Nearly a year after first acknowledging "unprecedented ties" between Russia and China, Putin has again affirmed the two countries are enjoying the best economic and trade relations in their history. He also affirmed that military and defense relations have reached the highest level of trust while in Beijing addressing the opening session of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.
“It would be no exaggeration to say that our countries have approached this anniversary with relations the best they have been in their entire history,” Putin said, according to the AP. “This is the result of meticulous and successful work over the past thirty years.” His comments further downplayed the possibility of this apex in Beijing-Moscow relations being put in peril by future tensions.
Putin praised Xi's ambitious Belt and Road (BRI) as an “extremely important initiative” which “fits perfectly into our plans” in front of about three-dozen world leaders gathered for the conference. It's the second major "Belt and Road Forum" hosted in China to reaffirm support for the Asian and global trade corridor, running April 25 through Saturday, and attended by officials from 37 countries.
Putin's reference to "our plans" was none other than the "rival" Eurasian Economic Union grouping Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan in a common market that seeks to remove all trade and services barriers — overseen by a Moscow-based executive body, the Eurasian Economic Commission.
And separately, Putin said in an interview with a state-run newspaper that the two countries' new “strategic partnership” had replaced decades of Cold War mistrust when the two regional communist giants vied for leadership.
Putin touted that two-way trade turnover between Russia and China rose by 24.5% to $108b last year, according to Bloomberg. He further praised the BRI's gradually extending its global reach at a time that the US is acting as if it's the world's sole economic superpower.
Neat map - China's Belt and Road initiative could redefine infrastructure networks in coming years pic.twitter.com/2vwoFLLNYg— Agathe Demarais (@AgatheDemarais) April 17, 2019
On the US-China trade war, President Xi's speech stopped just short of expressly mentioning damaged ties with the United States, per the South China Morning Post's commentary:
No mention of trade war, but it was still reflected in Xi’s speech
Amid concerns that China had failed to live up to its reform pledges, Xi said, “China treasures its promises and commitments with a thousand taels of gold”.
He said China does not intentionally seek trade surpluses, and the nation is willing to import more foreign agricultural products and services for more balanced trade.
“China pays high regard to the implementation of bilateral and multilateral economic and trade agreements it has signed with other parties,” he said.
As we discussed earlier this year, from Moscow's vantage point it's now "all about China", now all-in on its long stated intent to convince Beijing it's time to form an alliance capable of breaking US global hegemony.
However, leaders in Beijing have been slower to reciprocate the same level of enthusiasm, exercising caution and prudence for so drastically altering the trade landscape with the West.