Putin and Xi Hit It Off: Friendship Status Updated From "Forever Friends" to "Closest Friends!"
The most dramatic event of this week was definitely the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, we'll talk about it later. But let's begin with the meeting of Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping. After taking part in the big Russian-Chinese program in Moscow, Putin and Xi headed to the economic forum. There's a lot to say about the Russian visit of the Chinese president: 30 investment projects, a new factory of a Chinese car company in Tula Oblast, the 70th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties the Bolshoi Theater, and the panda diplomacy.
But the main thing is that since 2001, Russia and China had a neighborhood agreement under the slogan "forever friends, never enemies." Now, we can compliment the phrase by adding Xi Jinping's words "the closest friends".
In addition, giving Russia two pandas wasn't just a nice gesture but a deeply political one. China has withdrawn its pandas from the US zoos back home. Only the countries that China trusts can have pandas. Right now, we have the unique opportunity to take a close look at those pandas, even closer than Putin and Xi Jinping.
Getting close and personal: Ding-Ding the panda let our filming crew get very close. The panda diplomacy: China gives these rare animals only to the most valuable allies. That happens extremely rarely.
- How do you like it here?
Vladimir Putin: "When we talk about pandas we always end up smiling".
Ding Ding seems to be enjoying her bamboo. In fact, she seems to enjoy every kind of food she's fed at the Moscow zoo. She eats 17.5 pounds of bamboo a day. She also almost ate a Rossiya Channel microphone.
- Do you want your bamboo or do you want to taste our microphone?
Svetlana Akulova, director: Ding-Ding is only 1.5 years old. The male Zhui is 2 years old.
- Look at her munching!
- They have so much energy.
The Moscow zoo has bought a special oven for the pandas. It bakes corn, soy, and rice buns.
- They're delicious. Pandas will give you everything to get one. We use them…
- What can a panda give?
- They'll do everything you ask. They can tumble for you.
The pandas listen to Putin's voice in their enclosure. Here are the special speakers. It's an adaptation procedure.
"That'll be the subject of our discussion".
Their first meeting was accompanied by the audio from a December conference. It has everything, Ukraine, the US, and the economy.
"Let's finally do this".
Other audios include Xi Jinping's voice, and the noise of a crowd so that the pandas don't get stressed out on the day of the inevitably noisy ceremony. Animal care was in order. Dozens of excited children. The pandas were blissfully eating carrots and meeting Putin and Xi Jinping like they were old friends.
Svetlana Akulova, director: "After the flight, she adapted quicker than the male".
Chinese and Russian kids immediately shifted their focus from the pandas to the state leaders. An enterprising boy from China asked Putin to stay put while he fetched his camera.
"Wait here, please".
Svetlana Akulova: "They study Russian".
Vladimir Putin: "He tells me, "Wait here, don't go anywhere".
The photo was eventually taken. A Russian girl was even more insistent.
Vladimir Putin: What's your name?
- You're a good girl, Ksyusha.
- Get down, Ksyusha.
- Why were you hugging him for so long?
- I don't know. I just hugged him.
As promised, the Russian president made his Chinese counterpart feel at home during his state visit.
Vladimir Putin: "There's no other country in the world whose relations with Russia would be as broad and intensive and China's. We're indeed strategic partners in its full sense".
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman: "The entire program, especially its informal part is woven from these highlights, let's call them like that. It's especially important for Putin because he guides him around his beloved home city".
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are going for a stroll on the Neva. It's a nice warm evening in St. Petersburg. Only a few people on a small boat. Putin gives his counterpart a tour. There are landmarks all around the city.
Vladimir Putin: The Russian Academy of Sciences. See the navy flag over there?
- Comrade President, are they raised at specific times?
- Yes. Two times a day.
Meanwhile, cruise boats continue to sail along the Neva, carrying dancing and singing people. Few of them suspect what boat sails nearby. Absolute improvisation.
Dmitry Peskov: “We've just acquired information that they were planning to reach the Aurora and then, turn back to the Hermitage. But then, they decided to board the Aurora.”
Xi Jinping asked specifically asked to make a stop on Aurora.
