Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit China on Saturday to hold in-depth talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on bilateral ties. This will be his fourth visit to China since retaking office as president in 2012.
The two leaders will also discuss priority cooperation areas in the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership. Like their previous meetings, they are also expected to issue a number of key political documents and witness the signing of a series of agreements on cooperation between the two countries' departments and enterprises.
Cooperation in transportation and energy industries are likely to top their agenda, as Beijing is pressing ahead with the Belt and Road Initiative, aimed primarily at improving connectivity in Eurasia, and Moscow, a traditional oil exporter, needs some help to counter the declining oil prices over the past two years.
Despite the two countries being close trade partners and enjoying high-level political coordination for decades, they are yet to exploit the opportunities in many areas. That, to some extent, explains the frequent Sino-Russian leadership meetings in recent years. This time Xi and Putin are likely to expedite the implementation of previous deals and work out concrete plans for the new ones.
The 770-kilometer high-speed railway linking Moscow and Kazan in Russia, an ongoing joint venture between China and Russia, is likely to make fresh progress after Putin's visit. It is to be completed by 2018, that is, before Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup. And if it is extended to Beijing in the near future, train journey between the two countries capitals could be cut from nearly a week to two days.
Bilateral projects like this, which are many, will certainly add new impetus to the Silk Road Economic Belt, the inland part of the Belt and Road Initiative that stretches from East Asia to Europe.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the China-Russia Good-Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, the legal foundation of their bilateral relationship, which features nonalignment, non-confrontation, and is not targeted at any third party. Thanks to their adherence to the three core principles, Beijing-Moscow ties have become an apt example of a new major-power relationship over the past decade or so.
Speaking a week ago at the International Economic Forum 2016 in St. Petersburg, Russia, Putin expressed high expectations of the Beijing-Moscow comprehensive strategic partnership, and proposed to establish a grand Eurasian partnership including China, India, and other regional powers in a show of good relationship.
But Beijing and Moscow will not seek a de facto alliance despite Russia supporting China in its territorial disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea. Some senior Russian officials, such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, have emphasized that territorial issues should be settled through bilateral talks and peaceful negotiations. More importantly, the "non-interference" principle was adopted by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization members, including China and Russia, years ago and has helped resolve the border issue between China and Kazakhstan.
Should Putin reiterate the importance of non-interference in bilateral matters during his visit to China, which he is likely to do, it will serve as a much-needed move to back a nonaligned partner in safeguarding its core legal interests.
The author is a senior researcher in European and Asian studies at the China Institute of International Studies. The article is an excerpt from her interview with China Daily's Cui Shoufeng.