Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin promised ever-closer cooperation and oversaw a series of deals Saturday, as the two countries deepen ties in the face of growing tensions with the West.
In what was Putin’s fourth trip to China since Xi became President in 2013, the two men stressed their shared outlook which mirrors the countries’ converging trade, investment and geopolitical interests.
“Russia and China stick to points of view which are very close to each other or are almost the same in the international arena,” Putin said.
The Russian leader added that the two had discussed “strengthening together the fight against international terrorism”, the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, Syria, and stability in the South China Sea.
Russia and China have been brought together by mutual geopolitical concerns, among them wariness of the United States.
The two countries often vote as a pair on the UN Security Council, where both hold a veto, sometimes in opposition to Western powers on issues such as Syria.
China has raised tensions with its neighbours and the US over its claims to virtually all of the South China Sea, where it has built militarised artificial islands to bolster its claims in the contested but strategically vital region.
Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and support for other Ukrainian separatist movements have led to the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
At loggerheads with the West, Moscow is seeking to refocus its gas and oil exports from Europe — its main energy market — towards Asia and is diligently building an energy alliance with Beijing.
– ‘Friends forever’ –
Xi emphasised that this year marked the 15th anniversary of the China-Russia treaty of friendship and hoped that the two countries might remain “friends forever”.
“President Putin and I equally agree that when faced with international circumstances that are increasingly complex and changing, we must persist even harder in maintaining the spirit of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership and cooperation,” he said.
The two sides signed over 30 cooperation deals in areas such as trade, infrastructure, foreign affairs, technology and innovation, agriculture, finance, energy, sports and the media.
Notably, Russian oil giant Rosneft inked a deal with China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec) on developing a gas processing and petrochemical plant in East Siberia, as China seeks energy to fuel its economic growth.
Xi and Putin signed two joint statements themselves, one “to strengthen global strategic stability” and one to promote the development of information and cyberspace.
Putin said that 58 different deals worth a total of around $50 billion were currently in discussion, adding that the two countries will seek to secure an agreement on building a high-speed rail line in Russia by the end of the year.
Xi also called for closer cooperation between news agencies in Russia and China so that both countries could “together increase the influence” of their media on world public opinion.
Under Xi, Communist China has mounted crackdowns on dissidents and tightened restrictions on the media, while critics accuse Putin’s Russia of rights abuses.