Freshly elected President Xi Jinping chose the Russian capital as the first foreign city he will visit as China’s head of state, as Moscow and Beijing move toward a full-fledged partnership for the next decade.
On the global arena, both Russia and China have a similar approach, and Jinping’s visit has been interpreted as a sign that the new Chinese administration is keen to re-inforce ties with Russia.
In the past, the two countries had a difficult and politically ambiguous relationship and were once Cold War rivals but their international interests are becoming more aligned.
“I think it’s very flattering for Russia to have the new Chinese leader here … but I wouldn’t say that Russia and China form any kind of axis or ,heaven forbid, any kind of military alliance – there are many reasons for this not happening but I think the main one is that if such an axis had been formed, Russia would be the junior partner and this kind of development doesn’t suit Moscow right now.“
– Dimitry Babich, political analyst at Russia Profile magazine
The two countries have often jointly used their veto powers at the United Nationa Security Council, most recently with issues related to the Middle East, where they have blocked Western-backed measures regarding the Syrian conflict.
China and Russia also share a sizeable border and have tried to bolster their regional clout as a counterweight to a United States that is ‘pivoting’ towards Asia.
And as well as being permanent members of the Security Council, the two countries have worked shoulder-to-shoulder on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the so-called G20.
President Xi Jinping will also be talking trade on his visit in Moscow. The two countries have burgeoning business interests.
Bilateral trade has more than doubled in the last five years and reached $83bn in 2012 but the volume of trade is still low compared to their other trade partners. It is five times smaller than Russia’s trade with the European Union, and also far smaller than China’s trade with the United States; but the trade in energy is seen as a growth market for the two countries.
Russia is of course the world’s largest energy producer and China the biggest consumer. The two countries are in discussion about a gas pipeline that could eventually deliver 38bn cubic metres of Russian gas a year to China
So, how significant is this visit? Will it shape a new relationship between Moscow and Beijing?
To discuss this Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, is joined by guests: Victor Gao, the director of China National Association of International Studies, who was also a former China policy advisor; Dimitry Babich, a political analyst at Russia Profile magazine; and Roderic Wye, a China analyst at Chatham House and senior fellow with the China Policy Institute at Nottingham University.
“Obviously there is a lot of substance [in the meeting] about the energy relationship, there are big issues to talk about on the international stage – not least, North Korea and the problems there – but also it is an important symbol to show for both Russia and China that they have independent foreign policies … and that they are not beholden to the United States in any particular way.”
– Roderic Wye, China analyst at Chatham House