Medvedev’s First Visit to China as Russia’s President

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first foreign trip—only half a month after his inauguration in early May—will include a visit to China from May 23 to 24. Medvedev’s choice of visiting Kazakhstan then China on his first international trip explicates the orientation of Russia’s foreign policy under Medvedev’s administration. According to Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui, “President Medvedev’s making China his first non-CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) visit demonstrates the special, advanced, strategic and strong partnership between China and Russia” (Xinhua News Agency, May 21). Medvedev’s large delegation will reportedly include entrepreneurs and government officials such as Sergei Shmatko, the energy minister, and Medvedev is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao (China Daily, May 20).

The meeting is expected to produce a joint statement; at a press conference on May 20, Russian Ambassador to China Razov Sergey stated: “I strongly suggest experts study the document, as it details China and Russia’s standpoints on many international issues, including the new international order, global security and stability, and the new challenges.” Moreover, Sergey indicated that Russia and China were likely to sign a cooperative agreement on nuclear energy (China Daily, May 20). However, Sergey added, “In terms of gas pipelines, as far as I know, the two countries will not sign any new documents” (Reuters, May 20).

Xu Tao, a professor at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) said that “Medvedev is giving priority to China in Russia’s foreign relations with major powers” (China Daily, May 8). Referring to the strengthening of ties between Russia and China in recent years, Xu noted that “Putin initiated the grand strategy … Medvedev was the one who did the concrete work to implement Putin’s strategy” (China Daily, May 8). Medvedev is widely heralded in China for his role in initiating the Year of China in Russia in 2006 and the Year of Russia in China in 2007.