Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 198

On Sunday (October 24) Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev and a delegation of Russian lawmakers kicked off a six-day visit to China. Seleznev, chairman of the Duma’s Communist Party faction, held closed door talks yesterday with Chinese parliamentary leader Li Peng. The two proclaimed themselves satisfied with the Sino-Russian “strategic partnership,” and called for more intensive contacts between lawmakers from Russia and China. Both also expressed their frustration with stagnating Russian-Chinese trade. Seleznev voiced his doubts that bilateral trade turnover would reach US$20 billion annually by the year 2000. That was the goal set by President Boris Yeltsin some two years ago. According to Seleznev, bilateral trade turnover has totaled less than US$7 billion over the past several years. It now appears to be falling further below that level.

Seleznev used yesterday’s meeting to praise China’s economic accomplishments over the past twenty years. He suggested that Beijing’s experience–what Li called the building of China’s “socialist market economy”–might be useful to Russia as it struggles to overcome its current economic problems. Seleznev’s message was obviously tailored to fit with the long criticism by Russia’s communists and other opposition groups of the Kremlin’s alleged over-reliance on Western-style economic policies. Li claimed that China had received some US$140 billion over the past twenty years in direct investment–a record at which Moscow can only look with envy.

Seleznev also took the opportunity both to congratulate Beijing for the reestablishment of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong and to offer wishes that the issue of Taiwan’s status be resolved in a similar fashion. That last message was clearly intended to mollify the Chinese leadership for the recent visit to Taiwan by a delegation of Russian lawmakers under the leadership of Liberal Democratic Party chief Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Beijing had protested the visit as a violation of Russia’s adherence to the “one China” principle (see the Monitor, October 20, 21). Li said yesterday that he appreciated the pro-Beijing stance demonstrated by Seleznev and most Duma members (Russian agencies, Xinhua, October 26).