The visit comes as part of Moscow’s relentless efforts to enhance its trade cooperation with Beijing, especially since the invasion of Ukraine. Analysts believe that China has become the strongest party in Russian-Chinese relations due to Russia’s worsening isolation on the international scene.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, during his visit to China, on Tuesday praised the strong relations between Moscow and Beijing, calling for increased trade between them, ahead of an upcoming meeting Wednesday between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Russia cherishes the centuries-old ties it has with China,” the Russian prime minister said during an economic forum in Shanghai, according to a video released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“I am sure that this year we will achieve the goal set by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to increase our trade to $200 billion,” a figure announced at a summit in Moscow in March.
China is Russia’s first trading partner, and trade between them reached a record $190 billion last year, according to Chinese customs figures.
In recent years, China and Russia have strengthened their economic and diplomatic cooperation, while their strategic partnership has developed since the invasion of Ukraine.
Analysts believe that China has become the strongest party in Russian-Chinese relations due to Russia’s worsening isolation in the international arena.
The Kremlin had said that Mishustin would participate in the Russian-Chinese business forum, visit a petrochemical research institute in Shanghai, and hold talks with “representatives of Russian business and financial circles.”
A number of prominent Russian businessmen subject to sanctions, some of whom work in key sectors such as fertilizers, steel and mining, are participating in the forum, according to Bloomberg.
Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Alexander Novak also attended the forum, where he said: “Energy supplies are growing in large volumes and have increased significantly in 2022,” adding, “In 2023, there will be another increase of about 40 percent.”
Last year, China became the most important buyer of energy produced by Russia, knowing that the latter’s gas exports declined after a series of Western sanctions imposed on it in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Mishustin will head to Beijing, where he will meet President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
“Last year, Russia was subjected to major sanctions on an unprecedented scale… We resisted and will continue our gradual development,” he said Tuesday at the Shanghai forum.
“I am sure that deepening relations between Russia and China and intensifying their cooperation will have a positive impact on strengthening the economies of the two countries,” he added.
“Normal economic and trade cooperation”
When asked about possible Western criticism of this bilateral relationship, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning emphasized that this relationship is one of “normal economic and trade cooperation… on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.”
She recalled that Beijing “has always objected to unilateral sanctions that are not permitted by the UN Security Council and to extraterritorial jurisdiction.”
“The cooperation between China and Russia does not target any third party and does not allow any interference or coercion by any third party,” she added. China stresses that it is neutral about the war and has refused to condemn Russia for launching the invasion.
And in February, Beijing released a document for a “political settlement” to the conflict that Western countries said could enable Russia to keep under its control large parts of the territory it seized from Ukraine.
During the Moscow summit in March, the Chinese president invited his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to visit Beijing.