Ukrainian leader supports ‘Silk Road’ zone

Xi, Yanukovych wit­ness sign­ing of 8 agree­ments on en­ergy and min­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By QIN JIZE and ZHANG FAN in Bei­jing and FU JING in Brus­sels

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and his vis­it­ing Ukrainian coun­ter­part, Vik­tor Yanukovych, agreed on Thurs­day to deepen co­op­er­a­tion in a va­ri­ety of ar­eas to ad­vance their strate­gic part­ner­ship.

Af­ter a two-hour meet­ing, the two lead­ers also wit­nessed the sign­ing of eight deals in ar­eas such as new en­ergy, min­ing, and eco­nomic and tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion.

Xi called on the two coun­tries to en­hance their work in agri­cul­ture, en­ergy, in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion, fi­nance and high-tech, and said he hopes that Ukraine can cre­ate more fa­vor­able con­di­tions for Chi­nese in­vest­ment.

Yanukovych echoed Xi’s re­marks, say­ing Ukraine supports China’s pro­posal of es­tab­lish­ing a “Silk Road” eco­nomic zone and is ready to par­tic­i­pate in its con­struc­tion.

Yanukovych’s visit came amid protests in Kiev over the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to turn its back on a deal with the Euro­pean Union that would have tied Ukraine’s fu­ture more to Brus­sels rather than neigh­bor­ing Rus­sia.

Cui Hongjian, di­rec­tor of Euro­pean stud­ies at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said China has no in­ten­tion of join­ing the tug of war be­tween the EU and Rus­sia for in­flu­ence on Ukraine.

“Ukraine wants to have a broader stage for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and China is one of the choices. In cur­rent cir­cum­stances, it’s rea­son­able for Ukraine to find a third party that will be con­ducive to its own de­vel­op­ment,” Cui said.

Jia Ruixia, a re­searcher on Euro­pean af­fairs at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said Ukraine’s po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity is rooted in the un­der­de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try’s econ­omy, which can be im­proved through its com­mer­cial co­op­er­a­tion with China.

For China, it can learn from Ukraine’s ad­vanced nu­clear power tech­nol­ogy through the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ma­jor projects, as bi­lat­eral eco­nomic ties are en­ter­ing a new de­vel­op­ment phase as a re­sult of sev­eral big projects, she said.

China is Ukraine’s sec­ond­largest trad­ing part­ner. Bi­lat­eral trade re­gained mo­men­tum this year af­ter a slow­down in 2012. Over­all trade be­tween the two coun­tries rose 7.8 per­cent year-on-year in the Jan­uary-to-Septem­ber pe­riod, but bi­lat­eral in­vest­ment lagged be­hind, Vice-Pre­mier Ma Kai said in a busi­ness fo­rum on Thurs­day.

Zhang Wei, vice-chair­man of the China Coun­cil for Pro­mo­tion of In­ter­na­tional Trade, said: “Chi­nese busi­nesses could make full use of the ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tion of Ukraine, Europe’s sec­ond-largest coun­try in terms of area, which con­nects the East­ern and Cen­tral Euro­pean mar­kets.”

How­ever, ex­perts think Ukraine’s so­cial in­sta­bil­ity could hin­der fur­ther eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Ukraine.

“China will never in­ter­fere in any other coun­try’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, but an un­sta­ble Ukraine does not meet China’s ex­pec­ta­tions be­cause the in­sta­bil­ity will not only re­strain Ukraine’s own de­vel­op­ment but also harm re­gional sta­bil­ity,” Cui said.

China’s ex­pe­ri­ence shows that pros­per­ity and de­vel­op­ment can only be brought about by so­cial sta­bil­ity, he added.

Be­sides so­cial sta­bil­ity, Ukraine also needs to es­tab­lish a ma­ture le­gal sys­tem to pro­tect for­eign in­vest­ment there, a de­vel­op­ment Jia said is vi­tal to at­tract more Chi­nese com­pa­nies to a Ukrainian mar­ket with a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment and lower risks.

Klaus Eber­mann, for­mer EU am­bas­sador to China, said the visit of Ukraine’s leader to China is timely and hoped Yanukovych can make good use of the chance to strengthen Ukraine’s part­ner­ship with China.

“I think this is a learn­ing trip for the Ukrainian pres­i­dent mainly be­cause China’s ex­pe­ri­ences and lessons in pre­vi­ous decades can be a ref­er­ence for this coun­try to solve do­mes­tic chal­lenges,” Eber­mann said.

Eber­mann said Ukraine should fol­low China’s lead to fo­cus on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, poverty re­duc­tion and im­prove so­cial in­clu­sion. And in turn, China can of­fer Ukraine its hard-won ex­pe­ri­ences in ac­cel­er­at­ing eco­nomic growth.

“The Ukrainian gov­ern­ment should learn how China helps peo­ple get em­ployed, es­pe­cially when it comes to solv­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment,” he said.

Eber­mann said that China, fa­mous for its man­u­fac­tur­ing skills and mar­ket, and Ukraine, which is rich in raw ma­te­ri­als and has eas­ier ac­cess to the Euro­pean mar­ket, have the po­ten­tial to strengthen eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and part­ner­ship by en­cour­ag­ing bi­lat­eral trade and in­vest­ment. Con­tact the writ­ers at qin­jize@chi­nadaily.com.cn Li Ji­abao con­trib­uted to this story.

WU ZHIYI / CHINA DAILY

Vis­it­ing Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych at­tends a wel­com­ing cer­e­mony held for him at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing on Thurs­day.

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