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Putin Focuses on Trade,Culture in China05/17 06:22


   BEIJING (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin focused on trade and 
cultural exchanges Friday during his state visit to China that started with 
bonhomie in Beijing and a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping that deepened 
their " no limits " partnership as both countries face rising tensions with the 

   Putin praised China at a China-Russia Expo in the northeastern city of 
Harbin, hailing the growth in bilateral trade. He will also meet with students 
at Harbin Institute of Technology later Friday. Harbin, capital of China's 
Heilongjiang province, was once home to many Russian expatriates and retains 
some of those historical ties in its architecture, such as the central Saint 
Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church.

   Though Putin's visit is more symbolic and is short on concrete proposals, 
the two countries nonetheless are sending a clear message.

   "At this moment, they're reminding the West that they can be defiant when 
they want to," said Joseph Torigian, a research fellow at Stanford University's 
Hoover Institute.

   At the exhibition in Harbin, Putin emphasized the importance of Russia-China 
cooperation in jointly developing new technologies.

   "Relying on traditions of friendship and cooperation, we can look into the 
future with confidence," he said. "The Russian-Chinese partnership helps our 
countries' economic growth, ensures energy security, helps develop production 
and create new jobs."

   Putin started the second day of his visit to China on Friday by laying 
flowers at a monument to fallen Soviet soldiers in Harbin who had fought for 
China against the Japanese during the second Sino-Japanese war, when Japan 
occupied parts of China.

   At their summit on Thursday, Putin thanked Xi for China's proposals for 
ending the war in Ukraine, while Xi said China hopes for the early return of 
Europe to peace and stability and will continue to play a constructive role 
toward this. Their joint statement described their world view and expounded on 
criticism of U.S. military alliances in Asia and the Pacific.

   The meeting was yet another affirmation of the friendly "no limits" 
relationship China and Russia signed in 2022, just before Moscow invaded 

   Putin has become isolated globally for his invasion of Ukraine. China has a 
tense relationship with the U.S., which has labeled it a competitor, and faces 
pressure for continuing to supply key components to Russia needed for weapons 

   Talks of peacefully resolving the Ukraine crisis featured frequently in 
Thursday's remarks, though Russia just last week opened a new front in the 
Ukraine war by launching attacks at its northeastern border area. The war is at 
a critical point for Ukraine, which had faced delays in getting weapons from 
the U.S.

   China offered a broad plan for peace last year that was rejected by both 
Ukraine and the West for failing to call for Russia to leave occupied parts of 

   In a smaller meeting Thursday night at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leaders' 
residential compound, Putin thanked Xi for his peace plan and said he welcomed 
China continuing to play a constructive role in a political solution to the 
problem, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency. They also attended 
events to celebrate 75 years of bilateral relations.

   Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia has increasingly depended on China as 
Western sanctions have taken a bite. Trade between the two countries increased 
to $240 billion last year, as China helped its neighbor defray the worst of 
Western sanctions.

   European leaders have pressed China to ask Russia to end its invasion in 
Ukraine, to little avail. Experts say China and Russia's relationship with each 
other offer strategic benefits, particularly at a time when both have tensions 
with Europe and the U.S.

   "Even if China compromises on a range of issues, including cutting back 
support on Russia, it's unlikely that the U.S. or the West will drastically 
change their attitude to China as a competitor," said Hoo Tiang Boon, who 
researches Chinese foreign policy at Singapore's Nanyang Technological 
University. "They see very little incentive for compromise."

   Xi and Putin have a longstanding agreement to visit each other's countries 
once a year, and Xi was welcomed at the Kremlin last year.

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