By Beth Main
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with then Vice President Xi Jinping on June 6, 2012. Source: Xinhua.
Sources in the know say that Russia is to be Xi Jinping’s first overseas visit after he becomes President in early March. Xi is due to attend the 5th summit of the leaders from the BRICS nations in South Africa on March 25-27, but will stop off in Russia first … for pudding with Putin (forgive the awful pun).
China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi set out on Sunday to South Africa and Russia to make preparations for Xi’s trip. As a developing nation and emerging world power, it is in China’s interests to stick with the other BRICS nations in the coming years, and seeing as Russia and China share many international concerns, Xi knows where his loyalties lie.
Xi Jinping has been General Secretary of the CPCCC and de facto leader since the 18th Party congress in November, but does not become President until March after the annual meetings of China’s top political advisory group and top (rubber stamp) legislature. Xi’s first trip abroad is important. It sends a message about who he wants to be best buddies with and gives clues to his potential future foreign policy.
For instance, Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao chose to go on an eclectic foreign tour of Russia, France, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia back in 2003, not favouring any one country in particular, typical of safe and boring Hu. Whereas his predecessor Jiang Zemin drew a wildcard back in 1990 and went to North Korea first to see Kim Il-sung to cement their communist bromance.
Xi’s choice of Russia for his first visit is not particularly surprising given the two countries’ already close relations. Politically they still vote together at the UN (on more than just Syria), economically they are increasingly linking their oil industries and they also like to tussle with Japan about who own which islands.
Lets not forget that they are also both neighbours of the increasingly troublesome DPRK, and will inevitably need to work together to maintain peace in east Asia. The whole situation is a geopolitican’s dreamland.