Just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping met US President Donald Trump in Florida, Zhang Gaoli, the First Vice-Chairman of China’s State Council (ie. China’s deputy prime minister) has arrived in Moscow where he has had a meeting with Russian President Putin.
This visit had been set up well in advance, and is not connected to the recent events in Syria. It is intended to prepare for President Putin’s long announced trip to China next month, where he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as part of a major Russian-Chinese summit. Importantly however Zhang Gaoli confirmed President Xi Jinping is planning a follow-up trip to Russia in July.
Perhaps what was even more striking than the confirmation of the continuing strong interaction between the Chinese and the Russians and the succession of summits being planned between them was the effusive words Zhang Gongli used to describe President Putin and the present state of Russian-Chinese relations
Mr President, you are a long-time great friend of China. Allow me to convey President Xi Jinping’s warmest greetings and best wishes. I will personally pass on your warm greetings to President Xi.
You have met with President Xi more than 20 times now, and this deep personal friendship and common agreements and decisions between the two leaders serve as a strategic guideline for developing Russian-Chinese relations……
Your personal efforts, Mr President, and those of President Xi set the strategic direction and constantly advance the friendship and cooperation between our countries, setting new tasks and directions and producing new results.
President Xi and the Chinese Government place great importance on your upcoming participation in the One Belt – One Road international cooperation forum in Beijing in May. President Xi will visit Russia in July.
The main aim of my visit to Russia is to prepare the upcoming bilateral summits. During this visit, I have already held the fourth meeting of the Investment Cooperation Commission.
The Chinese President must have found his recent meeting with US President Trump a strange affair. Much of it was taken up with social engagements. No important agreements were reached, and it doesn’t seem as if any really substantive discussions – for example on trade issues – took place.
The Chinese President must also have been bemused – and cannot have been at all amused – to be told without any advance notice over chocolate cake and without his aides available to advise him that the US President had just launched a missile strike on Syria.
President Trump did discuss with President Xi the festering North Korean crisis, but as is becoming the pattern with this inexperienced US President, he appears to be misreading the Chinese President’s typical courtesy and his standard assurances that China shares the US’s concerns about the North Korean nuclear programme as a commitment by China to do more to stop the North Korean nuclear programme than it is already doing.
That is almost certainly wrong, and the Chinese will also not be happy either by the recent US carrier deployment to the Korean coast, or by the US President’s threats to solve the Korean crisis by unilateral action, which they almost certainly construe (probably rightly) as empty bluff.
One suspects that Xi Jinping is relieved that with Putin he is getting back to normal business again.