Vladimir Zakharov: "We will always be friends with China"

Yesterday, on the Day of Diplomatic Worker, senior lecturer at the School of Oriental Studies of the Higher School of Economics, Vladimir Zakharov, discussed the prospects of Russian-Chinese cooperation in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

- What is diplomacy, in your opinion? Is it a science, a certain set of skills or art?

- All of this. I don't want to quote any classical definitions of diplomacy, a set of rules, which concerns international relations, foreign policy of certain states. But diplomacy also concerns everyday relations. When someone says that a person is diplomatic, it can have a double meaning. For example, it can be understood as a desire to hide some part of the truth, desire to achieve certain goals by telling people what they want to hear. Modern diplomacy uses all possible methods and techniques, that were invented by specialists in foreign policy and international relations over the years. That's why I believe that above all, diplomacy is a science, international law, and a great art. Look at our Foreign Minister - he speaks like he writes and writes like he speaks. It's a rare quality, he has a gift of knowing language, and not one, but also english and others, and he can transfer all of his thoughts both on paper and in the public field. He is an orator and a publicist, he is a man able to engage in polemics, find clear arguments to prove his truth. Diplomacy is also an apparatus - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, embassies, consulates. It's also a negotiating process. There are many definitions, but most importantly, diplomacy means a circle of people, who can maintain relations, who are able to solve problems in the interests of their country, their state, their people.

- You've been working in Beijing for a long time. What are the prospects of Russian-Chinese relations?

- In the words of Mao Zedong, we have great prospects, but the way to achieve them is not so direct. The stimulus for development of our relations is the fact that we are two large countries - one is the most populous and the other has the largest territory. The length of our common border is more than 4 thousand kilometers, so we will always be friends. This is a geopolitical factor that we have to take into account. Right now China is the first or second economic superpower of the world. If we consider purchasing power parity, Chinese have already reached the first place, but by absolute figures they are still in the second place. A lot of thing unite us in foreign policy. We closely cooperate in the UN Security Council and almost always vote in solidarity. We disagreed on some positions in very rare cases, but overall, our position in international organizations is the same. This interest can be explained by the fact that China needs our mineral resources. We have large-scale oil, gas, forest and technological projects. We have great prospects, but, unfortunately, there is no serious cooperation in the fields of loans, investments. There are many factors in favor of development of our cooperation with China, but we know little about each other, we learn something new through Western media. It's an effect of distorted mirror, when we receive wrong interpretation of certain information. So far our media represented in China poorly.

- How can we change this situation?

We must learn Chinese, people of China should learn Russian. 100 Russian universities are actively teaching Chinese language, but it's still not enough. The quality in most universities is pretty bad. People usually learn language through practice, when they go and study in China. The number of Chinese students studying in Russia right now is around 10 thousand people. No one knows the exact data. The number of Russian students in China is the same. Most of our students pay to study in China. This shows a great interest, but it's not in line with objectives, set by heads of Russian educational institutions. There's a hope that the number of students should reach one hundred thousand people in the near future. But this figure doesn't correspond to the reality. We are far from achieving this goal.

Of course, there could have been more of them, if there was a bigger economic and practical cooperation between our countries, which would attract bigger number of students. But so far we are not at very active level. Although we have several Confucius Institutes - cultural centers, centers where people learn Chinese. They usually work under universities. But it's not enough, because Chinese language is difficult, it's hard to learn it - you must learn hieroglyphics, master pronunciation. But most importantly, this knowledge must be in demand. It shouldn't be just a hobby. But so far there's not much progress.

- Is it possible to improve cooperation through the development of tourism?

- Yes. The number of Chinese tourists is growing actively. If we are talking about our main museums, Hermitage and Tretyakov Gallery, Chinese are the main foreign tourists there. Ecological tourism is currently very popular in China - many Chinese tourists travel to Baikal. In the winter tourist travel there for fishing and in the summer they like the fresh air of this lake. They also often travel to Volga. There's also so-called "red tourism". They get on a ship in Tver or Moscow and travel to, say, Ulyanovsk, visiting places associated with the name of Lenin and other revolutionaries. Recently Russia restored museum near Moscow, which hosted the Congress of the Communist Party of China in the 1920s. Now in addition to tourist sights in Moscow, Chinese tourists also visit this museum. 

We must use every opportunity to get to know each other better, invite Chinese tourists here, because it also has economic effect. If we will have progress in the practical field, in the economic field, it will strengthen our cooperation, our common desire to live in peace and use our ties to strengthen cooperation in all areas.

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