Moscow and Beijing should work together to resist American sanctions by becoming more self-reliant in science and technology and moving away from the US dollar for trade, Russia’s top diplomat said.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made the remarks in an interview with Chinese state media ahead of his arrival in Guilin on Monday afternoon, where he will meet his counterpart Wang Yi.
Lavrov called sanctions imposed by the West against China and Russia “unwise”, but said the two nations’ response should be cooperation.
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“In addition to strengthening cooperation under the UN framework on the immediate end to unilateral coercive measures, China and Russia should also take the opportunity to enhance their scientific and technological innovation and improve their national strength in response to the sanctions,” Lavrov said, according to state broadcaster CGTN.
“The risks of sanctions should be reduced by strengthening the self-reliance of the science and technology industry, [and] promoting settlement by local and other international currencies that can replace the US dollar so as to gradually move away from the Western-controlled international payment system,” he said.
Speaking in Beijing on Monday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China and Russia had “always stood shoulder to shoulder”.
“China and Russia are already very close partners, and both sides have been maintaining close contact at various levels,” Hua said at the daily press briefing. “The development of Russian-Chinese relations does not target any particular country, and our relationship is open and honest – unlike other countries, which have their own ulterior motives and even conspiracies.”
She said the two sides would discuss a wide range of issues at the talks in Guilin.
Lavrov is expected to meet Foreign Minister Wang in the southern Chinese city as Washington’s confrontations with both Moscow and Beijing have escalated.
Last week, US President Joe Biden called Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin “a killer”, with Putin responding by wishing Biden “good health”.
The US Commerce Department also said it was tightening sanctions on some exports to Russia in response to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, a day after the State Department announced new sanctions on 24 mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials over Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system.
Meanwhile, the European Union is on Monday expected to announce sanctions against four Chinese officials and one entity, with travel bans and asset freezes for human rights violations in Xinjiang, the first since an EU arms embargo in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Japan and South Korea last week to rally allies against China, is to visit Brussels from Monday, with China and Russia expected to be high on the agenda during his talks with Nato and EU officials.
Lavrov’s two-day visit to China, his first overseas trip since the coronavirus pandemic began, comes days after Chinese and US officials met face-to-face for the first time since Biden took office. The talks in Alaska began with a fiery exchange in front of the cameras, with Blinken saying Washington would outline “deep concerns” over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi criticising the US for what he said was its struggling democracy and poor treatment of minorities, and over its foreign and trade policies.
That antagonism contrasts sharply with Beijing’s relations with Moscow, which Lavrov on Monday described as “the best in history”. He said the priority for the two neighbours was to strengthen “high-level” collaboration on the global stage, something that went beyond ideology and did not target any third country.
“For us, China is a true strategic partner – a true like-minded person – and our cooperation in the international arena plays a stabilising role in the global and regional situation,” Lavrov said, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The Russian economy has proved resilient in the face of escalating sanctions imposed by the West after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, with Russia steadily moving closer to China since then. Chinese President Xi Jinping had five telephone calls with his Russian counterpart Putin last year and the two sides have pledged to boost cooperation on multiple fronts – from technology, security and defence to space.
China is Russia’s largest trading partner and Moscow is seeking to expand that trade, which used to be dominated by energy exports. Last year bilateral trade reached US$107.7 billion, 25 per cent of which was settled in the nations’ own currencies, according to Andrey Denisov, Russia’s ambassador to China.
“I think that’s a huge progress – in the beginning when I took the job as ambassador around 2013 and 2014, it was 2 to 3 per cent,” Denisov told reporters in Beijing late last year.
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