by Xinhua Writer Liao Bingqing
MOSCOW, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping is paying a state visit here from Monday to Tuesday at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the third meeting between the two leaders since the beginning of this year.
Deemed as "event of the year" for the two countries, Xi's upcoming tour and his meeting with Putin will be dedicated to a wide range of issues concerning the relationship as well as current international and regional problems.
Given their aligned economic goals and unprecedentedly high mutual trust, the two neighboring countries are expected to come up with ways to further promote bilateral ties as well as contribute to global prosperity and stability.
BILATERAL TRADE PICKS UP AMID IMPROVING ECONOMIES
This year marks the 16th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty on Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. The past decade has seen the enhancement of bilateral relations, especially the strategic partnership that has been running at high levels since Xi took office four years ago.
"Along with increasingly frequent high-level exchanges, pragmatic cooperation between the two countries is progressing steadily, while their people-to-people exchanges as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental exchanges in various fields are also flourishing," Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui said.
Economic and trade cooperation is an important manifestation of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination. With highly complementary economies that are both taking a turn for the better, the two countries enjoy great potential for cooperation.
The Russian economy has been recovering gradually since the second half of 2016, after a two-year retreat due to weak oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
According to a recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, economic dynamics in Russia last year were better than expected, showing many positive signs including reduced economic decline and an improving real economy. For this year, Russian officials have predicted the country's GDP would grow by 1.5 to 2.0 percent.
"The Russian economy has turned to growth. Production and investment have been growing for several quarters. Inflation is steadily declining." Russia's central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina said during a recent speech at the State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament.
Meanwhile, China is also doing well on the economic front. Although growth is slower, economic resilience is getting stronger due to the country's ongoing economic transition. Currently, GDP growth for 2017 is widely expected to be around 6.8 percent.
Thanks to better performing economies, bilateral trade between China and Russia have improved significantly since 2016 with China remaining Russia's largest trading partner, despite a slowly recovering world economy and a downturn in global trade and investment.
Indicators at the beginning of this year are even more encouraging. As a result of the first four months of 2017, trade turnover between the two countries increased by 37 percent from the same period a year ago and exceeded 24.5 billion U.S. dollars. < "Given the dynamics of trade development, the goal for the immediate future of 80 billion dollars, in my opinion, is definitely complicated, but realistic," Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin said.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP KEEPS ON UPGRADING
Expanding cooperation will be the focus of discussions during the meeting between Xi and Putin. Through concerted efforts on both sides, it is widely expected that bilateral economic and trade cooperation will be boosted in both value and quality.
Fields of cooperation have been broadening over recent years. In addition to the energy sector, large joint projects in other areas have been emerging, including finance, high-speed rail, infrastructure construction, aerospace, agriculture, science and technology, innovation, and cross-border electricity.
"I'm convinced that the forthcoming visit of President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping to Russia in July will give an additional impetus to cooperation in various fields and will allow us to come closer to the goal of bringing mutual trade to 200 billion dollars by 2020." Oreshkin said.
According to Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Huilai, after their talks, the two heads of state will issue a joint statement outlining the China-Russia Treaty on Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation for the 2017-2020 period.
Meanwhile, government departments of the two countries will also sign a number of documents related to trade and investment, energy, connectivity, media, education and other sectors.
Cooperation in regions of strategic significance is also thriving. The two countries have reached various agreements to jointly develop the Arctic region, under which five areas have been identified, including the use of the Northern Sea Route, development of transport infrastructure, mining, tourism and scientific research expeditions.
Fifteen priority areas have been set up in the Far East. According to Alexander Galushka, the minister in charge of the development of the Russian Far East, projects in the region are expected to attract 60 billion dollars if Russia and China fully explore their cooperative potential.
In addition, vast opportunities are seen in the pairing of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, which is also on the agenda of the upcoming talks between the two heads of state.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last month that work is steadily progressing in bringing together the two initiatives closer.
Earlier this month, Putin also expressed confidence in the prospects of connecting the two development plans, something he hopes will start a new stage of cooperation in Eurasia and beyond.
"I have no doubt that we will work together and this work will be effective and beneficial for the Chinese and Russian people as well as the global economy," Putin said.