Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese guest Xi Jinping have signed more than a dozen documents on increased cooperation in fields ranging from trade and industry to science and the military. The two leaders also touched on the prospects for peace in Ukraine.
“This is an example of how world powers, who are permanent members of the UN Security Council and have a special responsibility for maintaining stability and security on the planet, should interact,” Putin said at the ceremonial dinner following the hours-long talks at the highest level in the Kremlin.
As part of his toast, the Russian president quoted from the ‘I Ching’ (‘The Book of Changes’), to say the Russian and Chinese people have a “common soul” and can overcome any obstacle with their joint strength.
Speaking to reporters after the talks, Putin said that relations between China and Russia were “at their highest point in history” and that trade and economic cooperation were the priority of both governments.
Economy and trade
China’s trade with Russia hit a record high in 2022, growing by 30% as the West tried to embargo Moscow. Bilateral trade is on pace to hit over $200 billion this year – though two thirds of it have been denominated in yuans and rubles, as both countries move away from the dollar.
Putin has endorsed the use of yuan in trade settlements with other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Xi and Putin also discussed increasing the scale of trade, further developing logistics and cross-border infrastructure, expanding agricultural cooperation to ensure food security for both countries, and improving cooperation in the exchange of energy, minerals, metals and chemical products. China and Russia pledged to expand cooperation in the fields of technology, information technology and AI.
“By joining our rich scientific potentials and production capabilities, Russia and China can become world leaders in the fields of information technology, network security, and artificial intelligence,” Putin told reporters.
A new military partnership
Putin described relations between Russia and China as different from the military-political alliances that developed during the Cold War, saying they are “superior to that form of interstate cooperation, and are not of a confrontational nature.”
Moscow and Beijing agreed to “regularly conduct joint maritime and air patrols and joint exercises,” develop military exchange and cooperation using all available bilateral mechanisms, and increase mutual trust between their armed forces.
Fostering relations with Russia is “a strategic choice China has made on the basis of its own fundamental interests and the prevailing trends of the world,” Xi said after the first round of meetings on Monday, explaining that the two nations shared a commitment to building a multipolar world.
Ukraine peace proposal
The Russian president has commended the peace roadmap proposed by China last month, saying that many of its elements “can be taken as a foundation for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for it in the West and in Kiev.”
However, Putin pointed out, neither Ukraine nor its backers in the West are currently prepared to discuss peace. Representatives of the White House and the US State Department have come out this week in opposition to any ceasefire in Ukraine, contradicting their own prior insistence that they would support Kiev in whatever it decides.
“We’re always for peace and dialogue, and we firmly stand on the right side of history,” said Xi.
Many signed agreements
Xi arrived in Moscow on Monday for a three-day visit. By Tuesday evening, the summit had produced a total of 14 statements, protocols, memoranda and agreements.
In two joint statements, Russia and China have pledged to “deepen relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction entering a new era,” and create a development plan for key areas of economic cooperation by 2030.
The ministries of science signed a protocol on strengthening cooperation in the field of “fundamental scientific research,” while another protocol established a mechanism for regular presidential meetings going forward.
The governments in Moscow and Beijing agreed to cooperate in producing joint television programming, with the Russian public broadcaster VGTRK and China Media Group signing a memorandum of cooperation. State news agencies Tass and Xinhua also agreed to exchange information.
Six additional memoranda of understanding touched on trade, forestry, agriculture, consumer protections, and infrastructure in Russia’s Far East. Rosatom and the Chinese atomic energy agency agreed on “a comprehensive program of long-term cooperation in the field of fast neutron reactors and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.”
Ahead of Xi’s trip, he and Putin published opinion articles in their countries’ respective flagship newspapers. The Chinese president has also invited Putin to visit Beijing later this year, for the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.