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The visit will focus on strengthening ties with Moscow and discussing strategic energy deals.
“The fact that I visit Russia, our friendly neighbour, shortly after assuming presidency is a testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia,” Xi told Russian media.
In Moscow, Putin congratulated Xi on his new office and thanked him for deciding to make Russia his first destination abroad.
“This clearly shows the great importance that we place on building the relations between our countries,” Putin said.
When Putin took the third presidential term last year, he also travelled to China for his first foreign trip.
This is not the first time Xi visits Russia. He was in Moscow three years ago at Putin’s invitation.
“That visit left me with the warmest and deepest impressions,” Xi said
“Relations between China and Russia are better now than ever before in our history. Our countries share many common fields of interest. It is in our state interests in both countries, and in the interests of our peoples, to keep developing our relations,” Xi said.
“I have the impression that we are always completely open with each other. We are able to get on well together and always find it easy to talk. We are good friends,” Xi added.
This warm exchange is widely seen as a benchmark in the relations of the two neighbouring states who discussed bilateral co-operation, including trade, economy, and energy, and investment, technological and industrial partnership.
China agreed to double oil supplies and has thrown its support behind the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Russia.
The China Development Bank Corp. has also agreed to lend OAO Rosneft, the state oil producer, $2 billion backed by 25 years of oil supplies.
In exchange, the China National Petroleum Corp. will be granted access to Arctic resources.
Gazprom is also planning to conclude a 30-year gas-supply contract to provide 68 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to China annually beginning 2014.
Over the past five years trade volume between the two countries has more than doubled.
“China has firmly taken the first place among our trading partners. In 2012, the Russian-Chinese trade turnover increased by 5.2 per cent to constitute $87.5 billion (in 2007 the figure was $40 billion),” Putin later told the ITAR-Tass press agency.
In the meantime Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yang signed nine economic agreements. The countries will co-operate in banking, energy, agriculture, and finance.
A wide range of international and regional issues has been on the agenda as well. The sides talked about the peace process in the Middle East, the Syrian Civil War, and the increasing tension on the Korean peninsula.
The two leaders also stressed Sino-Russian integration within the framework of several international structures, such as BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, G20 and APEC.
“Despite a history of unease between the two countries Russia is the only non-Asian country, which supports China in the majority of political initiatives and in Chinese policy in Asia-Pacific,” says Alexey Maslov, Head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics under Government of Russia, and Director of the Centre for Chinese Strategic Studies.
“Both countries’ interests have aligned at the UN Security Council,” he added.
Maslov says that there is strong Sino-Russian coordination regarding flashpoints in Asia (like North Korean problem), the Iran nuclear programme, and the uprisings in the Arab region.
Both countries usually express misgivings about US policy in Asia Pacific and Central Asia.
“In spite of some disagreements over gas pricing in general it means that Russia is very important strategic ally for China not only in economic cooperation. Chinese leader Xi Jinping speaking about Russia as a priority in China’s “foreign policy orientation,” and “friendly neighbor” at the same time during his meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said that Chinese US economies have a “seamless connection”. So China tries to follow very flexible policy in both directions,” Maslov told The BRICS Post.
During his three days in Russia, Xi will join Vladimir Putin in the opening ceremony of the “Year of Chinese Tourism in Russia,” fair which is to boost exchanges between the two nations.
In 2011, over 800,000 Chinese tourists took Russia as the first stop of their overseas trip, and the number of Russian tourists to China exceeded 2.5 million.
The two countries also have several educational projects, targeting to strengthen the relations and partnership in all spheres.
“At the same time there are several promising projects in education discussed by Russia and China in the framework of BRICS including the developing of Association of BRICS universities, following the very successful project of establishing of the SCOUniversity with more than 60 university-participants from five countries,” Maslov said.
After Moscow, Xi will head to Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo.
In South Africa, he will attend an annual summit meeting of the 5th BRICS summit, and this is another platform of co-operation between Russia and China.
“In the framework of BRICS Russia and China both are willing to develop new system of international relations that lead to the more stable and safe system. Russia and China alongside with other BRICS countries would strengthen coordination in international and regional cooperation, including financial system and trade regulation,” Maslov said.
By Daria Chernyshova for The BRICS POST