ROAR: China’s vice president “deepens climate of trust” with Russia

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Xi Jinping visits Russia to demonstrate that ties with Moscow are as important for Beijing as relations with Washington, analysts say.

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who is on a five-day official visit to Russia, will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Xi and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will open the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia. In 2009, the Year of the Russian Language in China ended “with encouraging results,” Xi said.

The vice president already visited Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East and “the northern capital” St. Petersburg. In 2009, China became the biggest trade partner for St. Petersburg, a friendly city of Shanghai.

Meeting with St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko on March 21, Xi said that the Chinese-Russian strategic partnership “has been consistently developing and reached an unprecedented high level.”

The two countries have been “staunch supporters to each other on issues of core interests” and have been “collaborative in major international and regional affairs,” he added.

The vice president will also attend the second round of strategic dialogue between the ruling United Russia party and China’s Communist Party.

Russian media highlight the fact that Xi is considered the next possible leader of China. Vremya Novostey daily headlined the article on his visit “The guest from the future,” writing that “the Chinese successor has arrived in Russia.”

Xi, 56, is the main candidate for the post of secretary general of the Communist Party, which he may occupy during the 18th Congress to be held in autumn 2012. He is also expected to become the president in spring 2013 at a parliamentary session. Currently, President Hu Jintao occupies the both posts.

The vice president is also a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Political Bureau. He also heads the party school under the central committee.

Meanwhile, some analysts say that the decision about personnel reshuffles in the leadership of China’s Communist Party have not been taken yet.

Russia is the first stop in Xi’s tour of Europe, during which he will also visit Belarus, Finland and Sweden. He started in Vladivostok, where the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation will take place in 2012.

According to the Chinese vice president, he visited Vladivostok to facilitate the realization of the agreement between the two countries’ presidents on the cooperation between China’s North East and Russia’s Far East and East Siberia. During his stay, 15 documents on the cooperation between the neighboring regions were signed.

Beijing considers its relations with Moscow “the example of political partnership,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said, citing Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Sending the possible president’s successor on a visit to Russia, China underlines the importance of the ties with Moscow. Simultaneously, it is sending a signal to Washington about the need “to settle the conflict over arms supplies to Taiwan,” the paper said.

Beijing wants to demonstrate a fundamental character of good-neighborly relations and strategic partnership with Moscow, agrees Vladimir Portyakov, deputy director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

It is especially important “because the Russian media recently have expressed doubts about China’s genuine intentions,” the analyst told the daily. He stressed that skeptics “have no reasons” for these doubts. “Beijing wants to deepen the climate of trust that already exists between the two countries," he said.

“Russia is a strategic partner for China,” Portyakov said. “It is a favorable factor for us in geopolitical terms, and Russia may feel more confident during talks with the US and European powers,” he added. At the same time, Beijing does not want to stress its polemics with Washington, he noted.

As for his visit to Russia, Xi is himself interested in establishing international contacts, Portyakov said. “He has not had many meetings with Russians, although he met a Russian delegation,” he noted. It is good that this politician starts his foreign visits with Russia, the analyst stressed.

However, some observers believe Russia and China are not allies. “Relations between Russia and China can be described as those between partners,” said political analyst Evgeny Verlin. “At the same time, the countries cannot be called allies in full measure,” he told website.

“If one looks at intergovernmental documents – annual declarations on the cooperation and the treaty signed in 2001 – one will notice there are clear limitations on the so-called allied relations,” the analyst stressed. “The Chinese side in every way tried to avoid wordings that could treat our relations as allied ones.”

“It should be understood that for China, relations with the Unites States and the European Union are no less important (and even more important in the trade and economic sphere) than relations with Russia,” Verlin said.

The two countries do not manage sometimes “to find harmony, for example, in trade and economic relations and make them mutually beneficial,” the analyst said.

“Everything depends on what should be considered ideal or an example for partnership,” believes Vilya Gelbras of the Institute of Asian and African Studies. “Russia is really ideal country for China because of its natural resources,” he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. “It is wise to maintain good relations with such a country,” he said.

The question is what one should expect in the future, the analyst said, adding that the US is a much more important partner for Beijing than Russia. “China is building its ideal of relations with Russia according to its own interests,” he stressed.

At the same time, analysts note that making Russia its first stop during the international tour, Xi shows that relations with Moscow as important as those with the US for China.

This opinion is strengthened by continuing dialogue between China’s Communist Party and the ruling United Russia party, which will be part of Xi’s visit. The positions of the both parties are becoming closer, said Aleksandr Larin of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies.

“In fact, both parties do not have competitors,” he told the daily. Leaders of United Russia want to know how the Chinese Communist Party, increasing its influence, managed to achieve the growth of economy and save political stability, he added.

Such events as Xi’s visit are helpful not only in the dialogue between the parties, but they also make peoples closer, said Larin. It is not a secret that “the cultural distance between us is great,” he said, adding that Russians and the Chinese do not know each other well.

“This gap should be narrowed,” the analyst noted. “Many Russian companies work in China, and economic exchange along the Russian-China border is developing rapidly,” Larin noted. To assess the perspectives of business ties with China, “it is necessary to study the language, legislation and labor ethics of the Chinese,” he said.

Sergey Borisov, RT