Skip to main content

Xi Jinping visit aims to boost ties with Moscow

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
updated 8:13 PM EDT, Sun March 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Xi Jinping to make first foreign visit to Moscow on Saturday
  • The choice is symbolic and demonstrates warming ties between the two countries
  • Trade between the two countries reached $88.1 billion in 2012
  • Officials hope Moscow and Beijing will ink long-stalled pipeline project

(CNN) -- China's President Xi Jinping's choice of Moscow as his first foreign capital visit is being seen by analysts as a symbolic move that demonstrates the increasing interdependence of the one-time Cold War foes.

From energy deals, trade and geo-politics, China and Russia have been in lock-step over a range of thorny international issues such as Syria, Iran and North Korea.

A key element of the talks will be how to steer the future of the increasingly intertwined economies. Trade between Moscow and Beijing grew 11.6% to a record $88.1 billion in 2012, according to figures from the China Institute of International Relations.

"They want to move that to $100 billion in years to come - there's also a sense that they will want to push the domestic agenda and the foreign policy agenda as well," said CNN's David McKenzie.

The road ahead for China's new leader
Achieving the 'Chinese dream'
What's next for China's foreign policy?

While China and Russia already form a powerful bloc on the U.N. Security Council, the warmer ties are also evidence of their perceived need to countervail a U.S.-led dominance in global affairs.

"In Putin, the Chinese see someone who is a counterbalance to America in some areas," said Professor Kerry Brown, executive director of the University of Sydney's China Studies Center. "Russia is nowhere near as big as it was before but at least they see someone who can provide at least a bit of triangulation between China and the U.S."

Long-stalled talks on a Russia-China gas pipeline gas deal will likely top the agenda during Xi's summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping and Russian ambassador to China Sergei Razov had recently struck a hopeful note in briefing in Beijing, saying that "significant progress" had been made and that both nations were looking forward to a breakthrough on the deal.

Senior executives from state oil giants Petro China and Sinopec are accompanying Xi to Moscow where it is hoped the new Chinese president will give fresh impetus to pipeline talks.

In Putin, the Chinese see someone who is a counterbalance to America in some areas
Professor Kerry Brown

Nevertheless, the Russians have been cautious on the deal.

"On the Russian side, state media and others, are less confident that that deal will come through," McKenzie said. "Certainly the Russians worry that this relationship will become more unequal over time.

"Russia's own economy has stagnated somewhat not having the robust growth we've seen in China."

Cheng told a briefing that Russia and China would co-ordinate reactions to U.S. plans to boost its missile defense in the Asia-Pacific region to counter the possibility of a potential North Korean attack.

The road ahead for China's new leader
Pomp, party politics for Xi Jinping

While Chinese and Russian officials have hailed the 48-hour visit as a demonstration of ties which they say are at an historic high, Professor Brown said that relations between the formerly fractious neighbors was often driven more by expedience than any real convergence of interests.

"It's hard to think of a more paranoid relationship in some ways: 1950s, very close; 1960s, biggest enemies. There's never really been a heart-to-heart moment in many ways.

"There's a quite deep distrust on one hand but on the other hand a pragmatic acceptance that this is a big relationship."

Xi and Putin will also likely compare notes ahead of the regional summit in South Africa next week of the BRICS group of developing economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Even here, analysts say, China's perception is that this bloc is heavily influenced by the U.S.

"The conviction in Beijing is that America is everywhere and they've got to find other ways of exercising their interests without America being right up beside them," Professor Brown said.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:13 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
updated 5:08 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
updated 12:52 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
updated 3:42 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
updated 12:10 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
updated 2:31 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 2:56 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
updated 4:36 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
updated 11:34 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
ADVERTISEMENT