Pressure from West brings Putin, Xi closer

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony after their meeting in Beijing yesterday. Mr Putin is forging closer ties with China at a time when Russia is in need of trade because of Western sanctions impose
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a signing ceremony after their meeting in Beijing yesterday. Mr Putin is forging closer ties with China at a time when Russia is in need of trade because of Western sanctions imposed over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.PHOTO: REUTERS

Russian leader's visit to Beijing yields 30 cooperation deals

The leaders of Russia and China met yesterday for a second time in three days in what is seen as a desire for both sides to band closer together for mutual benefit in the face of pressure from the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Beijing for a one-day official visit, where he held "very fruitful" talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders last met on Thursday in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, at the meeting of a China-led regional grouping.

Calling Mr Putin his "old friend", Mr Xi said that it is almost a routine for them to meet each other at many important events in a year. Mr Putin's visit yielded more than 30 cooperation deals in areas ranging from economy and trade to sports and culture.

While no actual figures were released, some of these deals involve big-ticket projects such as a high-speed rail link, liquefied natural gas production, nuclear power generation and aerospace investments, including the joint production of a new wide-body aircraft and a large civilian helicopter.

This "pragmatic cooperation" comes at a time when Russia is in need of trade because of Western sanctions imposed over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Calling Mr Putin his "old friend", Mr Xi said it is almost a routine for them to meet each other at many important events in a year. Mr Putin's visit yielded more than 30 cooperation deals in areas ranging from economy and trade to sports and culture.

Mr Xi said at a joint press conference yesterday that both countries should deepen such pragmatic ties, and strengthen political and strategic mutual trust at the same time.

He added that China and Russia are major economies and emerging markets, and called for a "strategic integration" of China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative together with Russia's Eurasian Economic Union. This will bring about broader regional economic development and growth, which will benefit the people of both countries as well as the global community, he said.

The five-member Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. It was established last year to create a regional market with a combined population of 180 million, and a total gross domestic product of US$4.2 trillion (S$5.7 trillion).

China's Silk Road Economic Belt initiative overlaps with the EEU, in the same region where it seeks to establish trade and infrastructure networks overland.

Mr Putin echoed Mr Xi's comments in calling for a greater Eurasian partnership comprising both the Chinese and Russian initiatives. He added that both countries share similar interests in international affairs, and they should maintain close communication and coordination.

They also exchanged views on anti-terrorism, coastal conflicts, denuclearisation of North Korea and the South China Sea disputes.

Both leaders also inked joint statements on strengthening global strategic stability, and promoting the development of information and cyber space after their talks.

This was Mr Putin's fourth trip to China since Mr Xi took office in 2013.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'Pressure from West brings Putin, Xi closer'. Print Edition | Subscribe