Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks with Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi, Guilin, March 23, 2021
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be in this wonderful place, enjoying the unique nature of this province. We really do admire these landscapes, but I can assure you that this has not prevented us from holding extremely business-like and practical talks. They were held in a traditionally friendly and trust-based manner.
We pointed out once again that Russia and China continue their close and fruitful cooperation in virtually all spheres on the international stage despite the coronavirus pandemic, in all the spheres which have been identified as our priorities during contacts between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping.
We will continue to strengthen our relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction. We have had a useful discussion on ways to boost our practical cooperation in the conditions created by the current epidemiological restrictions.
We highlighted the preparations being made for Russian-Chinese contacts at the high and highest levels. We have submitted to our partners a draft joint statement of our heads of state on the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
We discussed our positions on the main international topics and found them similar. Moscow and Beijing stand for developing interstate relations on the principles of mutual respect and a balance of each other’s interests, justice and non-interference in others’ internal affairs. We reject zero sum political games and the illegal unilateral sanctions, which our Western colleagues have been using increasingly more often.
We share the opinion that Russian-Chinese foreign policy interaction remains a vital factor in global affairs. We pointed out the destructive character of US aspiration to undermine the UN-centric international legal framework by using the military-political alliances of the Cold War period and creating similar closed alliances. We noted the growing importance of the joint activities of Russia, China and a wide range of other countries to preserve the current system of international law in the context of the increasing Western attempts to promote its concept of a rules-based international order.
We expressed our appreciation for the high level of coordination at various multilateral platforms, including the UN, the G20, the SCO, BRICS, RIC, APEC, as well as EAS and other ASEAN-based regional cooperation bodies. We spoke about the preparations for the summit of the UN Security Council permanent members, which has been proposed by President Putin and supported by President Xi Jinping.
As Minister Wang Yi said, we have signed a joint statement, which reflects the views of Russia and China on vital issues such as democracy, human rights, international law and the necessity to find collective approaches to solving global problems.
We signed an annual plan for consultations between our foreign ministries. It stipulates numerous contacts this year at the level of deputy foreign ministers and the heads of relevant departments designed to hold practical discussions on a wide range of global and regional matters.
Speaking on behalf of our delegation, I would like to once again express our deep gratitude to our Chinese friends for their hospitality and for substantive joint work.
Question: How does Russia plan on moving away from using international payment systems controlled by the West? Are there any specific agreements with China to create a common system as opposed to the Western ones? What can it be based on? Russia’s Mir card or China’s UnionPay system?
Sergey Lavrov: This work has been underway for quite a long time now in different areas. We have our own financial messaging system. The respective financial departments of Russia and China plan to expand its use.
For many years now we have been trying to transfer trade to settlements in national currencies. There’s a corresponding mechanism which is quite effective. We are switching to the national currency in our trade with other major partners.
This is the imperative of our time. The people behind the global monetary system suddenly decided they were unhappy with the way other countries, in particular China, are using this system. China is beating the West at its own game. Hence, the reaction of the United States. Wang Yi covered this in detail. You cannot do global business by means of ultimatums and sanctions, or force other countries to behave as expected of them. We have a proverb: You can't force your love on another person. Unfortunately, the United States has not learned this and is acting from the opposite position.
I’m convinced that Russia and China will do their best to ensure their safety and protection against the threats coming from the states that are unfriendly towards our respective countries. This also applies to ways of conducting trade, mutual settlements and everything else that makes us stronger.
Question (translated from Chinese and addressed to Wang Yi): Chinese and Russian vaccines are being delivered to dozens of countries all around the world. There are unfounded speculations that China is promoting “vaccine diplomacy” and Russia is trying to increase its influence. What can you say about this?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Wang Yi): I fully support what Wang Yi said. From the outset of the pandemic, Russia and China have been showing an example of openness, cooperation and mutual assistance. This interaction continues to this day, including in the sphere of vaccine production and distribution. Our respective institutions remain in contact on these matters.
On March 22, President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting on vaccine production and distribution. He clearly spoke in favour of everyone being guided solely by considerations of humanity and the interest of saving lives rather than geopolitical or commercial approaches to overcoming competition. Everyone, including our partners in the West who are trying to portray Russia and China as vaccine diplomacy scammers, must keep this in mind. This is not true.
Question: China and Russia are under sanctions pressure from the United States and the EU. Do our countries plan to share their experience of confronting this pressure? How justified is the opinion that both countries’ tense relations with the Western powers make them move ever closer to one another?
Sergey Lavrov: We have covered Russia and China’s reaction to sanctions and the illegitimate unilateral restrictions already today. We share the understanding that these methods are unacceptable in international life. We have more than once stated our position on this score, including in the Joint Statement. I’m convinced that this approach will be reiterated in a clear and unambiguous manner in the document on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between Russia and China that our leaders will approve.
In addition to our principled approaches that are set forth in public documents, we closely cooperate with many countries at the UN in order to counter these practices. As you are aware, the UN has a Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures. This is already a fairly serious practical move to clarify the unacceptability of this policy. The United States, Europe and the West in general are, in fact, replacing diplomacy, the art which they are losing, with the steps seeking to impose their own rules on everyone else. In their opinion, these rules rather than international law must underlie the international order. Sanctions are among these rules.
Russia and China do not ally against anyone. Geographically, our country is located on the vast Eurasian continent. China is our good neighbour, as is the EU. We have always been interested in promoting our relations across all areas. Europe has severed these relations and destroyed the mechanisms that have been created over many years. There are only a few European partner countries that have a desire to act based on their national interests.
Objectively, this led to cooperation between Russia and China developing faster than what is left of relations with the European countries. Importantly, there are no relations with the EU as an organisation. The infrastructure was destroyed by unilateral decisions made by Brussels. If and when the Europeans decide to eliminate this anomaly in contacts with their largest neighbour, we will be ready to build up relations between us on the basis of equality and a search for a balance of interests. But so far, all has been quiet on the Western front, whereas the East offers a very intense agenda, which is getting more varied every single year.