2018 Headlines (1) – Vladimir Putin’s Annual Year-End Press Conference

Among other issues, the marathon Q & A session reportedly touched upon the 40th anniversary of China’s reform-and-opening policies, and on the Kuril Islands, the southernmost of which are contested between Japan and Russia.

A record number of 1,702 journalists had registered for Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s annual press conference at Moscow World Trade Center on Thursday local time, Guanchazhe online reported on the same day. This constituted a new record number. The article also contains the presidential press secretary’s revelation that Putin had set aside three days to prepare for the event, and that he had studied relevant material until late at night.

The following are excerpts from the article. Links within blockquotes were added during translation.

Main Link: Live Broadcast of Putin’s Annual Press Conference: Russia assesses China’s Reform and Opening Positively (普京年度记者会直播:俄罗斯积极评价中国改革开放)

December 18 is the 18th anniversary of China’s reform and opening. Putin said at the press conference that Russia assessed the changes positively that had happened in China.

18日,中国改革开放刚刚迎来40周年。普京在记者会上表示,俄罗斯积极评价中国发生的变化。

[Subheading]

The Xinhua reporter1) asked: “How do you evaluate the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening, and the development of Sino-Russian trade relations?”

新华社记者提问称:“您如何评价中国改革开放40周年以及中俄经贸关系发展?”

Putin said that Russia evaluated the changes and the efforts made for economic development positively. Bilateral trade between the two countries had reached 10,000,000,000 100,000,000,000 USD. The inseparably close relationship between China and Russia was useful for world peace and stability.

普京表示,俄罗斯积极评价中国发生的变化以及在经济发展上所做的努力。两国双边贸易今年达到1000亿美元。中俄两国的紧密关系对世界和平稳定都有益。

[Subheading]

Putin said that the Russian government planned to begin three-percent growth from 2021 on, and Russia’s goal was to become the world’s fifth-largest economy.2)

普京表示,俄罗斯政府计划从2021年开始实现3%的经济增长,俄罗斯目标是成为世界第五大经济体。

He also said that Russia’s 2018 unemployment rate was predicted to drop from 2017’s 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent. Russia’s gold and foreign-exchange reserves had increased by 7 percent, reaching 464,000,000,000 USD. Russia’s inflation rate in 2018 would exceed the four-percent target, reaching about 4.1 or 4.2 percent.

他还表示,2018年俄罗斯失业率预计从2017年的5.2%降至4.8%。俄罗斯黄金外汇储备增加7%,达到4640亿美元。俄罗斯2018年全年通胀率将超过4%的目标水平,达到4.1%-4.2%左右。

Putin emphasized at the same time that the country needed a breakthrough, for which resources were required. Russia’s government and administrative agencies were making efforts to this end. Therefore twelve national projects in the fields of science, education and health had been established.

同时,普京强调,国家需要突破。为此需要资源,俄罗斯政府和行政机关正致力于此,因此在科学、教育和卫生保健领域设立了12个国家项目。

[Subheading]

Concerning the matter of returning the islands contested between Russia and Japan, Putin believed that when it came to signing a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, security issues mattered most. Russia expressed worries about American deployment of anti-missile systems in Japan.

对于归还日俄争议岛屿一事,普京认为,在俄日签署和约的问题上,安全问题最为重要。俄罗斯对美国在日本部署反导系统表示不安。

According to article 9 of the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration, the islands of Shikotan island and the Habomei islands could be returned to Japan, but only after a peace treaty had been signed.

根据《苏日共同宣言》的第九条条款规定苏联政府同意把色丹岛和齿舞诸岛归还给日本,但条件是在签署和平条约之后才真正归还给日本。

The Soviet Union’s and Japan’s parliaments approved this declaration in 1956, but when Japan and America signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union cancelled the obligation to return these islands. On January 27, 1960, a Soviet government memorandum stated that only when all foreign troops were withdrawn from Japan, there would be a return of the islands to Japan.

1956年苏联和日本两国议会批准了这份宣言。但作为对1960年日本和美国签订的《日美安全保障条约》的回应,苏联取消了归还这些岛屿的义务。1960年1月27日苏联政府备忘录中写道,只有在所有外国军队撤离日本的条件下这些岛屿才将归还给日本。

ABC News reported on Thursday that

The press conference, however, is heavily curated. The Kremlin press service proposes questions beforehand, and decides who will be called on to speak. Follow-up questions are not permitted, allowing Putin to disarm all but the sharpest queries and make assertions that can’t be challenged. The audience is overwhelmingly friendly and often breaks into applause.

And RFE/RL wrote, also on the same day, that

[t]he Russian president cast Russia’s sluggish economy in a positive light, while calling for improvements.

