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article imageOp-Ed: New Chinese leader chooses Russia for his first foreign visit

By Ken Hanly     Mar 23, 2013 in Politics
Moscow - The new Chinese leader Xi Jinping chose Russia for his first foreign visit since his inauguration. He arrived in Moscow for a three day visit.
It's probably significant that newly-elected Chinese leader Xi Jinping chose Moscow, where he arrived Friday for a three-day visit, to be his first foreign visit. No doubt both countries feel that the US is a threat to both of them. Russia is concerned about the US missile defense system and also is at odds with the US over Syria. China sees that the US "pivot to Asia" is attempting to project American power in Asia and is building alliances to prevent Chinese influence from expanding.
This weekend, Jinping will meet in the Kremlin with Putin and Prime Minister Dmity Medvedev.. They will discuss bilateral trade issues involving Russian gas, oil, arms and other goods. China exports many consumer goods to Russia. Officials say they expect almost 30 different agreements to be signed, many in the field of energy.
Putin told the official Russian news agency:"Our relations are characterized by a high degree of mutual trust, respect for each other's interests, support in vital issues. They are a true partnership and are genuinely comprehensive. The fact that the new Chinese leader makes his first foreign trip to our country confirms the special nature of strategic partnership between Russia and China."
Both Russia and China have disputes with Japan over territory. Japan constantly complains about Russian occupation of some of the Kuril Islands which they seized in the final days of World War II. China and Japan are in dispute about islands as well.
Alexander Konovalov, from the Institute of Strategic Assessment in Moscow said:"The US is shifting its priorities from Europe to Asia. That suggests some sort of competition in this arena is inevitable. Everyone is trying to find the strongest partners for this new situation, and Russia is one of the most desirable partners to have [for China]…. And this fits with the needs of Putin, who needs some dramatic successes in foreign policy at this point. He may well seek to forge a stronger partnership with China." .
Alexei Pushkov, chair of the State Duma's international affairs committee said: "A number of things are converging at the same time. Countries like Russia and China look at the traditional power centers – the US and Europe – and see that these countries cannot provide answers. Everyone has the feeling that the old world order is finished. This cascade of events drives Russia and China further from reliance on the Euro-Atlantic world. After all, what kind of example do they provide if they just confiscate money from peoples' accounts? Russia, China, the other BRICS countries, are looking for a new model…. It's not driven by some sort of anti-Western logic. There is a crisis of trust. There is a feeling that our countries are on their own. We don't have a point of reference anymore."
Pushkov pointed out that China does not lecture Russia on human rights issues, the relationship between the two countries is based on economic factors:"The Chinese economy is a factory, and we have the energy to power that factory. That's a pretty solid basis.".
Trade between Russia and China increased more than 11% in 2012 from $88.1 billion last year. Officials forecast trade to reach $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020. Bilateral trade has doubled between the two countries over the last five years. However Russia-China trade is still five times smaller than Russia-EU trade and even far smaller than Chinese trade with the US.
China is now importing about 8% of its crude oil facilitated by a new pipeline from Russia. Natural gas will also be on the economic agenda, as a major new gas pipeline is to be constructed by Gazprom. As with customers in Europe, the Chinese are having difficulties negotiating an acceptable price with Gazprom.
President Xi said that former border disputes with Russia had been resolved "once and forever" The two countries now seem united by mutual economic interests and a desire to counter western power in their areas of influence.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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