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Putin Travels to China Sunday - 2002-11-29

Russia's President Vladimir Putin travels to China Sunday where he will meet with the country's new Communist Party chief and work to boost the already-good relations between Moscow and Beijing.

During the three-day visit here in Beijing, President Putin is to meet with outgoing Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the newly-appointed Communist Party Chief, Hu Jintao. Mr. Hu just succeeded Mr. Jiang in the top party job and is expected to take over the presidency next March.

China's Foreign Ministry gave few details of the meeting agenda, but previous Russian-Chinese summits since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union have produced calls for a "multi-polar world."

Analysts say that is diplomatic language for Russia and China cooperating to balance the power of the United States. Moscow and Beijing also hope to move more global issues into the United Nations, where they both hold veto power in the key Security Council.

Mr. Putin is expected to try to alleviate Chinese concerns that Moscow is growing too close to the United States as both nations pursue the war on terrorism. Beijing has also greatly improved its relations with Washington as the two cooperate in counter-terrorism work.

Scholar Xing Guangcheng, a Russian specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says the visit comes as relations between Moscow and Beijing are unusually good. Professor Xing says this visit is a chance for Mr. Putin to establish good working relations with China's newly-appointed leader, Hu Jintao, something that will help keep bilateral ties smooth in the future.

That's a change from tensions of past decades, when Moscow sometimes pointed nuclear missiles at its neighbor, and bickering over borders briefly erupted into armed conflict.

Improved relations have resulted in substantial trade between the two countries, and Russian officials recently said they hope to double or triple that commerce in the near future. Officially the two sides do about $11 billion worth of trade each year, but unofficial estimates put the actual volume at nearly double that figure.

Currently the two nations are cooperating on construction of a nuclear power plant in China, as well as oil and gas pipeline projects. China is also the top customer for Russian-made military hardware including billions of dollars worth of jets, missiles, destroyers, and submarines.