by Xinhua writers Zhu Lei, Yang Qingchuan
BEIJING, March 21 (Xinhua) -- Vladimir Putin included China in his first foreign trip after assuming the Russian presidency last year.
Xi Jinping, after his election as Chinese president last week, also chose Moscow to be the first foreign capital to visit as China's head of state.
The reciprocation reflects the fact that both countries see each other as the principal priority of their foreign relations, which was reaffirmed in a phone call made by Putin to congratulate Xi on his election.
The Russian leader told his new Chinese counterpart that the bilateral relationship is of great significance as it is a major contributor to world peace and stability.
Looking forward to the summit with Putin, Xi said he believed his upcoming visit would inject new vigor into the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.
The first foreign trip of China's new leader is widely deemed as an important diplomatic vane for the second largest economy in the coming decade.
"The first visit is a symbol, of course, but it is a very important symbol," Yakov Berger, a professor at Russia's Far East Institute, told Xinhua.
Like his predecessor Hu Jintao, who also picked Moscow as the destination of his first foreign trip after assuming office, Xi's choice is a continuation of China's diplomacy which prioritizes ties with Moscow, Berger said.
China and Russia are connected by many common interests, he said, adding that as giant neighbors who share long borders, they are interested in good-neighborhood relations.
"They are also interested in creating an environment of trust, accord and security in the region we share ... Third, both countries play important roles in global affairs, and their coordinated positions and cooperation could facilitate creation of a more just and favorable global order," he said.
In light of the high-level political mutual trust between China and Russia, it is only natural for the two countries' new leaders to act that way, analysts say. That demonstrates continuation and stability of China-Russia relations, they say.
HISTORICALLY BEST EVER
A Chinese proverb goes that "a relative afar is less helpful than a close neighbor."
As each other's biggest neighbor, China and Russia regard each other as an important development opportunity and a preferred partner, then Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said when announcing the new Chinese president's state visit to Russia earlier this month.
Relations between China and Russia feature overlaps in core national interests and non-existence of any serious contradictions, Berger said, noting that makes their relations special and unparalleled.
"Relations between our countries don't pursue short-term egoistic benefits and tactical advantages. Our countries proceed from deep understanding of deeply rooted common interests. That gives their relations a long-term and stable character," he said.
Building on past achievements, both governments said the bilateral relationship surged to a historic best in 2012, with intensive political communication, fruitful economic and trade cooperation and enriched cultural exchanges.
Regarding China as huge potential for bushiness cooperation, Putin has underlined the importance of diplomatic, economic and energy relations with China.
On the global arena, China and Russia act in close coordination, taking similar approaches to Middle East issues, and working shoulder to shoulder in Central Asia, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Group of 20 and the UN Security Council.
Both permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia reaffirmed in last June their strong opposition to foreign military intervention and a forced regime change in Syria.
Boosted by political enthusiasm, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has been on the fast track against the backdrop of the global economic slump.
China-Russia trade in 2012 jumped by 11.2 percent year on year to 88.2 billion U.S. dollars, compared with the 6.2 percent growth for China's overall foreign trade, according to the General Administration of Customs.
Currently, Russia is the ninth largest trade partner of China, while China top Russia's list.
Energized by rich cultural heritage and varied natural landscape of both countries, their people-to-people and cultural exchanges are also active, which helps consolidate the social basis of bilateral relations.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Russia reached 343,000 last year, up 47 percent from 2011, according to official statistics.
The relationship between China and Russia is not a bloc, union or alliance, and it distinguishes itself from other big power relations, said Sergei Lousianin, deputy director of Russia's Far East Institute.
Their relations in the political and strategic spheres could be called exemplary because Moscow and Beijing have solved all major territorial disputes and other disagreements, he said.
Though their economic relationship is generally satisfactory, it is seen as lagging behind the political one, given their relatively low level of investment and trade compared with those between China and the United States, Japan and other countries, he said.
Both Lousianin and Berger believed that energy is one of the most promising spheres in bilateral cooperation. The two countries have to cooperate more closely on science, electronics, biotechnology, space, agriculture and infrastructure, they said.
At a high-level meeting between the two countries in February, energy-rich Russia agreed to supply 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to China. The two also reached consensus on cooperation regarding oil, nuclear and coal.
(Xinhua reporter Han Liang in Moscow contributed to the story)