Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin hail ‘all-time high’ in ties, sign US$3 billion of nuclear deals
Leaders also agree on need for peace on Korean peninsula and vow to make ‘all possible efforts’ to preserve 2015 Iranian deal
China and Russia pledged to support each other on key global issues during a summit in Beijing on Friday, as the two sides hailed an “all-time high” in bilateral ties amid strained relations with the US.
The two countries also signed a raft of deals, including for nuclear cooperation projects totalling 20 billion yuan (US$3.13 billion) and a US$1 billion industrial investment fund.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin ahead of next week’s US-North Korea summit and after the United States withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal.
“President Putin and I both think that the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership is mature, firm and stable,” Xi told reporters after their meeting. “It is the highest-level, most profound and strategically most significant relationship between major countries in the world.”
Xi was also quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying: “No matter how international situations change, China and Russia always firmly support each other in defending their respective core interests”.
Putin said that Russia would work with China on the North Korean nuclear issue, ahead of the highly anticipated meeting on Tuesday between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
Russia and China “are interested in establishing peace and stability on the Korean peninsula”, Putin said in a joint press briefing with Xi after their talks.
Xi also presented Putin with China’s first “friendship medal”, calling him a “good and old friend of the Chinese people” during a live broadcast on state television.
“President Putin is the leader of a great country, and is influential around the world,” Xi said. “He is my best, most intimate friend.”
China and Russia have been moving closer amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington on economic and military fronts, and as Moscow struggles with US-led sanctions.
Xi and Putin also vowed to make “all possible efforts” to preserve the 2015 international accord on Iran’s nuclear programme that Trump abandoned last month.
The meeting was held ahead of the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security grouping jointly led by Beijing and Moscow, in the coastal city of Qingdao over the weekend.
Nuclear power deals signed by the two leaders in Beijing – the biggest such cooperation agreements between the two countries, reached after more than two years of negotiations – cover three projects including the Tianwan plant in Jiangsu and the Xudabao facility in Liaoning, state-run China National Nuclear Corporation said in a statement.
Partnering with a Russian nuclear firm such as Rosatom made sense for China, according to Artyom Lukin, deputy research director of the School of Regional and International Studies at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia.
“The nuclear energy state-owned corporation Rosatom is one of Russia’s most internationally competitive companies,” Lukin said. “Thus it would be absolutely logical for China to partner with Rosatom in order to obtain advanced nuclear technologies for its atomic power industry, as well as diversify its nuclear power contracts beyond Western suppliers.”
Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said that the nuclear cooperation deals were “pure pragmatism and a rare example of a genuine win-win” between the two countries.
“The Tianwan reactors purchase builds on previous projects in Tianwan; the Liaoning deal involves a new platform and access to cutting-edge Russian technology – same goes for the fast neutron demonstration reactor,” Gabuev said.
“Russia boosts its position in the Chinese market, which is highly competitive with Westinghouse and Areva present there, and China is building its own nuclear expertise by forming partnerships with global leaders in this market.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Reuters