China and Russia Work to get Pipeline Project on Track

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in Beijing and energy is at the top of the agenda in his talks with Chinese leaders. One project they will discuss is the building of an oil pipeline from Siberia to China's border.

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Two nations, China and Russia, have a long history of rivalry in Asia. Now, they're discussing what they call a strategic partnership.

Russia has something that China wants, oil, and that is high on the agenda as Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Beijing.

Here's NPR's Anthony Kuhn.

ANTHONY KUHN reporting:

Putin arrived here with an entourage that included his energy and resources ministers and the heads of Russia's state-owned oil and gas companies. That has fueled analysts' expectations of an energy deal.

Mue Lee(ph) is an economist at the State Information Center. He spoke at a café near his office.

Mr. MUE LEE (economist, Beijing State Information Center): (Speaking Foreign Language)

KUHN: (Translating) I think there could be a breakthrough on a Sino-Russian oil pipeline, he says. Russia has made the strategic decision to build a pipeline from Siberia to Russia's Far East. The talks this time may center on connecting the pipeline to northeast China's Daquing oil fields.

Both Japan and China want the pipeline built closer to them. When completed in 2008, the pipeline is projected to pump over half a million barrels of crude oil a day.

Although Russia is the world's second largest producer of oil and China is the second largest oil consumer, China imports a mere 5 percent of its oil from Russia. China produces most of its energy itself, but its frustrated at Russia's perceived stalling on signing a pipeline deal. Analysts say this is due to the two country's differing economic strategies.

Professor ROBERT BARYLSKI (Associate Professor of Government and International Relations, University of South Florida in Sarasota): Putin's main concern is that Russia must not simply be an exporter of raw materials.

KUHN: Professor Robert Barylski is an expert on Russia's defense and energy policies at the University of South Florida at Sarasota.

Professor BARYLSKI: Russia wants to have a long-term deal where China buys more than oil, and they're going to be working on getting China to commit to long-term purchases of Russian arms, Russian heavy machinery, and perhaps Russian participation in China's domestic nuclear development program.

KUHN: But in general, China has chosen to look elsewhere for capital technology and markets. China's overall trade with Russia last year was just $29 billion dollars, compared to $212 billion dollars in trade with the U.S.

Putin and his hosts are also expected to discuss the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues. Beijing and Moscow both oppose the use of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council to get Tehran and Pyongyang to abandon their nuclear programs.

Barylski adds that U.S. talk of regime change in these nations doesn't go over well in Beijing or Moscow.

Mr. BARYLSKI: They don't like the fact that policy decisions have been made that they regard as destabilizing their neighborhood. That includes the support for these democratic revolutions in Russia's neighborhood, or NATO expansion, or saber-rattling about Iran and Korea.

KUHN: In an interview with Chinese state media on Saturday, Putin took a thinly veiled swipe at the U.S., suggesting that its efforts to forcibly export democracy and impose cultural standards and values, had led to regional conflicts.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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