Friday, 24 June 2011

Chinese presidential visit hyped up, but details on billion-dollar deals scarce

A three-day visit to Ukraine by Chinese President Hu Jintao, coming at the end of a tour that included Russia and Kazakhstan, led to bold declarations with President Viktor Yanukovych.

But it will take time to see if any of them, including a goal to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion from the current $7.7 billion a year, will come true. It also remains to be seen whether all of the announced agreements worth $3.5 billion will actually happen.

he Chinese president ended his trip to Ukraine on June 20, after he bargained hard over natural gas prices during a Moscow visit.

Yanukovych seemed satisfied with Ukraine-China relations.

“According to our estimates, the financial value of agreements, projects and contracts signed during the visit is about $3.5 billion,” Yanukovych said. But neither he nor other officials revealed specific details breaking down where such a figure came from.

In turn, Hu said the right words to his hosts: “The main aim of the Chinese government is to establish and develop China-Ukraine relations, a strategic partnership.”

The strategic partnership declaration includes mutual support of state sovereignty and territorial integrity, respect for the development chosen by each of the states, mutual non-use of force or threat of force, economic or other pressure, etc.

This was the first visit to Ukraine by a Chinese president in 10 years, and the third meeting between Hu and Yanukovych since the Ukrainian president took power in 2010. Political analysts said the mere fact that
a Chinese president visited is a success.

“Chinese leaders don’t just do political tourism. This visit demonstrates China’s attention to and interest in Ukraine,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Kyiv-based think tank Penta.

“The question is now how Ukraine will take advantage of that. It was very important that China, one of the biggest world powers, reminded that it is a guarantor of Ukraine’s security.”

Ukraine said it landed a $372 million loan from China which will be used to build a high-speed railway connecting Kyiv and Boryspil International Airport using Chinese technology and companies. Discussions are also under way involving an additional $2 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine hopes to sell its airplanes to China and attract investment into its agriculture and coal mining sectors.

Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk came away happy after China decided to give $12.3 million in technical assistance for educational programs that are intended to bring both countries closer together.

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