Members of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, begin military exercises August 9.  The nine-day drill, dubbed Peace Mission 2007, involves the military forces of China, four central Asian countries [Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan], and Russia, the host nation.  The dominant SCO forces are those of Russia and China, which are also expanding their cultural and economic links.  VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports annual trade has already reached $40 billion.

2007 is the year of China in Russia.  The yearlong focus on Russia's large Asian neighbor includes a Chinese art exhibit this month at the State Museum of Eastern Art in Moscow.  2006 was the year of Russia in China. 

But Sino-Russian relations date back nearly four centuries to a time when the emperors of China, according to the exhibit brochure, considered trade demeaning and viewed foreigners as barbarians. Therefore, they allowed commerce only on the border. 

Today, however, trade is a top priority.  Chinese President Hu Jintao has made this clear. "We should speed up and multiply cooperation in energy resources. We should take positive steps in the joint exploitation of petroleum, gas and forestry resources,? he said. ?We should try to move the cooperation style from a pure resources trade to one with more joint production."

President Hu spoke last year in Beijing during a visit by his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

China has been importing mostly raw material from Russia, such as oil and lumber, and exporting consumer goods. Annual trade has grown over the past ten years from about $7 billion to nearly $40 billion.   Volume is expected to increase with the completion of new oil pipelines from Russia to China. 

One of Russia's leading China experts, Vladimir Myasnikov, says both countries are developing other trade opportunities. "Energy-related machine building.  We're building a nuclear power plant.  We provide turbines.   We're cooperating in the field of space exploration.  High tech should lead the way to a substantial increase in bilateral trade."

In recent years Russia and China have held joint military exercises.  The Chinese are also the biggest foreign buyers of Russian weaponry.  Some analysts say Russia is seeking to strengthen military ties with China, because of worsening ties with the United States and NATO. 

But First Deputy Premier Sergei Ivanov rejected the charge two years ago in his former capacity as Defense Minister. "We are not creating any military blocs. As was already said, those exercises are not aimed against any other state."

The chief of China's general military staff, Liang Guanglie agrees. "This exercise follows the UN charter's goals and regulations, it does not target any third party, does not refer to the interests of any third party, neither does it intimidate any country."

Both countries will conduct military exercises again this week along with other members of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  The SCO is scheduled to a summit meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on August 16th.