Xi Jinping has arrived in Moscow on his first trip abroad as China’s new president.
On the eve of the Chinese leader’s three-day visit to Russia, President Vladimir Putin said relations between China and Russia have never been better, pointing to a more than doubling in bilateral trade over the last five years.
Trade between China and Russia amounted to a a record-high $88 billion in 2012, up 11 percent year on year, and China has been Russia’s biggest trade partner for three years running.
Speaking to ITAR-TASS, Putin said the fact Xi — who became party chief last November and was formally elected president last week — had chosen Russia as his first foreign trip as China’s new leader underscored the “special nature” of the strategic partnership between the two countries.
Earlier this week, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said Xi and Putin will sign a “manifesto” charting future relations.
Russia’s ambassador to China, Sergey Razov, said Russia was confident Xi’s visit will be a success.
“During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, state heads of both sides are expected to sign a manifesto spelling out the directions for the future development of Sino-Russian relations, key cooperation fields between the two countries, and positions and proposals on key international and regional issues,” Razov said.
According to Razov, companies from the two countries are currently negotiating cooperation plans on natural gas, oil, heavy helicopters and passenger planes. China has also expressed an interest in purchasing Russian Su-35 fighter jets.
A spokesman for Putin told reporters no gas deal with China would be signed during Xi’s visit.
Russian gas giant Gazprom, and China, the world’s top energy consumer, have been in talks over gas supplies for years, but a deal has been held up over pricing.
The state-controlled energy exporter is hoping to sign a contract this year to supply China with at least 38 billion cubic meters of gas a year from eastern Siberia via a pipeline that is yet to be built.
China already receives about 8 percent of its crude oil imports from Russia via a pipeline to the northeastern city of Daqing.