Much to expect from Chinese president's state visit to Russia
Leksyutina Yana Valerievna
National flags of China and Russia. /CFP
National flags of China and Russia. /CFP

National flags of China and Russia. /CFP

Editor's note: Leksyutina Yana Valerievna is a professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a professor of St. Petersburg State University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Russia will largely have symbolic meaning, confirming Russia's priority position among China's foreign policy partners and the special status of the bilateral relations.

The symbolism of the current visit is that it is the first overseas trip after Xi being elected the Chinese President for the third term, which shades the light onto the country's strategic planning. Moreover, under the current international circumstances, the state visit vividly demonstrates the importance of China-Russia strategic partnership and how strong their partnership is, which also sends a particular message to the U.S. and their allies.

The importance of the visit is not limited to symbolic effects. It has been six months since the last face-to-face summit between Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, with the need for coordination and joining efforts on certain engagement tracks being evident. Regular in-person meetings of the two leaders have become a good tradition in recent years. This time, the two sides will have an opportunity to compare notes offline, discuss key matters eye-to-eye, address possible mutual concerns and guarantee mutual support amidst intensifying pressure from the West.

The crisis around Ukraine and increasing pressure on Russia and China from the West are sure to be in the limelight of the negotiations' agenda. Tactical interests of the parties do not seem to be aligned at the moment. Moscow, having lost hope for any compromise either with Kyiv or with the West, might be interested in securing more grounded support from Beijing in the Ukraine conflict. China, in its turn, would like to prompt the relevant parties to the conflict to resume negotiations to find the diplomatic solution and sees itself as a mediator in this process. The recent normalization of the diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, secured through China's broker efforts, strengthens China's belief in its own diplomatic skills and ability to facilitate the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis as well.

Some provision of the recently published China's Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis may be interpreted as proving China's readiness to provide a platform for negotiation process. Other new international initiatives issued by China, like Global Security Initiative (GSI), show the new priority track for the country's short-term foreign policy agenda, which is enhancing leadership potential in maintaining global and regional security.

Another important topic of discussion during the summit would be the intensification of economic ties in the context of sanctions against Russia. One of the key issues relevant to both China and Russia is finding means to expand economic cooperation and trade while avoiding Western secondary sanctions suffocating the whole world economy. It is also crucial to reduce the heavy dependence on Western marine cargo insurance and rating agencies which intentionally marginalize countries inconvenient to the West.

A China-Europe freight train heading for Moscow is pictured at Mafang railway station in Pinggu District of Beijing, capital of China, March 16, 2023. /Xinhua
A China-Europe freight train heading for Moscow is pictured at Mafang railway station in Pinggu District of Beijing, capital of China, March 16, 2023. /Xinhua

A China-Europe freight train heading for Moscow is pictured at Mafang railway station in Pinggu District of Beijing, capital of China, March 16, 2023. /Xinhua

Here we observe an interesting picture. Western actions intended to affect matters of Chinese-Russian trade and economic cooperation to cause global aftershocks and changes to the international economic system. Institutions created in the West are losing the globally recognized status and open to all states impartial forces of good.

Exterritorial sanctions wielded by the West cause some countries, including but not limited to China and Russia, to develop alternative (non-Western) mechanisms of international payments bypassing SWIFT and using national currencies. At the same time non-Western technological standards are developed and non-Western institutions are being strengthened. It is only logical that China and Russia lead these shifts in the international financial and economic system since they play a special role in the world economy and are especially affected by sanctions.

Russia plays a special role since it is one of the essential players in the international commodity market. China finds itself in a special position since it is the second largest economy in the world, one of the biggest trading powers, one of the most major consumer markets among other reasons. Creating a roadmap for joining forces in this area as well as strengthening economic cooperation amidst anti-Russian sanctions are likely to be central during the summit.

Finally, there is some intrigue about the depth of cooperation in the energy sector and whether any new agreements about natural gas exports are going to be achieved during Xi's visit. Agreements, regarding the construction of the Power of Siberia-1 gas pipeline and the increasing involvement of Chinese financial institutions in liquefied natural gas projects in the Russian Arctic, played a role in Russia overcoming the pressure of Western sanctions after 2014. In many ways, it will be indicative whether new agreements in the gas sector and, in particular, regarding the construction of the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline, will be made public during Chinese President's Russian visit.

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