Xi and Putin friendship a sign of the strong China-Russia ties

Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language “Commentaries on International Affairs.”

During this week’s fourth Eastern Economic Forum, China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held their third meeting in four months. The frequent interaction between these two heads of state has become a distinctive feature of China-Russian relations.

Over the past five years, the pair have met more than 20 times, and in some surprisingly informal settings. During President Putin’s visit to China in June, he and President Xi visited Tianjin, where President Putin tried his hand at making Tianjin’s local specialty, “Goubuli” steamed buns.

China's President Xi Jinping holds talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok on September 11, 2018. [Photo: Xinhua/Xie Huanchi]

China’s President Xi Jinping holds talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok on September 11, 2018. [Photo: Xinhua/Xie Huanchi]

The bond between the two leaders has become a strong driving force for the development of relations between their two countries. They have worked continuously on building a comprehensive strategic partnership, personally promoting important projects in the fields of investment, energy, transportation, infrastructure construction, and aerospace. At the same time, the strengthening bilateral relationship has also allowed for advances in technology, agriculture, and e-commerce cooperation.

They also understand that strong ties between the people of their two countries are essential for the success of the bilateral relationship. This is why in Moscow in July last year, President Xi and President Putin signed the “Joint Statement Between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Further Deepening the China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination”. This statement emphasized the role that people-to-people bonds and cultural communication have in building the foundation for a friendship that can prosper for generations to come.

The relationship between the people of the two countries was touched on at this week’s forum in Russia, when President Xi told the story of the more than 900 children who came to the All-Russian Children’s Center “Ocean” in Vladivostok after being evacuated from towns and villages affected by the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 in China’s Sichuan Province. The meticulous care they received gave rise to a lasting relationship with Russia. One of the children, Xi Junfei, made a wish that he would return to Russia to study when he grew up. The drifting bottle containing his wish went back to the Children’s Center “Ocean” staff after a few months of drifting in the sea. Years later, his wish has come true – he is now a student at the Far Eastern Federal University.

Under the guidance and leadership of the two heads of state, the social and public opinion base of Sino-Russian friendship is becoming more and more solid. Through the national theme year activities such as the Year of China and the Year of Russia, the Language Year, the Tourism Year, the Youth Friendly Exchange Year, the Media Exchange Year, and the Local Cooperation and Exchange Year, the exchanges between the Chinese and Russian people have become increasingly close and mutual understanding has gradually deepened.

Almost 1.7 million trips were made by tourists from China to Russia last year, and tourists from Russia visited China more than 2.3 million times. Up to 2016, more than 70,000 students from the two countries crossed the border to study, a figure expected to increase to 100,000 by 2020. In China, you can easily find Alexander Pushkin’s poetry collection or Lev Tolstoy’s novels when you walk into any bookstore. In Russia, on the same day that President Xi and President Putin met in Vladivostok, the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg staged the opera “The Dawns Here Are Quiet” by China’s National Center for the Performing Arts, which is adapted from a novel by Russian writer Boris Vasilyev.

The relationship between China and Russia can be a model for the relationships between countries across Asia. As China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has noted, under the care and cultivation of the two heads of state, the trickles of mutual understanding and affinity between the two peoples will constantly converge into the magnificent river of China-Russia everlasting friendship, and become the inexhaustible driving force for the development of bilateral relations.