China's Leader Argues for Cooperation With Russia

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MOSCOW -- President Xi Jinping of China made a case on Saturday for closer economic and foreign policy cooperation with Russia, using a speech at a university here to argue that the countries have converging goals, including an expansion of the oil and gas trade, as they pursue dreams of "national revival" and seek to offset the influence of the developed West.

More than a half-century has passed since the Communist ideological alliance between China and the Soviet Union collapsed in acrimony. But Mr. Xi suggested that the two countries could now find common ground as they each seek to claim a place as a respected great power.

But as he trumpeted the shared interests in promoting peace and stability, Mr. Xi also emphasized a need to "oppose interference in the internal affairs of other countries," embracing a favorite theme of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, one that both countries have used to resist calls for improvements on the issues of human rights and the rule of law.

"China and Russia, as the biggest neighbors of each other, share many commonalities in their blueprints of national development," Mr. Xi said in his speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

"Currently, China and Russia are both in important periods of national revival, and bilateral relations have entered a new stage in which each provides the other with important development opportunities and treats the other as a major partner," he said.

Energy cooperation, particularly in Russia's supplies of oil and natural gas to China, has become one of the most important aspects of the relationship between the countries, a point Mr. Xi noted during his speech. "Oil and gas pipelines have become the veins connecting the two countries in a new century," he said, calling for even greater partnership.

Mr. Xi, who is visiting Moscow on his first trip abroad as China's top leader, made no mention of the United States in his speech, but it was suffused with suggestions that a stronger partnership between China and Russia could help both achieve a stronger voice in global affairs, counterbalancing Western influence.

The United States was also not mentioned by name in a document signed by Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin on Friday promising to work together on the issue of missile defense, calling for caution and warning that the deployment of such systems could endanger national security.

Both Russia and China recently expressed misgivings about the Pentagon's plan to deploy 14 new missile interceptors on the West Coast or in Alaska in response to threats from North Korea.

Mr. Xi's ascent to the top leadership -- he was appointed Communist Party chief in November, but took over as president and head of state only this month -- has coincided with a succession of tensions between China and the United States and its partners. China and Japan have been locked in a renewed dispute over islands in the East China Sea claimed by each side, and the United States has become increasingly forthright in accusing China of engaging in widespread and systematic hacking.

The White House and other Western governments have also urged China and Russia to back stronger pressure on the embattled Syrian government, which both have rejected as dangerous meddling.

In spite of Mr. Xi's soaring words, China and Russia are sometimes wary partners. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which brings together the two nations and Central Asian countries, has not evolved into the powerful "NATO of the East" that some observers foresaw.

Some Russians worry that China's population and economic strength could overwhelm the Far East region of their country. It has long suffered in part because of historic neglect from Moscow, which has only recently started to make investments.

Mr. Xi will head to Durban, South Africa, from Moscow, for a conference of leaders from the emerging BRICS economies -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Mr. Putin will also attend.

Since his appointment as party chief, Mr. Xi has championed the slogans of "the Chinese dream" and a "great revival of the Chinese nation" to appeal to ordinary citizens who are often angry over official corruption and wealth disparities. Mr. Putin, since his return to the Russian presidency in May, has similarly adopted a nationalist posture as he contends with rising political opposition from urban, middle-class liberals frustrated by the slow pace of political change.

Both China and Russia have made clear that they do not want external nosing into their domestic affairs. In his speech, Mr. Xi said, "Matters within the scope of sovereignty of each country can be dealt with by that country's government and people."

Following elaborate welcoming ceremonies on Friday that were broadcast live on Russian television, including an honor guard at the airport and the deployment of a presidential cavalry unit outside the Grand Kremlin Palace, officials signed at least 35 agreements on a wide range of issues. In addition to missile defense, they included a plan for a $2 billion loan by China to Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company, which will be repaid in oil over 25 years.

In his speech, Mr. Xi also sought to emphasize other ties, based on ideology and literature. "China's old generation of revolutionaries were deeply influenced by Russian culture, and my generation read many of the classics of Russian literature," he said.

But the site for Mr. Xi's speech, one of Russia's most prestigious schools for international relations, was not an accident, and literature was not his main brief. "We are living through an era of flux and change," he said. "No country or bloc of countries can again single-handedly dominate world affairs."

David M. Herszenhorn reported from Moscow, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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