Chinese President Xi Jinping Arrives In Russia, Greeted By Putin

Jun 5, 2019
Originally published on June 5, 2019 6:37 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

With President Trump's visit this week to the U.K., we have heard a lot about the special relationship between the U.S. and Britain. Well, we are not the only ones with a special relationship. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, want the world to know their countries have one, too. As NPR's Lucian Kim reports from Moscow, Xi arrived today in Russia for a three-day visit.

LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: People around the world may be remembering the Tiananmen Square massacre 30 years ago, but Xi Jinping won't be getting any uncomfortable questions from his Russian hosts who are celebrating the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing.

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KIM: The Chinese president walked down an endless red carpet in the Kremlin, where he was met with music and a smiling Vladimir Putin.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: Addressing Xi as dear friend, Putin hailed the unprecedented level of relations between Russia and China, once Cold War rivals that were on the brink of an armed conflict. Today China calls Russia its strategic partner and wants to buy Russian weapons and commodities. Russia is interested in Chinese markets, Chinese technology and Chinese investments as it faces continuing isolation from the U.S. and the European Union.

ALEXANDER GABUEV: It's the West and the U.S. that drive Russia into China's arms primarily.

KIM: Alexander Gabuev, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, says Russia is pivoting from West to East.

GABUEV: It cannot happen overnight, but it's happening. And the goal is to achieve an equilibrium where Russia is not a hundred percent putting its eggs in the European basket.

KIM: In an interview with state broadcaster RT, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two countries still have a long way to go.

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DMITRY PESKOV: We cannot say that China is investing a lot in Russian economy. There is still a very huge space for enlargement of these volumes of investments of Chinese businessmen.

KIM: That's why Xi will be the main guest at an annual business forum in St. Petersburg this week.

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PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

KIM: In an ad for the forum on state TV, Putin remembered celebrating his birthday with Xi with a shot of vodka and sausage. Alexander Gabuev says there's a genuine personal affinity.

GABUEV: You see that through body language despite the language barrier the bond is very strong.

KIM: Xi told Russian media that Putin is his closest friend among world leaders and that both are on a historic mission to make their countries great again. Lucian Kim, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.