Sun, Nov 09, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Xi, Putin share similar views on issues at APEC

FAST FRIENDS:The presidents work well together because they both blame Gorbachev for the Soviet Union collapse, professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom said

AFP, BEIJING

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Russian President Vladimir Putin share similar views on issues from human rights to former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, in an increasingly close personal relationship that mirrors their nations’ converging interests.

Putin is to arrive in Beijing today for the APEC summit and his 10th meeting with Xi since the Chinese president took office in March last year, the People’s Daily said.

Their growing rapport comes as their nations’ trade, investment and geopolitical interests align. Moscow faces harsh Western criticism and sanctions over its seizure of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as well as opprobrium for its approach to dissent and homosexuality.

Beijing also has tense relationships over territorial disputes with neighbors such as Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, and has recently been the target of criticism over demands for free elections in Hong Kong.

“The situation is pushing the two countries towards closer ties, both are facing very heavy pressures, Russia in Ukraine and China in Hong Kong,” said Vladimir Yevseyev, director of the Moscow-based independent Public Political Studies Center.

“Xi comes from a background close to the military-industrial complex, he is a man who is much closer to the structures of power enforcement than his predecessor,” former Chinese president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Yevseyev said.

“Putin understands him better, their outlooks are identical,” he added. “Xi is inclined to confrontation if necessary, which pleases Putin.”

Relations between Moscow and Beijing have a checkered history. Territorial disputes between Tsarist Russia and Imperial China gave way to cooperation between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China in the latter’s early years.

That subsequently collapsed in a huge split over ideological issues such as how to promote revolution, who should lead the international communist movement, whether to engage with the capitalist world and China’s development of nuclear weapons.

Eventually a tectonic shift in global geopolitics resulted when Beijing and Washington ended their mutual hostility and former US president Richard Nixon visited China.

The USSR broke up 23 years ago and Russia and China have since been brought together by mutual concerns, notably wariness of Washington.

The two nations often vote as a pair on the UN Security Council, where both hold a veto, sometimes in opposition to Western powers on issues such as Syria.

They have carried out joint military exercises on land and sea and are members of the BRICS emerging nations group, which also includes Brazil, India and South Africa.

Their economic links are burgeoning, with resource-rich Russia a natural supplier to China’s growing economy.

After a decade of negotiations, during a visit to China by Putin in May the nations signed a 30-year gas deal said to be worth US$400 billion.

“As Europe is going to cut its consumption of Russian gas, China offers an alternative market,” Yevseyev said.

APEC, which began with ministerial meetings on Friday before the main summit tomorrow and on Tuesday, accounts for more than 50 percent of global GDP, 44 percent of world trade and 40 percent of the Earth’s population.

Russia, with its vast territory stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific, is the organization’s only European member.

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