On September 7, China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping is to attend the fourth Eastern Economic Forum from September 11 to 12 and meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia’s far-eastern port city.
It will be the first time that a Chinese top leader participates in this annual economic event hosted by Russia and the third time Xi and Putin will meet in 2018.
At a special press conference, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui told the press that Xi will attend a series of bilateral and multilateral events during his visit to Russia.
“The most important of those events will be the meeting with President Putin, the third time this year,” Zhang said. “The heads of the two states will also take part in several cultural, trade and other state-level events. President Xi will make a speech at the plenary session of the forum.”
Zhang emphasized that under the two state leaders’ strategic guidance, the China-Russia relationship has entered a new era of high quality and rapid development this year.
In fact, early in 2017, China and Russia had already hailed their “best-ever” bilateral relationship. As The Diplomat reported earlier, during his two-day visit to Russia last July, Xi said that China and Russia were “good neighbors, good friends, and good partners” and the bilateral relations were “the best ever.”
In addition, Xi and Putin also have a close personal relationship. Xi once told Putin that they both shared a similar personality and found each other “congenial.”
Now, as the tensions between China and the United States on trade as well as on security issues have escalated dramatically in 2018, the ties between China and Russia are becoming even closer.
On trade, both China and Russia are eager to reach out to each other now, considering that Russia’s economy has been sluggish for years and China is fighting a tariff war with the United States.
Against that backdrop, trade turnover between Russia and China soared 50 percent in the first half of 2018, and the total is expected to reach $100 billion by the end of the year, according to Russian news agency TASS.
On security, China and Russia further enhanced their military cooperation after the United States singled China and Russia out as revisionist powers that are the “central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.”
Last year, China and Russia held their first joint naval drill in the Baltic Sea. This month, China is to send 3,200 troops, more than 900 pieces of weaponry, and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to take part in the biggest Russian military exercises since the Cold War, according to China Daily.
At the most recent press conference, Chinese diplomat Zhang added that the upcoming Xi-Putin meeting at the forum “will be a very large-scale meeting from the point of view of regional cooperation.”