Vladimir Putin

Xi to visit Russia in first overseas trip as president, in boost for Putin

Trip to Moscow seen as chance for allies who share a wariness of Washington to cement ties

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 5:00am

Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will travel to Russia in his first overseas trip as president next month after the annual session of the National People's Congress.

Although Xi's trip seems to be retracing the footsteps of his predecessor, Hu Jintao, who made Moscow his first overseas destination as president a decade ago, analysts say Xi's visit carries extra significance because both nations are on the alert against America.

In a meeting with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Moscow on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was looking forward to Xi's visit.

"The visit is an important event for our bilateral ties, and we expect rich results will come out of it," Putin said.

The visit is an important event for our bilateral ties, and we expect rich results will come out of it

The itinerary of Xi's trip has not been announced, but Chinese state media said Xi would visit Moscow before heading to South Africa for the summit of the BRICS group of leading emerging countries, highlighting China's role as a leading power among developing nations.

Analysts say cementing ties with China is a crucial task for Putin because bilateral ties between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated.

Last May, Putin cancelled a trip to the United States after a row over the deployment of a Nato missile defence system that Moscow said could intercept all missiles launched from Russia.

Russia later expelled the US Agency for International Development, and the US Congress passed a bill imposing sanctions on prominent Russians believed to be responsible for human rights abuses.

Li Xing , a professor of Russian studies at Beijing Normal University, said the US was "in the leading position in the relationship between the US, China and Russia".

"And the US is a factor influencing Sino-Russian ties," Li said. "Putin's diplomatic focus will shift to China and India."

Russia's ambassador to Beijing, Sergey Razov, recently said the two countries had no ideological differences, and their co-operation was based on mutual benefits. He also said bilateral territorial disputes between countries should not be taken to multilateral platforms, a stance Beijing shares.

Li says China and Russia need each other, with Beijing irked by America's shift towards Asia and accusations that China's military was behind cyberattacks against the US. "China and Russia both have conflicts with the US over certain issues," he said.

The first overseas trip of Chinese leaders reflects the focus and circumstances of the nation's diplomatic affairs.

The Global Times reported on Monday that Sino-Russian ties would be the focus of Xi's diplomacy, and an article in the People's Liberation Army Daily last month included extensive comments on Putin's policies.

Professor Chen Yurong , from the China Institute of International Studies, says neither Beijing nor Moscow will abandon ties with Washington, but they will continue to show a united front on the global stage.

Analysts say they expect Xi and Putin would discuss bilateral issues such as trade ties.