One week after Xi Jinping was elected Chinese president in 2013, he travelled to Russia for his first overseas visit as head of state.
Over the past six years, Xi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, have met each other nearly 30 times. Such frequent meetings between two heads of state are rare in international diplomacy.
On Wednesday, Xi embarked on his eighth presidential trip to Russia, which bears unique significance given that the two countries are marking the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties, and the world is facing growing levels of uncertainty.
Putin, for his part, has travelled to China for nine times since Xi began his presidency. His last trip was to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in April, or less than two months ago.
In some of the most memorable moments, the two leaders honoured each other with the highest medals of their countries, watched an ice hockey race between Chinese and Russian kids, and cooked traditional Chinese and Russian pancakes.
These intensive interactions have nurtured a close personal rapport between the two presidents, and attested to the closeness and robustness of the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination between their countries — a pair of good neighbours, good partners and good friends.
“After seven decades of development, the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is now at its best in history,” Xi said in an interview with Russian media on the eve of his visit.
In Xi’s own words, 70 years on China-Russia ties have become a major-country relationship featuring the highest degree of mutual trust, the highest level of coordination and the highest strategic value.
Mutual trust is the solid foundation for the development of bilateral ties. It is immediately visible in the fruitful and colourful head-of-state diplomacy, which serves as a strategic compass for the China-Russia relationship.
Meanwhile, mutual trust is also growing among the two peoples. In recent years, the two countries have been working together to boost people-to-people exchanges via programs like jointly setting up a university, conducting media and think-tank seminars, and co-running Year of Tourism activities.
As a result, the two peoples have known each other better, and their friendship has grown stronger, offering ever sturdier public support for bilateral practical cooperation, notably in economic and trade sectors.
Trade between the two countries hit a record of more than 100 billion U.S. dollars last year. Cooperation in e-commerce, technology, finance and agriculture has developed rapidly.
Also, the two countries have seen their strategic major projects in such fields as energy, aerospace and inter-connectivity making steady progress, including their first cross-border highway bridge, which is expected to complete in October.
The two countries have also been synergising the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, and offered staunch support for each other on issues concerning their respective core interests.
As two major countries on the world stage, the areas where Beijing and Moscow have been seeking to better coordinate with each other go beyond the bilateral dimension.
They have made concerted efforts to help solve the world’s most pressing problems, including climate change, terrorism, the Iran nuclear issue, the Korean Peninsula issue, and the Syria crisis, on multilateral platforms like the United Nations, the G20, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
When the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, a steady China-Russia relationship bears high strategic value for each other, and provides an anchor for global stability.
In the face of growing protectionism, unilateralism and economic chauvinism, the global economic recovery is in serious jeopardy, the multilateral trading system is under attack, and the existing international order is challenged.
Beijing and Moscow agree and have joined hands to uphold an international system with the United Nations at the heart. They have also pledged to safeguard norms and principles widely acknowledged in the international community, and vowed to build a multipolar world and democratise international relations.
Also, China and Russia hold to a non-alignment policy that targets no third party. Such an approach is different from the Western-style military alliance, which has an innate need for an enemy — real or imaginary — and tends to put the entire world on edge.
In today’s world, the China-Russia relationship can offer some inspirations for other major countries in the world in this new era of growing interdependence.