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Putin hails Russia-China cultural and economic ties

May 17, 2024

On the second day of his trip to China, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a trade fair in the northeastern city of Harbin and emphasized the growing economic ties between the two countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the opening of the 8th China-Russia Expo in Harbin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the opening of the 8th China-Russia Expo in HarbinImage: IMAGO/ITAR-TASS

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hailed the growth in bilateral trade between Russia and China and emphasized cultural exchange between the two superpowers.

Visiting a trade fair in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin on the second day of his visit to China, Putin praised the historical cultural ties between the two countries and encouraged further economic cooperation, particularly in the development of new technologies.

"Relying on traditions of friendship and cooperation, we can look into the future with confidence," he said. "The Russian-Chinese partnership helps our countries' economic growth, ensures energy security, helps develop production and create new jobs."

Putin visits 'Little Moscow'

Harbin is the capital of China's Heilongjiang province. Close to the Russian border, it was historically a center of cultural and economic exchange between the two countries. Sometimes referred to as "Little Moscow," those links are still evident in some of Harbin's architecture, including the central Saint Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church.

Putin began Friday's visit — no longer accompanied by Chinese President Xi Jinping — by laying flowers at a monument to fallen Soviet soldiers who had fought for China against Japanese occupation during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the build-up to the Second World War.

After visiting the China-Russia Expo trade fair, Putin was set to meet with students at the Harbin Institute of Technology. 

Putin and Xi hail strategic ties, address Ukraine conflict

Putin sides with China over US sanctions

Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the ensuing raft of Western sanctions, Russia has become increasingly dependent on China for its economic activity, with trade between the two countries increasing to $240 billion (€221 billion) last year. In return, Russia has provided China with cheap access to its vast natural resources, including oil and gas.

"Russia is prepared and able to continually provide the Chinese economy and Chinese businesses, cities and communities with affordable and environmentally-friendly energy," Putin said on Friday.

The previous evening, Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping had signed a lengthy statement that underlined their opposition to what they perceive to be a US-led world order and pledged deeper cooperation across a range of fields.

In Harbin on Friday, Putin said that US tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicles were an example of unfair competition.

"Unfortunately, the way the world works today, sometimes situations arise related to unfair competition. This is how the Americans recently imposed sanctions on China on electric transport, on electric cars," he said. "Why? Because Chinese cars have got better."

Leaders discuss Ukraine

According to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Putin thanked on Thursday Xi for his "peace plan" for Ukraine — a proposal that was rejected by Western leaders last year since it didn't include a Russian withdrawal from conquered Ukrainian territories — and welcomed Beijing's "continuing constructive role" in attempting to find a political solution to the problem.

Putin said on Friday that Moscow's ground incursion into Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region this week was aimed at stopping cross-border shelling into Russia's Belgorod region, but that there were no current plans to capture Kharkiv itself, Ukraine's second city.

"As for what is happening on the Kharkiv front, this is [Ukraine's] fault, because they have shelled and continue to shell residential neighborhoods in border areas," he told Russian reporters. "And I said publicly that if this continues, we will be forced to create a security zone.

Chinese leader Xi had said on Thursday night that "the China-Russia relationship is hard-earned, and the two sides need to cherish and nurture it."

Footage from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV showed the two leaders sharing a warm embrace, flanked by applauding aides and officials. The images appeared to be popular on Chinese social media.

China and Russia — true friends or marriage of convenience?

mf/ab (AFP, Reuters)