talks tech, energy cooperation in China's Harbin In this pool photograph distributed by Russian news agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Soviet martyrs monument commemorating Soviet Red Army soldiers who died during World War II, in Harbin, northeastern China's Heilongjian province, May 17, 2024.
Alexander Ryumin/Pool Photo/AFP

Flanked by goose-stepping Chinese soldiers, Russian President Vladimir Putin laid a bunch of red roses at a World War II memorial to Soviet soldiers in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin — known as China's "Little Moscow" — on Friday.

It was the second day of a state visit analysts said was also an urgent shopping trip for Chinese resources amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Putin's visit to Harbin, a city built by Russian and European architects to demonstrate Russian imperial power in the Far East with the extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway to northeastern China in the late 19th century, took in the Harbin Institute of Technology, where he met with students and lecturers.

In a speech to the 8th Sino-Russian Expo in Harbin, Putin said Sino-Russian cooperation would be important to jointly develop new technologies.

"Russia is ready and able to continuously power the Chinese economy, businesses, cities and towns with affordable and environmentally clean energy," he said.

"As the world is on the threshold of the next technological revolution, we are determined to consistently deepen bilateral cooperation in the field of high technologies and innovations," he added.

The northeastern region is the base for much of China's heavy industry and would potentially benefit from Russian investment to further develop the military-industrial sector, a Chinese scholar living in Japan who gave only the surname Hong for fear of reprisal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) visits an exhibition at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Harbin, northeastern China's Heilongjian province, May 17, 2024. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd L) visits an exhibition at the Harbin Institute of Technology in Harbin, northeastern China's Heilongjian province, May 17, 2024. (Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

"The Harbin Institute of Technology is a military school that is half under military management," Hong said. "The military-industrial and heavy industrial sectors in Harbin are pretty good, although there are some areas in which they're no longer very good."

"We shall see if the northeast is able to make a comeback with Russian support," Hong said. "That would also strengthen Russia’s base in the Far East."

Desperate for resources

U.S.-based current affairs commentator Ma Ju said Putin is currently desperate for resources to continue the war in Ukraine.

"Putin is looking to gain even stronger support from China [on this trip] to prop up the faltering Russian economy," Ma said. "That would give him more time and capabilities, and more cards to play in the war in Ukraine."

The Russian leader also relies on China's political support on the world stage, and at the United Nations, he said.

"China has become an important ally for Putin as he shores up his grip on power," Ma said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng (2nd L) visit the Russian-Chinese Expo in Harbin, northeastern China's Heilongjiang province, May 17, 2024. (Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) and Chinese Vice President Han Zheng (2nd L) visit the Russian-Chinese Expo in Harbin, northeastern China's Heilongjiang province, May 17, 2024. (Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin have a long-standing agreement to visit each other’s countries once a year, and Xi was welcomed at the Kremlin last year.

As Putin visits China for the first time since beginning a new term as president, he and Xi have been at pains to underline their "long and strong" friendship, and a strategic partnership that has been described as having "no upper limits."

Analysts told Radio Free Asia that Thursday's symbolic statements about upholding global peace and stability are actually closely linked to concrete military and economic goals, as well as a common cause in counterbalancing the global power of the United States.

An important part of bilateral cooperation has been seen in skyrocketing Chinese exports to Russia, although the figures have been impacted by the threat of U.S. sanctions against Chinese banks, hampering trade settlements and international payments.

While China has repeatedly denied sending weapons or military equipment to aid Putin's war effort, Ukrainian forces on the ground have reported finding a growing number of components from China in Russian weapons.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Roseanne Gerin.

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