On a visit to Russia to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi, President Xi Jinping has been promoting ties between the two countries. While several Western leaders turned down invitations to the opening ceremony, Xi was one of 55 world leaders who attended, making him the first Chinese leader to travel overseas for the Olympics. From Reuters:
Xi met with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Thursday, a visit that coincides with a trip by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, which faces sharply deteriorating ties with China involving spats over tiny uninhabited islands.
The presence of both leaders is a seal of approval for Putin and shows the political stakes at play in what has been a controversial run-up to the Olympics given Russia’s domestic law against gay “propaganda” and concerns over security.
Xi “voiced his confidence that, with Russia’s careful preparations, the Sochi Winter Olympics will be a splendid and unforgettable sports event”, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The Sochi games are a symbol of Russian prosperity “under the leadership of Putin”, Xinhua said, citing Xi, who will stay in Sochi for three days until February 8.
Following a meeting with Putin, Xi spoke of increasing cooperation between China and Russia, especially on Syria. From AP:
Pointing particularly to cooperation on Syria, where the two countries have been accused of blocking sanctions aimed at the Assad regime, Xi said such efforts should be further encouraged.
“China and Russia should from this day forward continue deepening our consultations and cooperation on major international issues and together maintain world and regional peace, security and stability,” Xi said.
Chinese state media have worked hard to portray the visit as a sign of warming relations between the neighbors and former Communist rivals, splashing pictures of the two men shaking hands across Friday’s front pages of the flagship People’s Daily and other newspapers. [Source]
The Global Times touted Xi’s attendance while also challenging the criticism Russia has received over human rights abuses and security concerns at the games:
As China is an influential power, Xi’s presence at the Games’ opening ceremony amid the negative comments “emphasizes the message that nations should shoulder international responsibilities together and not fear terrorist threats,” said Zhou Qing’an, a professor specializing in public diplomacy at the Tsinghua International Center for Communication Studies.
This shows China’s highest level of support and value to Russia, said Xing Guangcheng, an expert on Russia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“It shows China’s respect for the Olympic spirit and that we are open to actively participate in events that benefit world peace and cultural exchange,” Xing said.
[…] “Negative comments toward both Beijing and Sochi extended beyond mere event organization and shifted to other aspects, for example, the nations’ governments and previous crises. It’s a regular phenomenon that emerging markets face,” Zhou said. [Source]
In a sign of just how important Russia ties are to Xi, he is scheduled to meet with Putin four more times in 2014.