Xi in Russia

The atmospherics surrounding Xi Jinping’s coming trip to Russia – his first visit to a foreign country as China’s new president – recall a Soviet slogan from the late 1950’s: “Russia-China, Friendship Forever.” Fortunately for both sides, the slogan appears more valid now than it was then.

MOSCOW – The atmospherics surrounding Xi Jinping’s coming trip to Russia – his first visit to a foreign country as China’s new president – remind me of a slogan from my early childhood in the late 1950’s: “Russia-China, Friendship Forever.” The irony is that, even in that slogan’s heyday, Sino-Russian relations were deteriorating fast, culminating in spasms of combat along the Amur River in Siberia less than a decade later. Is that slogan more valid now?

After China opened up its economy and Russia emerged from the Soviet Union, bilateral relations entered a new stage. Goodwill now prevails, but some of the old suspicions linger – and some new ones have emerged.

Xi’s visit is not expected to usher in any breakthroughs. A few deals to export Russian hydrocarbons to China can be expected, but not much more. Nonetheless, the visit will highlight several important features of the bilateral relationship.

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