In Moscow, Xi Jinping Calls for Cooperation

In Moscow on his first overseas visit as China’s president, Xi Jinping spoke at a university about the two countries’ shared interests. From the New York Times:

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.

But at the same time, China’s leaders are preoccupied with avoiding mistakes from Russia’s history, as was made evident in a speech Xi Jinping made in December. From the Washington Post:

The shadow of the U.S.S.R. still hangs over many parts of Chinese society. What is considered bygone Cold War history by much of the rest of the world, even by many in Russia, lives on in China. You see it in the hulking Soviet-style buildings that dominate Beijing and in songs such as “Moscow Nights,” which remain favorites among party leaders and choir clubs in Chinese parks.

But its presence is most vivid in China’s political system, where the collapse of the continues to be analyzed with a paranoia and urgency that some compare to the United States and its fight against terrorism.

[…]

“It’s hard to overstate how obsessed they are with the Soviet Union,” said David Shambaugh, a George Washington University expert who spent years meeting Chinese officials and reading internal party documents for a book on the subject. “They wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night thinking about it. It hangs over every major decision.”

The obsession is fueled by the fear that, with a few wrong steps, China’s Communist Party would face a similar fate. Because of that, many in the party say, some of the biggest clues about how the new generation of Chinese leaders will pursue reform in the next few years lies in their interpretation of the Soviet collapse.

With Xi’s visit, however, China did score on soft power victory with the unusually public appearance of First Lady Peng Liyuan.

March 23, 2013, 7:59 PM
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