Russia and China have shown they’re perfectly on the same wavelength on the international scene. They have twice blocked UN Security Council resolutions which would have condemned Damascus and called for the removal of the Syrian leader.
Wary of any Western-led military, they also have agreed on a common front opposing to new sanctions against Iran for its nuclear programme.
They share a border and their communist history. The links between these two neighbours also look natural from a practical point of view: Russia is the world’s biggest energy producer and China, the largest consumer of energy. Very soon they will sit together at World Trade Organisation (WTO) meetings, when Russia will officially enter the organisation this summer.
Meanwhile, their economic relations could hardly be better: Russian trade with China has risen at least 40 percent year on year for the last two years and Russian officials say that a target to have 80 billion euros ($100 billion) in bilateral trade by 2015 is likely to be reached ahead of time.
To Russia, China is a rising trade and diplomatic partner but also a neighbor which is becoming more and more powerful economically, and a potential rival for control of thinly populated Siberia’s resources.
That has brought a new focus in Moscow on both business and military investment in the far east.
China’s widening sphere of economic influence is already being felt, especially in areas of Russia close to the border, far from Moscow, where Chinese-made goods stock the shelves at local grocery stores and Russians make shopping trips to China for clothes and consumer goods.
In an attempt to parry China’s growing influence, Moscow has tried to boost its political presence in the region. The new government formed last month has for the first time a Minister for Far East Development.
A state company is also being created with the purpose of exploiting the resources of Russia’s Far East.
Vladimir Putin is already looking at the future, seeking to cultivate a relationship with Vice Premier Li Keqiang, likely successor of Premier Wen Jiabao. Both Wen and President Hu Jintao are expected to step down at the end of this year.