Premier Wen Jiabao returned to Beijing yesterday after visiting Russia, with leaders of the two countries vowing to deepen co-operation but still failing to reach final agreement on a massive natural gas deal.
Wen, who held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, said at a press conference in Moscow before returning to Beijing that he valued the trip because it was the last overseas visit of his political life.
"This is the 10th time, and also the last time, for me to attend premier-level talks between the two countries, and it helps form a bridge between the previous talks and the future ones," said Wen, who was scheduled to step down in March.
The two countries issued a joint declaration after the talks, vowing to deepen co-operation in trade, aviation and the energy sector.
Wen had put forward a seven-point proposal on bilateral co-operation, including expanding two-way trade so that a US$100 billion target originally set for 2015 could be reached sooner.
Russian and Chinese officials also signed a protocol on the construction of two more reactors for the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Lianyungang, Jiangsu. The new reactors, to be built by Russia's state nuclear company, Rosatom, would start operating in 2018. But there was still no major breakthrough on a massive deal that would see Russia supply 68 billion cubic metres of natural gas to China each year for the next three decades, even after Chinese officials said that progress would be achieved.
Talks on the deal have been going on since the two countries signed a framework agreement in 2009, with the price to be paid for the gas a stumbling block.
China reportedly wanted to pay US$250 per 1,000 cubic metres. Moscow wanted to sell at a price on par with what it charges European customers. Russian gas shipped to Ukraine cost more than US$400 per 1,000 cubic metres.