Beijing, (Xinhua): Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Moscow from Wednesday to Friday for talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to further strengthen bilateral relations and provide the world a principled, well-grounded and viable alternative to the West’s closed system based on animosity rather than friendship.
Both leaders saw the visit very positively as indeed they did in the past.
“For a big ship, a big voyage,” Xi Jinping said, quoting a Russian proverb during his first visit to Russia as president of China in 2013, the Xinhua news agency said in a detailed piece on the visit.
In 2013, Xi called for concerted efforts by China and Russia to build their relationship into a vessel big and strong enough to cleave its way through the ever changing international situation.
He practices what he advocates. Over the past six years, Xi has met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin nearly 30 times in an unusually vigorous exercise of Head-of-State diplomacy. The two leaders have turned the China-Russia relationship into a big ship featuring the highest degree of mutual trust, the highest level of coordination and the highest strategic value.
“I have had closer interactions with President Putin than with any other foreign colleagues. He is my best and bosom friend. I cherish dearly our deep friendship,” Xi said in an interview with Russian media on Tuesday ahead of his eighth presidential trip to Russia.
Xi was in Moscow from Wednesday to Friday.
As the two countries celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year, Xi traveled to Russia where he attended the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum for the first time.
Xi said he looks forward to charting the course of the China-Russia relationship together with Putin and to seeing that their comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination will stride into a new era.
The friendship between the two presidents set sail in the early spring of 2013 when Xi arrived in the Russian capital of Moscow for his maiden overseas visit as Chinese head of state.
Besides attending more than 20 activities and meeting with Russian people from various walks of life, Xi became the first foreign head of state to tour the combat command center of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Putin, who spent eight hours with Xi during the latter’s one-and-a-half-day stay, said the visit was of historical significance.
In one of the most memorable moments of this visit, Xi unveiled at the Kremlin a portrait of Putin embroidered with silk threads in 70 colors.
“It’s so legendary, so beautiful and so incredible,” Putin marveled.
“I was wearing the same tie,” Putin joked, pointing to the scarlet tie he was wearing that day.
Long before the historic visit, the two presidents had developed a fondness for each other’s country.
Xi, born in the 1950s, was influenced by Russian literature as much as others of his generation in China. He mentioned Russian writers from poet Alexander Pushkin to novelist Anton Chekhov when delivering a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
“I found the charm of Russian literature,” Xi said.
Sports-loving Putin is a fan of Chinese martial arts. During a state visit to China in 2006, he visited the Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese kung fu, at the west foot of Songshan Mountain in the central Henan Province.
After watching a martial arts show, the Russian president walked into the performers, tossed an eight-year-old monk into the sky and caught him steadily on his shoulder.
Ice Cream Diplomacy
In September 2016, China’s eastern city of Hangzhou was still baking in sweltering heat. Putin, in the city for the G20 summit, gifted Xi with the perfect refreshment — a box of Russian ice cream.
Thereafter, a craving for the Russian specialty took off in China, benefiting a lot of ice cream makers. An ice cream company based in Russia’s Far East city of Khabarovsk, according to its manager, received nearly 100 Chinese importers in three months after the summit.
This was a prime example of how interactions between Xi and Putin have stimulated cooperation between their countries.
Extensive Economic Ties
“Both President Putin and I have attached great importance to and been actively promoting cooperation between China and Russia on trade and economy,” Xi said during a state visit to Russia in 2015.
When China decided to host an international forum in 2017 on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a proposal aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes, Putin was one of the first leaders to accept the invitation. He attended the second forum, too.
Spearheaded by the two presidents, outstanding achievements have been made in synergizing the BRI and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.
The alignment has not only promoted regional prosperity, but also signaled to the outside world China and Russia’s commitment to an open world economy.
It is in the same spirit of mutual support that Xi attended the Eastern Economic Forum held in Russia’s Vladivostok and will take the podium at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Trade between the two countries hit a record of more than 100 billion U.S. dollars last year. Cooperation in e-commerce, technology, finance and agriculture has developed rapidly.
Also, the two countries have seen their strategic major projects in such fields as energy, aerospace and inter-connectivity making steady progress, including their first cross-border highway bridge, which is expected to complete in October.
The first ship carrying liquefied natural gas from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic traversed the sea to China last summer, and millions of tons more will be supplied every year.
A second line of the China-Russia oil pipeline began commercial operation in 2018, and the east-route natural gas pipeline is expected to supply gas to China by the end of this year.
The two countries have also inked a package of deals to expand nuclear cooperation, and their joint development of a wide-body long-haul passenger jet is making steady progress.
New domains of cooperation keep emerging, including digital economy, small- and medium-sized enterprises, high technology, Far East development and Arctic exploration.
In the last few years, synergizing the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a trending subject on the SPIEF agenda.
Yaroslav Lissovolik, chief economist of the Eurasian Development Bank, noted that dovetailing the EAEU with the BRI will promote economic growth and integration of Russia and other Eurasian nations, adding that the BRI plays a key role in the global integration process and boosts the development of transport and logistics in developing countries.
