China and Russia signed a deal to set up a US$4 billion joint investment fund yesterday as Russian President Vladimir Putin began a three-day visit to Beijing.
Putin's visit comes as the two countries seek to counterbalance the geopolitical clout of the United States in Asia and to bolster their joint stance on Syria.
President Hu Jintao and Putin, on his first Asian trip since his re-election, signed a declaration pledging to further develop both nations' strategic partnership. They also pledged to deepen military exchanges and strengthen co-ordination in Asia-Pacific, and co-operate on investments.
However, no deal was reached on plans to sell large quantities of Russian natural gas to China. Negotiations are stuck over pricing.
Hu said both sides were committed to bilateral ties as their top diplomatic priority. 'We will strengthen mutual support, co-operation and our long-term friendship. We will strengthen strategic co-ordination in international issues, better promoting the development of both countries and stability in the region and the world,' Hu said following talks with Putin.
For his part, Putin said the bilateral strategic partnership had reached a 'historic height'. 'We have shared common interests in a lot of areas, including co-ordination in international issues, economic co-operation and technological exchanges,' Putin said.
Putin, who came to China just weeks after cancelling a visit to the US, is due to attend the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation summit today.
Russia and China, seen as close allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have defied calls by world leaders to confront Syria's regime over its crackdown on anti-regime protesters who are demanding freedom.
Despite Syrian rebels saying on Monday they would walk away from the UN-backed truce, both Hu and Putin said the international community should continue to support the UN and Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan's mediation efforts.
Speaking during a visit to Georgia, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Russia and China yesterday to be 'part of the solution' to the crisis in Syria.
In an article in People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, Putin said Russia and China shared the same stance on various world issues. 'All politicians with a clear mind, and all economic and world affairs experts should be aware that no international issue can be discussed and enacted without the involvement of Russia and China, and taking consideration of the interest of both countries,' Putin wrote.
Among the deals signed were one between the China Investment Corporation (CIC) and the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Each will contribute US$1 billion to set up a fund to support firms in various industries, such as logistics and technological exchange. 'This is a very important step for ... co-operation between both countries,' said Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund.
On the issue of energy, Hu and Putin said both countries were committed to co-operation, including in areas such as nuclear energy. Putin will meet Premier Wen Jiabao today.