Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping looks to boost ties during visit to Moscow

Visit to Moscow tomorrow is his first as president and will see him try to build on shared interests - especially countering power of US-led West

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 5:31am

President Xi Jinping will arrive in Moscow tomorrow on his first overseas trip as China's head of state. Russia has been chosen in a bid to further tap into the enormous shared geopolitical and business interests of the two neighbours, which share a complicated past.

First lady Peng Liyuan, a famous folk singer, will accompany her husband on the trip.

It will mark the couple's first public appearance together since Xi took the helm of the Communist Party in November.

Analysts expect Peng will be different from her predecessors by taking a more active role in community services to promote the country's "soft power", as her foreign counterparts often do.

Western diplomats and analysts see China's growing ties with Russia as evidence of a shared interest in countering the US-led Western alliance's domination of global affairs.

Professor Kerry Brown, executive director of the University of Sydney's China Studies Centre, said that for Xi, the visit to Russia was recognition of the global reach of China's interests.

He visited the US last spring before becoming party general secretary in November.

Jin Canrong , a professor at Renmin University's school of international relations, said that growing, shared interests in global affairs had pushed both nations closer together.

Jin said maintaining peace along their shared border remained a top concern.

"The China-Russia relationship has been the cornerstone of China's diplomacy, with securing peace along their longest borders of utmost importance to both nations," Jin said.

The China-Russia relationship has been the cornerstone of China's diplomacy, with securing peace along their longest borders of utmost importance to both nations

He added that Russia and China had stood together on several global diplomatic issues, including the ongoing fighting in Syria and other conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.

They had also co-ordinated and co-operated closely on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Brown said Russia was "a huge player in terms of potential supply of resources".

In recent years, Russia and China have furthered co-operation in the oil, gas, atomic energy and coal sectors, plus the field of technology.

The China Institute of Contemporary International Relations forecasts that trade between Russia and China will exceed US$100 billion in 2015. It grew 11.6 per cent last year to US$88.1 billion.

Long-stalled talks on a Russia-China gas pipeline gas deal will top the agenda during Xi's summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the Xi presidency seen as a chance for a fresh start in the talks.

In briefings in Beijing, Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping and Russian ambassador to China Sergei Razov had struck an optimistic note, saying that "significant progress" had been made and that both nations hoped that a breakthrough on the deal would be made during the visit.

Senior executives from state oil giants Petro China and Sinopec are accompanying Xi on his visit, suggesting that 11th-hour talks will continue in Moscow.

Cheng told a briefing yesterday that Russia and China would co-ordinate their reactions to US plans to boost its missile defence in the Asia-Pacific region, which the US says will protect it from a potential North Korean attack.

During his stay of less than 48 hours, Xi is scheduled to attend about 20 events, including making a speech to students at Moscow College of International Relations.

While Chinese and Russian officials have said that ties had reached a historic high, Brown cautioned that the two sides shared "such a fractious history you can never be complacent about how well they get on".

Brown said Xi would want good relations with Putin at a time when Russia was becoming more assertive towards the US.

Xi will attend the BRICS summit in South Africa next week of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.