Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) heads to Russia this week for his first diplomatic foray as president, reinforcing a Cold War relationship which is now finding shared strategic and business interests.
Xi, whose ascension last week completed China’s power handover, is to arrive in Moscow tomorrow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two countries enjoy expanding commercial relations: China is the world’s biggest energy consumer and the largest trade partner of Russia, one of the planet’s biggest oil producers.
They cooperate on several issues at the UN and in advance of his trip, Xi called Russia “our friendly neighbor,” saying the visit underscored the “great importance” China placed on bilateral relations.
Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cheng Guoping (程國平) yesterday said the two were “committed to the development and revival of each other’s countries.”
Russia was also the first overseas destination for former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) when he ventured abroad in 2003.
At the UN Security Council, China and Russia have vetoed resolutions to introduce sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has been embroiled in a two-year conflict.
Both countries have spoken out against US and EU sanctions targeting oil exports from Iran.
However, Moscow and Beijing supported a council resolution this month for new sanctions on North Korea over its third nuclear test.
Both Syria and North Korea are expected to be a focus of the Xi-Putin talks and Carnegie Moscow Center head Dmitry Trenin said China will seek to strengthen ties to boost its international standing.
“Its ties with the United States are complicated, there is a flare-up in relations with Japan, things with India are not easy,” he told reporters. “They will benefit from sending the world a signal about good, strong ties with Russia.”
However, business will be at the forefront, he added.
“The Chinese are practical, for them the economy tops everything.”
Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Shen Danyang (沈丹陽) described Xi’s trip as “an active push to speed up the pace of investment and cooperation.”
In Moscow, the Kremlin said Putin and Xi would oversee the signing of a number of agreements.
Russia needs to finalize a huge gas deal which could see almost 70 billion cubic meters of gas pumped to China annually for the next 30 years, and Cheng said “intensive discussions” were under way.