|Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli (L, front) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R, front) attend a start-of-construction ceremony of the Russian part of the China-Russia East Route natural gas pipeline in Yakutsk, capital city of Saha-Yakutia republic, Russia, Sept. 1, 2014. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)|
YAKUTSK, Russia, Sept. 1 -- China and Russia have agreed to further strengthen energy cooperation with more large-scale projects, so as to advance the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries to a new stage.
The agreement was reached during Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli's visit to Russia, which started Friday as he arrived in Moscow for the 11th meeting of the China-Russia Energy Cooperation Committee and a start-of-construction ceremony of the Russian part of the China-Russia East Route natural gas pipeline.
TOP LEADERS' CONSENSUS
Zhang's visit was a continuation of frequent contacts between leaders of the two countries.
A successful meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Shanghai in May helped the two countries make breakthroughs on the China-Russia East Route natural gas pipeline and other large-scale joint projects of strategic significance, bringing their comprehensive strategic partnership to a new era of development.
Zhang, who is in charge of policy making of the energy industry in China, said his attendance at the meeting of the Energy Cooperation Committee aimed to further implement the important consensus reached by the presidents of the two countries.
His less than 72-hour visit was tightly scheduled as he carried out all-round, in-depth discussions with the Russian side on strengthening bilateral energy collaboration, on which the presidents of the two countries agreed to "establish a strategic partnership of energy cooperation."
On Monday, he also flew for 5,500 km from Moscow to Yakutsk in Siberia to join Putin for the start-of-construction ceremony on the Russian part of the China-Russia East Route natural gas pipeline.
Zhang's presence on behalf of the Chinese government at the ceremony fully demonstrates China's readiness to further deepen cooperation with Russia under the complex changes in regional and international situation.
He said his Russia trip fully reflects the great importance that the Chinese government attaches to energy cooperation with Russia.
The vice premier's in-depth exchanges with the Russian side helped pave the way for China-Russia leaders meetings on other bilateral and international occasions later this year, including a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the G20 summit and the APEC economic leaders meeting.
Zhang said his visit also aimed to make preparations for a meeting between the heads of government of the two countries in October.
During the visit, Zhang said China is ready to work with Russia to push for substantial progress on major joint projects and to promote in-depth growth of the China-Russia relations with "substantial results of bilateral energy cooperation."
Since the two countries signed a number of land-breaking contracts in May, Zhang's attendance at the Energy Cooperation Committee meeting helped iron out details on implementing the consensus reached by the two countries' leaders.
In a substantial step forward in deepening energy cooperation, Zhang and Putin witnessed the start of construction of the Russian part of the China-Russia East Route natural gas pipeline.
Upon its completion in the next few years, the pipeline will supply 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China every year starting from 2018.
Zhang said the construction of the part of the pipeline within Chinese borders will start in the first half of 2015, adding that the Chinese side will cooperate closely with the Russian side to guarantee the completion and operation of the pipeline by 2018.
Zhang pointed out that China and Russia have achieved fruitful results in cooperation in the areas of oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, coal and electricity.
He also met with heads of Russia's top oil and gas companies on implementing the bilateral contracts, saying Chinese and Russian oil and gas companies would continue to work on the basis of the existing cooperative results to deepen and expand cooperation and advance the China-Russia energy cooperation for even greater achievement in line with the consensus reached by the presidents of the two countries.
During the separate meetings with Zhang, Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and Gazprom Chairman Alexey Miller said they are ready to implement the consensus between the presidents of the two countries, cooperate closely with Chinese companies to earnestly implement relevant agreements, and secure the smooth progress of joint oil and gas projects.
They also expressed readiness to continue to explore new areas of bilateral oil and gas cooperation with Chinese partners.
As he co-chaired the 11th meeting of the China-Russia Energy Cooperation Committee with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on cooperation in the areas of natural gas, oil, coal, electricity, nuclear energy and renewable energy.
"The fruitful energy cooperation has helped lift the general level of practical cooperation between the two countries," Zhang said.
China has become the top trade partner of Russia in the past four consecutive years. Two-way trade volume in the first five months of this year rose 4.3 percent year-on-year to 36.8 billion U.S. dollars.
ALL-ROUND STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
Energy cooperation has become a core ingredient of the China-Russia relations. Zhang said the latest breakthroughs help propel the two countries' comprehensive strategic partnership into a new era of development.
"China is to devote consistent and unswerving effort to establishing a strategic partnership of energy cooperation with Russia as agreed upon by the heads of state of the two countries," Zhang said during talks with Dvorkovich.
Zhang is the first senior Chinese leader who visited the Far East City of Yakutsk, capital city of Russia's Sakha (Yakutia) Republic. His visit fully demonstrates China's readiness to coordinate its economic restructuring with Russia's move to rejuvenate the Far East region.
China's development of the traditional industrial belt in the northeast will offer great opportunities for bilateral cooperation. The natural gas pipeline running through Northeast China will not only inject fresh vitality into this region, but also help improve the structure of energy consumption in all China.
During the visit, Zhang also met people from all walks of life in Russia. People-to-people exchanges have become an important pillar of the China-Russia relations as mutual political trust and practical cooperation reached an unprecedented height.
Since 2006, the two countries have held reciprocal events, including the Year of Russia in China in 2006, the Year of China in Russia in 2007, language years in 2009 and 2010, followed by tourism years. In 2014, the two countries held the China-Russia Youth Friendly Exchange Year.
Both sides expressed the belief that under joint efforts of the two countries, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership will undoubtedly ascend to a new level.