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22 Mar, 2013 08:47

Geopolitical giants: New China leader in Moscow boosting ties

The new Chinese leader chose Russia as his first stop on his maiden overseas voyage. As this visit signals the two powerful neighbors growing ever closer, analysts assess their potential in countering the US-led Western domination of global affairs.

Xi Jinping is in many respects returning the courtesy bestowed last year, when President Vladimir Putin included Beijing in the first foreign trip of his third presidential term.

This exchange of first foreign visits is seen as the two powers’ effort to bolster their common clout in the world arena now that Russian-Chinese relations “are the best in their centuries-long history,” as Vladimir Putin put it in his recent interview to ITAR-TASS.

Xi has already confessed to “breakthrough agreements” reached, chief among which was the presidents’ overseeing of a deal between Russian oil giant Rosneft and China’s state-owned CNPC. The agreement will see Russia increase oil supplies to China. The former is the world’s largest energy producer, while the latter is its biggest consumer. "We can already say this is a historic visit with positive results," Putin said of the agreement.

During negotiations the leaders also compared notes on the most important issues in global relations. Among them were situations in the Middle East, Northern Africa, the crisis on the Korean peninsula, the development of BRICS countries and national standings in the G-20.

Both sides confirmed a commitment to strengthening economic cooperation, discussed new investment programs, particularly in high-tech spheres of the economy. The leaders expressed hope that the volume of shared business would reach $100 billion annually, increasing from the current $80 billion. $150 billion in terms of mutual business has already been pegged as the next target.

An agreement on tackling illegal immigration has been signed, while the two have also kick-started a Year of Chinese Tourism in Russia.  Adding to bilateral ties Russia and China will start an extensive student exchange project from 2014-2015.

Putin particularly stressed that Russian authorities sincerely appreciate the fact that the new Chinese leader has made his first international visit to Russia. “This definitely reflects the strategic character of Russian-Chinese relations,” Putin said. “I’m going to visit Russia very often and Mr. Putin will also be a frequent visitor to China,” Xi Jinping promised.

According to the Russian president, the two countries are working on quite an ambitious common goal “to shape a new, more just world order.” What they have so far been doing to achieve it is they jointly countered US and its allies’ position on most pressing issues like the Syrian crisis, the situation around Iran, and Middle East settlement.

“Both countries share a strong common interest in seeking a more multipolar world and preventing the United States from dominating the global political and economic order,” Joseph Cheng, political analyst and professor at Hong Kong City University told RT.

China and Russia have on many occasions made use of their right of veto in the UN Security Council to curb intervention and aggression.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reviews Russian honour guard during official welcome ceremony at Vnukovo airport outside Moscow.(AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov)

Moscow and Beijing have seen the impact of NATO backed attacks… They don’t want the instability that Washington seeks in the Middle East… Beijing and Moscow want to do business,” author and journalist Afshin Rattansi believes.

The more the US pushes its agenda in certain parts of the world, the closer they push Russia and China together, believes James Corbett, political analyst and host of the Corbett Report.

That is the inevitable result of the type of US-Asia Pacific pivot that is threatening China on one side and the NATO-increasing military encirclement of Russia on the other side,” Corbett said in an interview with RT.

Another factor binding China and Russia together and bringing Xi Jinping to Moscow is economics. China is booming and Russia is right next door. The potential for gas deals and pipelines are vast as soon as the two can agree on a price. Russia also sees China as a way to diversify its economy like helping tap untouched water sources in the east and investing in the West.

Bilateral trade grew 11 per cent last year, reaching a record $88 billion. It is expected to hit $100 billion in 2015 and $200 billion in 2020.

Russia is also one of the world's biggest energy producers, while China consumes more energy than any other nation. In February, the two countries agreed on Russia supplying 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China. That figure can potentially grow as economically boosting Beijing needs more.

Within days, the two countries will move beyond strengthening only bilateral ties. The BRICS summit on March 26 and 27 will bring them together with the other emerging economies of the group. And experts now see these nations as much more than an acronym coined by a guy at Goldman Sachs.

They all agree on the fundamentals: ‘We want a multi polar world, we want to have more say on everything that happens geopolitically,’” Pepe Escobar, Asia Times correspondent, told RT.

This point of view is shared by Cheng, who believes “all five members [of BRICS] would like to seek a larger role in the international community. And they also understand that effective coordination within the BRICS group will help all of them to achieve this goal.”

And that’s what they are going to start to implement at a coming summit in Durban, as there’s a plan to announce the formal establishment of a BRICS Business Council. Experts believe the more joint projects the better for the fledgling club if it wants to increase its influence globally.