China-Central Asia and Far East Economic Relations
At the sixth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held in 2021 in Vladivostok, Xi Jinping spoke via video link at the opening ceremony at the invitation of Vladimir Putin, confirming the importance of collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative, a project launched in Kazakhstan in 2013 whose members include 144 countries and regions including major economies in Central Asia, and the Eurasian Economic Union created in 2014, whose member countries are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. The Eurasian Economic Union provides for the creation of a commission and a Eurasian economic space similar to the European Union.
In relation to projects that aim to increase trade, Beijing has designated Heilongjiang province in northeast China as a free trade zone (FTZ) in 2019 with the goal of strengthening trade and economic ties with Russia and particularly the Far East area that has cultural and border ties. The Heilongjiang FTZ recorded trade worth $2 billion in the first half of 2021.
Numerous infrastructures aim to increase economic interactions between the two countries: the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe Bridge, the first highway bridge connecting China and Russia is being joined by the first cross-border cable car that will reduce the time it takes to cross the Heilongjiang River, known as the Amur River in Russia.
The Tongjiang-Nizhneleninskoye Sino-Russian railway bridge is largely completed after seven years of work and will be used soon. The bridge has a special cargo capacity and will greatly increase the trade of minerals and resources between the two countries.
In the Curìli Islands archipelago, Russia wants to create a free trade zone and employ Chinese technology pioneered in the South China Sea islands to improve economic conditions and navigation in the region.
In the west of the country, China Railway Construction Corp has intervened in the project to expand the Moscow metro system, a symbol of the country's capital and history.
China emerges as Russia's largest trading partner for the 12th consecutive year, with bilateral trade reaching a new all-time high in 2021 and diplomatic-political relations at an all-time high. In addition to trade, investment and infrastructure, Beijing and Moscow are looking at finance, with the long-term goal of finding a new international currency, an alternative to the U.S. dollar. Today the currency of Belt Road projects and of the majority of global trade in which China is the leader is the dollar; in order to reduce American control and influence, the two countries are studying an alternative financial system that can flank or replace the swift system and the use of the dollar.
Russian-Chinese interregional cooperation has become an integral part of relations on a global scale and in the economic multilateralism promoted by Beijing. In recent political meetings, the goal of increasing bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2024 was confirmed between representatives of the two countries.