As Beijing intensifies its courtship of Moscow and Central Asian countries, Vice-Premier Wu Yi is heading to Russia for a three-city visit to promote Chinese business and meet Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Ms Wu will spend tomorrow and Sunday in St Petersburg, Monday in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi and Tuesday in Moscow.
'Her visit is one of the most important events this year for our relations ... especially as Wu Yi has authority on trade and economic matters,' said Andrei Kulik, deputy head of Asian relations at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
At the 11th St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Ms Wu will attend a plenary session on competition in Eurasia. Russian President Vladimir Putin, leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States and World Economic Forum head Klaus Schwab will also attend, Chinese embassy spokesman Wang Zhen said.
Ms Wu will also talk to Mr Medvedev, one of three frontrunners in next year's Russian presidential race.
Celebrations for Chinese construction and telecommunications companies in St Petersburg and Moscow are also on the agenda.
Ms Wu's tour comes as Beijing intensifies its economic and strategic partnership with Moscow.
'Given the state of Russian-western relations, China sees an opening for levelling its weight,' said Tim Brenton, a senior specialist in politics at Renaissance Capital in Moscow.
Moscow has sparred with the west in recent months over its ban on Polish meat, a Red Army memorial in Estonia and a missile defence system Washington wants to install in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The forum's plenary session on Eurasia will give Ms Wu and Mr Putin a chance to express their views on the region.
'It's important for Russia to block the west and maintain a hold on the area,' Mr Brenton said. 'And for the Chinese, synergy [in Eurasia] is the best way to get access to energy.'
But Vilya Gelbras, an expert in Russia-China relations at Moscow State University, said the visit would do nothing for underlying problems that threatened the partnership.