China, Russia unleash common potential in unpredictable times
Tian Wei
I am standing in the city of St. Petersburg, rich in inspiration and history.
The city was named after the Russian Czar Peter the Great who founded St. Petersburg in the early 18th century. After he visited Western Europe, he dreamed of building a magnificent place with a European character, considered the best of the time. Thanks to that, the city today is one that Russians are proud of, and international visitors like to frequent.
The example of incorporating the world's best practices to increase one's domestic potential set by Peter the Great, inspired Chinese reformist scholar Kang Youwei. So much so, that 180 years ago, Kang wrote an advisory memorandum to an emperor of China's last feudal dynasty, urging "to adopt the purpose of Peter the Great of Russia." But his efforts failed.
Time flies by... China and the former Soviet Union were interacting with each other frequently during the Cold War era. 
Forty years ago, China embarked on a new journey of its own, mostly known as the "reform and opening-up." Combining the world's biggest market, the hard work of the Chinese people, and learning the world's best practices, the country once again became conspicuous on the world map.
However, that coincides with the U.S. looking at the world solely through the lens of strategic competition. It not only picks up a trade war with China but also slashes tariffs to its traditional trading partners and allies. It withdraws from international treaties regarding non-proliferation and climate change, using sanctions against countries, and putting pressure on partners to follow suit. As the largest economy in the world, it is only creating an enormous amount of uncertainty.
China and Russia are attempting to provide some answers for themselves and to the rest of the world by increasing their cooperation aiming at what they believe to be "win-win" results.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a state visit to Russia and speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum this week, some hope it would take relations to a new level, following a 24.5 percent growth in trade in 2018 to a record 108 billion U.S. dollars.
When President Xi speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, just a few weeks before the G20 summit, many also see it as an opportunity for the world to check what China proposes amid the trade tensions with the U.S. and the uncertainty regarding the future of the world.
Will China continue to reform and open up? How will it match its visions with actions? How is China describing the nature of its relations with others in the world now, including that with Russia?
At a time of challenges – some panic, some complain – but others try to figure out how to cope as much as they can. Just like doing a jigsaw puzzle, one has to start putting the odd pieces together, and only after so much effort would the complete, clear picture eventually appear.
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