The two countries have also been synergizing the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, and offered staunch support for each other on issues concerning their respective core interests.
What is of more far-reaching significance is that the two leaders have also influenced how the Chinese and Russian people see and relate to each other.
In 2015, when Xi was awarding commemorative medals to Russian veterans who fought on the battlefield in China during the Chinese war of resistance against Japanese aggression, he saw a 90-year-old having difficulty walking.
“Let me come to you,” Xi said to the old soldier. The touching scene aroused in both the Chinese and Russian people vivid memories of the old and deeply rooted friendship between the two nations forged with lives and blood during the wartime.
Based on this very foundation, the two peoples have carried forward their bond from generation to generation.
In 2017, Putin awarded Xi the highest honor of Russia, the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called. Putin said to Xi: “Though you are the leader of a great country, you did not talk much about your own contributions. You are very humble.”
“Many of the key issues between Russia and China either were solved or made progress thanks to your personal efforts,” he said. “The order is a proof of your outstanding contributions to the construction of Russia-China relations.”
A year later, Xi awarded Putin the first-ever Friendship Medal of the People’s Republic of China.
Shared International Perspectives
The two presidents’ hands-on leadership in promoting China-Russia relations stems from their common perspective on the importance of bilateral ties and on international issues.
“We share similar views on the international landscape and approaches to national governance,” Xi said in the interview with Russian media. “… Most importantly, we share a high degree of consensus on the strategic significance of the China-Russia relationship and therefore the same resolve and desire to deepen and sustain its growth.”
Putin has stressed on several occasions that it is a priority of Russia’s foreign policy to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination with China.
Xi, as early as during his first state visit to Russia six years ago, said China and Russia enjoy one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships and the best of major-country relations.
In his eyes, high-level and strong China-Russia relations not only serve the interests of both sides, but also play an important part in safeguarding the international strategic balance and world peace and stability.
This line of thinking has guided China-Russia interaction within both bilateral and multilateral frameworks.
“For many years, both countries have made efforts to improve the global governance system in order to make it more equitable and inclusive,” said Yana Leksyutina, a professor with St. Petersburg State University.
Beacon of Hope
Dmitry Novikov, first deputy chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the unprecedentedly high-level interaction between China and Russia has become an advanced model of interstate relations in today’s world.
“It would not be an exaggeration to say that ordinary people of the planet look at us with hope and faith, awaiting the creation of a fairer world order,” he said.
In addition, people-to-people exchanges are booming. The friendship between the two peoples has been cemented through a rich variety of programs at national and local levels in such areas as culture, language, tourism, media and youth.
The Russia-China friendship absolutely serves the long-term interests of both countries and their peoples, said Dmitry Novikov, first deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma.
Bilateral cooperation, which is at “the highest level in history,” provides “an advanced cooperation model” for today’s world, he added.
The strategic partnership not only benefits the two countries, but plays a key role on the global stage for promoting win-win cooperation, illustrated by the joint efforts made to establish the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the trilateral cooperation among China, Mongolia and Russia, and their coordination within the frameworks of BRICS, Group of 20 and others.
As two major countries on the world stage, the areas where Beijing and Moscow have been seeking to better coordinate with each other go beyond the bilateral dimension.
They have made concerted efforts to help solve the world’s most pressing problems, including climate change, terrorism, the Iran nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula issue, and the Syria crisis, on multilateral platforms like the United Nations, the G20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
When the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, a steady China-Russia relationship bears high strategic value for each other, and provides an anchor for global stability.
In the face of growing protectionism, unilateralism and economic chauvinism, the global economic recovery is in serious jeopardy, the multilateral trading system is under attack, and the existing international order is challenged.
Beijing and Moscow agree and have joined hands to uphold an international system with the United Nations at the heart. They have also pledged to safeguard norms and principles widely acknowledged in the international community, and vowed to build a multipolar world and democratize international relations.
Also, China and Russia hold to a non-alignment policy that targets no third party. Such an approach is different from the Western-style military alliance, which has an innate need for an enemy — real or imaginary — and tends to put the entire world on edge.
In today’s world, the China-Russia relationship can offer some inspirations for other major countries in the world in this new era of growing interdependence.
On the world stage, China-Russia coordination has become an indispensable and irreplaceable force in helping solve major global and regional hot-button issues, against the backdrop of a world that has been undergoing complicated and profound changes.
As an exemplar of win-win cooperation, good neighborliness and harmonious coexistence between major countries, China and Russia are staunch supporters of multilateralism dedicated to safeguarding international law and the basic norms in international relations, preserving global strategic stability, and helping make the world order more just and reasonable.
Looking into the future, Sergei Luzyanin, director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said Russia and China will continue to deepen their strategic partnership and jointly safeguard world peace and security.
As Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi once said, when China and Russia stand together, the world will be a safer and more peaceful and stable place.
(Photo caption: A Russian girl learns Chinese calligraphy at a Spring Festival celebration held by the China Culture Center in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Bai Xueqi)