Meeting of good neighbors

Updated: 2013-03-22 07:05

By Feng Yujun (China Daily)

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Xi Jinping's visit to Russia shows importance of ties and will further advance economic and strategic cooperation

President Xi Jinping will visit Russia from March 22 to 24 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be the first overseas trip for Xi as president, demonstrating the importance the new Chinese leadership attaches to relations with Russia and the important position the countries have in each other's foreign policy and national strategy.

During the visit, the two leaders will further consolidate political mutual trust, laying a solid political foundation for the healthy development of bilateral relations. It is expected that a number of agreements on energy, high-tech and financial cooperation will be finalized, further advancing bilateral pragmatic cooperation. On the diplomatic front, both parties will exchange views, seek consensus and coordinate positions over regional situations of common concern, hot-spot issues and global governance.

Both leaders will also attend the opening ceremony of the "China Tourism Year" in Russia, which aims to promote cultural exchanges between the two countries.

The world is undergoing profound and complex changes: The global economy has not yet emerged from the shadow of the financial crisis, the global balance of power is undergoing a historic shift and the international strategic situation is experiencing a strategic adjustment. Despite peace and development being the trend of the times, geopolitical competition has not come to an end.

Against this background, some in China suggest aligning with Russia in order to balance the US' strategic containment of China; some in Russia want to watch from a hilltop while two tigers fight, seeking to profit from any China-US rifts; and some Western strategists deliberately exaggerate the differences between China and Russia and call for Russia to join in the building of a "Great West" to contain China's rise.

All these policy suggestions consciously or unconsciously ignore the historical development of relations between China and Russia, the strategic needs of their joint rise and their common responsibility in the face of global challenges.

In the current volatile global situation, China-Russia relations must adhere to the strategic principle of "good-neighborliness and friendliness, equality and mutual trust, nonalignment, nonconfrontation and not targeting third countries, and both sides view each other's revitalization as their own opportunity for development, making efforts to tap their endogenous potential to achieve common development". Meanwhile, China and Russia should face up to the lack of leadership in a multipolar world, plan their future development with strategic thinking, and unite to jointly cope with global challenges.

Today, big power relations are becoming more complex, but the biggest value of Sino-Russian relations is still at the bilateral level, as the two countries are each other's strategic rear. Over the past 20 years, the most important achievement of Sino-Russian relations has been the solving of their border issue on the basis of equality and mutual trust and the building of mutual military trust in the border areas.

Strategic cooperation between China and Russia is not targeting a third party; it aims to advance their own development and address global challenges. The two countries should now focus on uniting the international community to jointly cope with the security risks that might result from the security situation in Afghanistan in 2014. In particular, they should further stimulate the vitality of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, making it a strategic platform to maintain Eurasian security and stability, promote Eurasian economic development and dialogue among civilizations in Eurasia.

They should also seek to create a trans-Pacific security architecture with Asia-Pacific countries, including the United States and Japan, on the basis of the new security concept.

Both China and Russia are at a critical stage in their national renaissance, and the smooth development of bilateral relations is an important external guarantee for both countries to achieve their national development strategies. The Sino-Soviet confrontation in the 1960s and 1970s cost the two sides too many resources as they gave too much attention to war preparations, resulting in lost historic opportunities to achieve modernization. They must not repeat the same mistake today.

The strategic focus of the major powers in the post-crisis era is on emerging industries. China is actively promoting the transformation of its mode of economic development, and Russia has put the modernization of energy, re-industrialization, innovation, development of its eastern regions and agricultural modernization as the major driving forces for the Russian economy. But only by making their respective advantages complementary to each other and realizing common development can China and Russia be at the forefront of a new round of international economic competition.

For example, the US' shale gas revolution has triggered profound adjustments in the international natural gas market. China's huge market can enable Russia to readjust its gas export strategy. The two countries are also cooperating in high-tech industries such as atomic energy, aerospace, large aircraft manufacturing and new materials.

China and Russia should also deepen cooperation among emerging economies under the BRICS mechanism, and promote changes in the global economic governance system that reflect the profound changes that are taking place in the global economic structure.

The author is director of the Institute of Russian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.