Vladimir Putin

Thorny issues side-stepped but first visit cements friendship

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2008, 12:00am

New Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's first state visit to China achieved what it set out to do: reassure Beijing about the continuance of his predecessor Vladimir Putin's strategic partnership with Beijing.

Chinese experts and students welcomed his visit and found him a capable leader with clear visions for closer co-operation between the two giant neighbours.

'Mr Medvedev's visit this time is just a part of regular head-of-state visits between the two countries in recent years,' said Sino-Russian affairs expert Jiang Yi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 'He is not expected to reach any breakthroughs with China on sensitive matters.

'The biggest significance of his visit is to see whether Russia would continue the policy directions set down by Putin.'

Both countries said relations were at an 'unprecedented height' with close rapport on many international issues, increasing cultural and people exchanges, and trade increasing more than tenfold since 2000.

In Beijing on Friday, Mr Medvedev pledged continued commitment to the Treaty on Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Co-operation signed in 2001, confirming a comprehensive partnership that goes beyond normal economic and strategic ties.

China is only the second foreign destination for Mr Medvedev since taking over the presidency this month, after a visit to Kazakhstan.

A joint statement on key international issues issued by Mr Medvedev and President Hu Jintao on Friday, the third such document since 1997, said China and Russia were jointly playing a critical role in global affairs, from fighting terrorism to global warming and regional security, and could play a bigger role.

Professor Jiang said the statement included a new direction for joint global efforts: stabilising international economic and financial turbulence, and assisting less developed countries.

Peking University international affairs professor Huang Zhongliang said Mr Medvedev also highlighted the export of hi-tech products to China, and further co-operation in education and languages.

Mr Medvedev is no stranger to China. He led Russian delegations in 2006 and last year as the 'China year' and 'Russia year' were held in turn in the two countries. And during this visit he suggested listing next year and 2010 as 'Chinese language year' and 'Russian language year'.

Both experts said his first meeting as head of state was not the occasion to address long-standing deadlocks such as the lacklustre gas-pipe deals, more recent Russian complaints about dwindling military orders, and a reversed and growing trade deficit.

Russia's expectation for support in its fight against the encroaching influence of Nato was also not addressed in the joint statement, although the joint condemnation of unilateralism was firmly enshrined.

The two experts also said it was the first time the two countries had stated clearly in joint documents their displeasure at the anti-missile defence system - led by the United States - and in particular the setting up of the stations in other nations.

Both Russia and China have been troubled by plans to set up stations in the Czech Republic and Poland, and in the West Pacific.

Making his first overseas speech yesterday, Mr Medvedev attracted about 700 students and teachers at Peking University, a venue also visited by Mr Putin in 2002.