Business / Economy

A friend in need during hard times

By Li Xiang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-12-23 07:34

As the Western nations turn their backs on Russia, more skills and funding for infrastructure projects may arrive from the other direction, reports Li Xiang in Moscow.

Six decades ago, the new People's Republic of China, isolated by the West, turned to the Soviet Union for ideas and support for the urban planning of Beijing where the Soviet influence can still be traced today.

Now a reverse trend is taking place.

Faced with mounting Western sanctions after the Ukraine crisis, Russia is now looking to the East, and particularly China, for investment to fund Moscow's multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects aimed at upgrading the Russian capital into a global metropolis.

At stake is an ambitious midterm urban development plan for the city involving $200 billion investment and properties covering a total of 180 million square meters.

The plan includes building a vast new administrative and business center dubbed "New Moscow", improving the city's metro, road and railway systems, and revamping old industrial zones and depressed areas along the Moscow River, Russian officials said at a recent urban forum in Moscow.

Dalian Wanda Group Co Ltd, China's largest commercial property conglomerate, is in negotiation with Moscow authorities to develop properties covering 1.5 million sq m at a cost of around $2 billion, according to Marat Khusnullin, deputy mayor of Moscow in charge of urban planning and construction policy.

The project will transform an area called Zil Industrial Park, a former Russian automobile manufacturing site along the Moscow River, into a new modern commercial and residential district.

The investment deal may be concluded next year and the transaction will be settled in the yuan, Khusnullin told China Daily.

Moscow's consent to use the Chinese currency as settlement removed what was considered a major hurdle for Dalian Wanda's investment, after the company previously expressed concerns about the falling rouble, which has lost nearly half of its value against the dollar this year.

Earlier reports had even suggested the deal would be postponed due to the currency crisis.

In addition to the currency arrangement, Moscow will also offer favorable land policies and cheaper land prices to attract other Chinese developers, the deputy mayor said.

Experts are now suggesting that this kind of closer business partnership between Russia and China in the infrastructure sector is likely to serve the interests of both sides well into the future.

Struggling with a faltering oil-based economy hit by falling energy prices, the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin is now focusing on domestic infrastructure, in what he is calling the "new recipe", to energize its economy and create new growth.

Diversifying its portfolio of foreign investment has also become a priority, especially as international economic sanctions against the country as a whole, in response to the Ukraine crisis, leave little prospect of raising capital from the West.

"When times are hard and tough, we shouldn't stop moving ahead and should continue to focus on attracting overseas investment," Sobyanin said.

In a way, the timing could not be better for Sino-Russian cooperation.

China is currently looking for new markets overseas for its own infrastructure construction and equipment manufacturing sectors, which continue to face overcapacity problems after a two-decade property boom at home.

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