In a joint press conference after their meeting at the Kremlin on Wednesday, the two leaders expressed willingness to start a new era in bilateral relations and signed a joint statement on the development of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation. Putin thanked Xi for giving him two pandas on loan earlier, calling it a sign of the special respect they had for each other. On the sidelines of the meeting, major Russian and Chinese companies also signed cooperation agreements.
China’s Alibaba, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon, internet group Mail.ru and the Russian sovereign investment fund RDIF closed a deal on a joint e-commerce venture.
However, the agreement that stood out the most stood was between Russian telecoms company MTS and China’s telecom giant Huawei, which is accused by the West of spying for Beijing.
Russia’s Novatek and Gazprombank also signed an agreement with Sinopec to market gas in China.
Putin calls China ‘most important economic partner’
Putin hailed trade ties between China and Russia and proceeded to call Beijing the most important partner Moscow has ever had.
“In recent years, thanks to your direct participation, the relationship between Russia and China has reached an unprecedentedly high level,” Putin told Xi.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy aide, had earlier called China “Russia’s most important economic partner.” According to the Kremlin, the growing partnership has led to a substantial increase in trade volume between the two side as the number grew by 25 percent in 2018 to reach a record high of $108 billion.
Xi was given the full honors after he touched down at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport earlier in the day.
He was scheduled to travel to attend an economic forum hosted by Putin on Thursday and Friday in Russia’s former imperial capital of Saint Petersburg.
He said ahead of the trip that Beijing and Moscow “have strong political mutual trust, and support each other firmly on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns.”
The trip comes as both Russia and China are under economic pressure from the US in forms of sanctions and aggressive trade policy.