The mellifluous rhetoric of the “comprehensive strategic cooperation and partnership” between China and Russia is difficult to penetrate. A rare peep behind the curtain through the Chines eyes, therefore, shouldn’t be missed. The Global Times provides an insight into the Chinese discontent over energy cooperation with Russia. The focal point is the protracted negotiation stretched over 9 rounds through the past six-year period on cooperation over natural gas.
China made use of every single high-level exchange with Russia in the recent years to get the latter to come to a compromise formula. The contentious issue is over the price of Russian gas. China would hope that the gas price is fixed at a level on par with its domestic price. Russia insists that the price the Europeans pay for Russian gas ought to be the benchmark. Both are logical positions and the deadlock continues.
One compelling reason for China to give extra hype to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state visit last month was the expectation that Moscow might give in and strike a deal on gas in a rush of emotions. But that was not to be. The GT complains that Russia is unemotional when it comes to business and strives to “maximise” its profits by even changing the goal posts.
Of course, China finds it all “exhausting” that there has to be such tough negotiation when Moscow ought to appreciate that “oil and gas resources from Russia mean a lot for China’s security.” The GT thereupon reflects on the dialectics involving “mutual trust” and gas cooperation.
While mutual trust is the “basis” of the two countries’ energy cooperation, the “spats and conflicts” in the unavoidable negotiations also provide a “perfect chance” for them to learn about their political, economic and cultural appeal for each other, which go to “add to their mutual trust.” So, all is not lost although the gas deal remains elusive. The GT report is here