During their meeting in Beijing, Putin and Xi are expected to discuss economic cooperation and the geopolitical issues – such as the situation in Syria, the deployment of the American THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, and the growing tension between China and local US allies in the South China Sea.
According to the Russian ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, Chinese trade with Russia is still no match to its trade with America, but the gap has been narrowing during the last 25 years. “If it had not been for the dramatic fall in oil prices, the volume of trade between Russia and China in 2014 would have exceeded $100 billion,” Denisov told the Interfax news agency.
Moscow and Beijing had to restart trading in the early 1990s almost from scratch: as the frosty relations between Maoist China and the Soviet Union in 1960s-1970s had brought trade almost to a standstill. The Soviet Union and China had ideological differences, which the pre-neocon US used with great skill, reorienting the Chinese economy to cooperation with American companies in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today, the opposite is happening. In Denisov’s words, Russia and China are now seeing eye to eye on Syria, US-inspired “regime changes” in many countries and other important international political problems. Meanwhile, Sino-US cooperation has been put under political pressure by Washington’s concern about China’s “peaceful rise” (the favorite expression of the Chinese foreign ministry, describing China’s growth as devoid of imperial ambitions). The new configuration of forces on the world stage reflects in the dynamic of Putin-Xi summits.