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May 18, 2014

China Summit Offers Opportunity for Moscow, Beijing

by William Ide

The leaders of China and Russia will meet this week on the sidelines of an Asian regional summit in Shanghai.  More than 40 countries and organizations are expected to attend the event, which will focus on regional security and development.

Ties between Moscow and Beijing have strengthened since President Xi Jinping took office.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin and Xi meet this week in Shanghai, there is expectation a 30-year deal for natural gas could be signed and the two could advance cooperation in other areas.

As Russia faces scrutiny over Ukraine, its economic ties with Europe are strained and its economy slows, Moscow is looking to China, says Tsinghua University political scientist Zhang Lihua.

"Russia needs Chinese investment more than ever, especially in its far eastern region. It also needs China's economic and trade support. Economic ties could expand rapidly in the coming years, not only for natural gas, but also in infrastructure and transportation, manufacturing and other fields," says Zhang.

China and Russia share similar views on many international issues, but the situation in Ukraine has tested Beijing's long-standing opposition to foreign intervention.  Zhang Lihua says that while the two leaders will discuss Ukraine, it is unlikely to be a major issue.

"The most important message Russia and China want to send to the world is that their ties are extremely close now and that trend will continue, but as it does they will not seek to form a military alliance that targets any third country," says Zhang.

In addition to Russia, leaders from Iran, Pakistan and more than 10 other countries will attend the two-day meetings in Shanghai.  Leaders from Japan and the United States will not attend, but will send observers.

China's Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping says this is not meant to exclude any country.

"We hope that when the United States and Japan participate in the summit they will play the role of responsible countries," said Cheng.

Pakistan's President Mamnoon Hussain tells Chinese broadcaster CCTV that terrorism will be a key topic at the meetings.

"Recently we have seen untraditional challenges coming up in Asia as well as in all of the world.  Asia is basically facing the challenge of this terrorism and extremism.  And I think CICA (the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia) is going to concentrate to provide assistance, of member countries, to eradicate these three evils of terrorism, extremism, and separatism," says Hussain.

Concerns about terrorism have been rising in China following several violent attacks, two of which have been blamed on religious extremists.  Chinese authorities have stepped up security in preparation for the summit and a nationwide crackdown on terrorism is underway.