President's first trip takes in Russia, Africa

Updated: 2013-03-22 07:08

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

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 President's first trip takes in Russia, Africa

President Xi Jinping is expected to sign deals in Russia and will attend the BRICS summit in South Africa. Vincent Yu / The Associated Press

A bow to tradition and an acknowledgement of economics in Xi's foreign itinerary

President Xi Jinping's upcoming visits to Russia and Africa and his attendance at the BRICS summit epitomize China's emphasis on diplomacy in its attempt to drum up cooperation among developing countries, analysts say.

One week after being named president, Xi will begin visits to Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo from March 22-30. He will attend the BRICS summit in Durban from March 26-27. The summit will be attended by the leaders of the BRICS member states: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In Russia, President Xi is expected to strike deals to boost oil trade between the two countries and to build a natural gas pipeline, Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said.

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Xi will be in Russia for barely 36 hours, and will have a tight schedule of nearly 20 activities, including talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and other Russian leaders. Xi will also attend the opening ceremony for the Chinese Tourism Year in Russia, a series of events to promote the country's culture.

Cheng confirmed that Peng Liyuan, Xi's wife and a famous soprano, will accompany him to various events in Russia.

The vice-foreign minister described Xi's visit as a continuation of a tradition in which China and Russia hold exchanges after one of their leaders takes office.

Feng Yujun, head of Russian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said China is Russia's largest trading partner and that deals to be signed during the visit will help ensure economic stability for both nations.

"This is also of great significance to reviving the global economy," Feng said.

Xi will visit Tanzania on March 24 and meet its President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. China is Tanzania's largest trading partner and its second-largest source of investment. Trade and cultural deals will be signed during the visit.

Vice-Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said China-Africa relations represent a cornerstone of China's foreign policy, and that developing friendly relations with African countries is in line with China's national policy.

Guo Xiangang, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said economies in Africa are gaining steam, with annual trade volume between China and Africa growing to nearly $200 billion (155 billion euros).

"President Xi's visit signals an enhancement of China-Africa ties," Guo said.

After arriving in South Africa on March 25, Xi will meet President Jacob Zuma and Vice-President Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe to discuss China-Africa relations and sign trade and education agreements.

China and South Africa established diplomatic relations 15 years ago and bilateral trade reached $59.9 billion last year, nearly a third of total trade between China and all of Africa.

On his third leg of the Africa trip, Xi will visit the Republic of Congo March 29-30 and meet President Denis Sassou Nguesso, marking the first visit by a Chinese president since diplomatic relations were established 49 years ago.

Trade and finance agreements are expected to be signed during the Congo trip. Xi will also deliver a speech to the country's parliament.

He Wenping, director of the African studies department at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi's visit to Africa may help further "tap into the continent's potential" at a time when BRICS has incorporated South Africa as a member state. The Durban meeting will be the first BRICS summit held on the continent.

BRICS member states have recently discussed the possibility of establishing a development bank to fund infrastructure, said Ma Zhaoxu, assistant foreign minister, and progress on the matter is expected at the summit.

It is also expected that the member states will make progress in establishing a foreign exchange reserve pool aimed at forming an intra-bloc capital security network.

Guo expected the member states to reiterate opposition to trade protectionism and make calls to provide aid for less developed countries.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

(China Daily 03/22/2013 page3)