When Putin took back the presidency (or the “candidacy” for it) from his straw man Dmitry Medvedev in 2011, now defunct foreign radio service “Voice of Russia” quoted political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov as saying that

There were mentions of ambitious goals which are in fact not quite that ambitious, such as becoming one of the world’s five largest economies. I believe Russia will be up to that if it develops with seven per cent growth. I believe that we can become the fifth-largest global economy and the biggest in Europe by 2020.

In that light, even one of the calls for improvement seems to constitute a postponement.

____________

Notes

Footnote 1) No Xinhuareporter seems to be included in the Kremlin’s English-language transcript of the press conference. However, the Russian-language transcript does include one (English translation by Google Translate):

Вопрос: Здравствуйте, Владимир Владимирович. Я корреспондент агентства «Синьхуа».

Question: Hello, Vladimir Vladimirovich. I am a Xinhua correspondent.

Мой вопрос именно о Китае. Состоялось торжественное собрание по случаю 40-летия проведения политики реформ и открытости. На нём Председатель Си Цзиньпин призвал довести до конца все меры, связанные с реформами и открытостью. Как Вы оцениваете изменения, произошедшие в Китае за эти годы?

My question is about China. A solemn meeting on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening up policy was held. On it, President Xi Jinping called for the completion of all measures related to reform and openness. How do you assess the changes in China over the years?

И ещё. Россия и Китай приблизились к отметке двустороннего товарооборота в 100 миллиардов долларов США, и при этом российский экспорт в Китай вырос на 44 процента и оказался на 10 миллиардов долларов больше, чем импорт из Китая. Довольны ли Вы развитием российско-китайских отношений в этом году? Спасибо.

And further. Russia and China approached the bilateral trade turnover of $ 100 billion, while Russian exports to China grew by 44 percent and were $ 10 billion more than imports from China. Are you satisfied with the development of Russian-Chinese relations this year? Thank.

В.Путин: Действительно, это знаковый рубеж. Не знаю, сможем ли мы выйти на 100 миллиардов или нет, но мы приблизились к этому. Это уже, в принципе, показатель, действительно. Надо будет посчитать в начале следующего года общий объём товарооборота, но где-то в районе 100 миллиардов он будет, и это само по себе достижение. И конечно, мы не можем не быть довольны этим результатом. Но это производный результат от состояния российско-китайских отношений, от роста уровня доверия стран между собой.

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, this is a landmark. I don’t know if we can reach 100 billion or not, but we are close to that. This is, in principle, an indicator, indeed. It will be necessary to calculate the total volume of trade at the beginning of next year, but it will be somewhere around 100 billion, and this is an achievement in itself. And of course, we can not be satisfied with this result. But this is a derivative result from the state of Russian-Chinese relations, from the growth of the level of trust between countries.

Мы работаем и в двустороннем формате, и очень надёжно, мы решили все проблемы, которые доставались нам ещё со времён Советского Союза, и двигаемся дальше. Мы работаем не только в сфере экономики, но и в сфере безопасности, мы сотрудничаем очень активно на международной арене, и российско-китайское взаимодействие на международной арене, безусловно, является фактором, оздоровляющим международную обстановку, фактором стабильности и прогнозируемости развития ситуации на мировой арене.

We work in a bilateral format, and very reliably, we have solved all the problems that have come to us since the days of the Soviet Union, and move on. We work not only in the economic sphere, but also in the field of security, we cooperate very actively in the international arena, and Russian-Chinese interaction in the international arena is undoubtedly a factor improving the international situation, a factor of stability and predictability of the development of the situation in the world.

Мы положительно оцениваем изменения, которые произошли в Китае. Я считаю, что для такой страны, как Китайская Народная Республика, с миллиардом тремястами миллионов населения, очень важна стабильность и прогнозируемость, в том числе и во внутренней политике, включая и кадровую составляющую. Председатель Си Цзиньпин принял решение, и товарищи из КПК его поддержали в этом направлении, и думаю, что Китай поступил правильно, стабильность гарантирует поступательное развитие Китайской Народной Республики.

We appreciate the changes that have occurred in China. I believe that for a country like the People’s Republic of China, with a billion three hundred million people, stability and predictability are very important, including in domestic policy, including the personnel component. Chairman Xi Jinping made the decision, and the CCP comrades supported him in this direction, and I think that China did the right thing, stability guarantees the ongoing development of the People’s Republic of China.

Footnote 2) The wording, according to en.kremlin.ru:

By the way, you mentioned the projected 2 percent growth for the next two years. Yes, in the next years, 2019–2020, two percent each, but from 2021, the Government is already planning 3 percent, and then more. Therefore, I strongly hope that we will manage to do all this. Some fluctuations are probably possible, but, I repeat, the most important thing is that we need… Do you see what we need to do? We need to join another league of economies, and not only in terms of volumes. I think that taking the fifth place in terms of volume is quite possible. We used to rank fifth in terms of the economy, in purchasing power parity, and we will do it again, I think. However, we need to ascend to another league in terms of the quality of the economy. This is what our national projects are aimed at.

____________

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