"Went for GDP growth"?
Of course they did, what they didn't do was getting it.
Russia is a bit of an odd state in a way. Its people are educated and have a long tradition in science and literature. However it remained very backward until WW1, with a large component of old style peasantry and really repressive hereditary nobility.
Then you have the Communist revolution. They went after GDP in a big way. Or rather they went after military industrial GDP, at the exclusion of everything else. It worked during WW2, and their weapon systems were good enough during the Cold War. They were also a resource economy, with all the economic risks that entails. What they never developed was anything like mass market consumer production capability. They could design stuff, but their manufacturing sucked. A Le Bourget airshow I went to in the early 90s had a lot of their space gear on display. Clever stuff, but with big ugly soldering joints, looking like someone's high school shop project. Lada anyone? Another case in point was in the early 90s in France, reading through the local equivalent of Consumer Reports. Lada was in last place, right after Austin Minis (the old model was notoriously unreliable). So not barebones, cheap and reliable. Just barebones and cheap.
Communism comes crashing down in early 90s? Those state owned enterprises got sold, theoretically as shares to the public. In practice, the well-connected got first dibs. This is where the oligarchs come from, extracting rent from previously state-owned assets. Often in resource companies.
Al-Jazeera has a timely write up on how Putin got the job - bringing oversight on the anarchic robber barons. He did - by putting in his own robber barons.
It can buy superyachts for the top guys. But it doesn't result in service or goods that get sold to other countries. Nor does it necessarily result in a large middle class. Or a middle class that would buy Russian goods rather than imported ones. Take Roscosmos, Russia's space services company. Large salary for the Putin-connected CEO, crap for engineers.
What brands and industries are associated with Russia that you or your employer buy? It doesn't have to be high end stuff. Scandinavia might be furniture for example. Italy might be kitchenware. Or when did you last directly see Russian goods? Elevators? Airplanes? Ferries? Cars? One place where Russia does shine is computer programming. Stuff like Kaspersky is an actual brand name. But even that is tarnished by an even larger association with computer criminality. Contrast that with the situation if you had to think up of a list of Russian Nobel prize winners or mathematicians.
Russia was also fairly confused in the early post Soviet days. Taxes were levied willy-nilly by different ministries. In theory you could be taxed more than your profits so bribes had to be paid.
China in contrast has resolutely chased first low end, then middle end manufacturing. They did not go after the design, at first, just the manufacturing. They got no respect early on: "Made in China" was not a sign of quality. But guess what, they evolved and their good stuff is pretty good (even though the low end remains). "Made in Japan" also used to be a mark of derision among Westerners, for those old enough to remember. They've come a long way since the Cold War.
I also don't want to give the impression that it's all about manufacturing, just manufacturing. That's not what most economists would tell us. But services are also hard to pull off if the conditions are bad and manufacturing is often the early stepping stone on the way up.
China is big enough to have a large class of national consumers. Chinese people are pretty entrepreneurial and mercantile by nature. It may not be democratic and it may often be corrupt in local governments. But it has largely let private companies develop organically rather than handing out the spoils to the well-connected. Look through a list of oligarchs and you will see numerous ones whose primary business asset was close personal connections to Putin.
Corruption rankings? China is #66 (#1 is best), bracketed by Montenegro and Romania. Russia is #136, between Mali and Myanmar. Along with corruption comes lack of trust. Trust is a strange intangible, but the best performing nations are often found among those with the most internal, intra-society, trust. Do Russians trust each other or their government?
Make no mistake however. China's massive population, with about 400m middle class consumers, sets it apart from other countries and gives it a lot more opportunities than Russia. More opportunities than India, which has a lot smaller middle class by now. More opportunities than say Canada, which, like Russia, struggles to develop an across-the-board industrial/services capability and often falls back towards either resources or niche higher values offerings.
In some ways, modern China is more like the US, with a critical size internal market. Not everyone can be a top player amongst nations. But Russia, an industrialized nation with 140M educated people, is definitely punching under its weight class.
Claims that Russia looked good till 2014? Of course it did, just crosscheck the years of growing GDP with oil prices.