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Chinese president says Beijing, Moscow to continue to back each other on ‘core’ issues

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on May 24, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping says Beijing will give Moscow "firm support," assuring Russian leaders that his administration would be backing them on "core" issues of mutual interest despite pressure by the West.

In a meeting with visiting Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Wednesday, Xi said Beijing and Moscow would continue to provide one another with "firm support on issues concerning each other's core interests and strengthen collaboration in multilateral arenas," according to a readout by the official Xinhua news agency.

Beijing and Moscow should "push cooperation in various fields to a higher level," he insisted, and should "raise the level of economic, trade and investment cooperation" between them.

In recent years, the two countries have hugely ramped up economic and diplomatic cooperation, growing closer to one another despite pressure on Beijing from the West to sever its ties with Moscow over its military operation with Ukraine.

China is Russia's largest trading partner, with trade between them reaching a record level.

Mishustin, who is accompanied by Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, is on an official two-day visit to China to seal trade contracts.

He is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit China since Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine last year.

The Russian official, who also met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Wednesday, said the two countries had established bilateral relations based on "mutual respect of each other's interests, the desire to jointly respond to challenges, which is associated with increased turbulence in the international arena and the pattern of sensational pressure from the collective West."

"Our country is the leading supplier of oil to China. Exports of natural and liquefied gas, as well as coal, are steadily increasing,” Mishustin noted, adding that the two sides “are ready to collaborate on the implementation of other major projects, including those involving renewable energy."

Moscow was hit last year by a slew of Western sanctions over its special military operation in Ukraine, which started in February 2022.

The sanctions slapped against Moscow, which include a cap on Russian oil prices, resulted in China becoming the world’s top buyer of Russian oil.

Novak, who is in charge of Russia’s energy policy, told a Russia-China business forum in Shanghai on Tuesday that Russian energy supplies to China would increase by 40 percent year-on-year in 2023, Moscow's state media reported.

Li, for his part, praised the establishment of a "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between China and Russia in the new era."

"The scale of investment between the two countries is also continuously upgrading," Li said. "Strategic large-scale projects are steadily advancing."

Ministers from the two countries on Wednesday signed several agreements to expand Beijing's cooperation with Moscow.

China has made it clear that it will not give in to foreign pressure, indicating that it will act in accordance to its foreign policy based on securing its national interests in international relations.

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