"Can we walk around it a bit?"
This footage illustrates the spontaneity of the program. Putin helps the Chinese leader get off the boat to climb the Aurora.
"The Aurora cruiser is the only... the only Russian cruiser with such long service history".
Xi Jinping, President of China: "The city on the free Neva, the city of our labor glory! The song Putin played on the piano makes it clear that St. Petersburg has a special place in the hearts of the Russian people".
Putin played this song during one of his Chinese visits. Now, during his state visit, Xi Jinping could feel the city on the free Neva.
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are getting back from their tour. We can see that they went past the Scarlet Sails. In a couple of weeks, St. Petersburg, like all other Russian cities, will hold high school proms. Now, Xi Jinping will have an impression of this beautiful holiday in St. Petersburg.
Dmitry Peskov: “During such conversations, during such trips, and so on, they often discuss very important things, both in terms of bilateral relations and international agenda. Sometimes, they coordinate their position on essential matters of the global agenda. They'll be talking in private for several hours. In terms of content, such conversations may be more valuable, than official meetings.”
It's 11 PM in St. Petersburg but the informal program of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping continues.
- Greetings, Mr. Putin.
And now, the leaders are heading to the Hermitage. The moon has risen above the city. The clock at the Hermitage was at 10:15 PM but the Chinese leader was inspecting the exhibits with great interest. They made a stop by the Madonna Litta. Xi Jinping froze in front of the Peacock Clock.
The personal driver of the Chinese leader was too tired and fell asleep under the walls of the Hermitage. The Chinese leader continued talking to the Russian president.
Vladimir Putin: "We said goodbye at 12 AM Moscow time. That's 4 AM in Beijing. We had plenty of things to discuss. I had to say: "I'm sorry, but I'll have to let you go. That's not a way to treat one's guest." But that signifies that we have a very broad agenda".
Next morning, Xi Jinping shared when he'd gone to sleep.
Xi Jinping: 7 AM Beijing time.
- Sorry about that.
- On the contrary, yesterday was great.
Extremely busy schedule for the whole duration of the three-day visit.
He had a top-tier greeting at the Kremlin.
"Meeting the Chinese leader. Present arms!"
The mounted honor escort is dressed in parade uniform. It was so hot in Moscow that day that the asphalt was almost melting. The animals required special care. The horses are wearing special sun hats protecting them from the heat, they're tied to their ears and protect the horses from overheating.
The president of China walks up the parade stairs. The Chinese leader called Putin his closest and the most reliable friend among all foreign leaders. He said that right before arriving at the Kremlin.
We're approaching the doors. Such high-profile visits are rare and are always accompanied by solemn ceremonies. Putin needs to revise the procedures.
"Turn left, shake his hand".
Xi Jinping: "Russia's the foreign state I visit the most. President Putin is my closest friend and a good colleague".
Vladimir Putin: "The cooperation of Russia and China in the global arena is undoubtedly the most important factor of stability in the current international matters".
- Were the relations with the US discussed in detail at the meeting?
Yuri Ushakov, Presidential Aide: They were. Bilaterally.
- Can we expect some mutual coordination of the two states, Russia and China, in terms of relations with the US, bearing in mind what's happening in the US-Chinese and US-Russian relations?
Dmitry Peskov: “That's not the way to put it. We should keep in mind that both China and Russia have their own issues with the US. China is in a state of trade war against Washington. We've got our own issues with America, primarily in terms of strategic security, disarmament, and the unwillingness of our American counterparts to engage in any kind of relevant dialogue. We both have our specific issues with the US. However, the distinctive feature of the Russian-Chinese partnership is the idea that our partnership doesn't oppose other countries or groups of countries. That's why saying that we coordinate our efforts against the US is absolutely wrong.”
Vladimir Putin: "We're not creating military alliances with China. Yes, we're strategic partners, but we don't operate against somebody. We work for the greater good of us and our partners".
While the leaders are having a private conversation, the employees of both foreign ministries prepare the documents that will be signed. Just check out how many contracts are getting signed today. Phrasing is being perfected until the last second. A member of the Chinese delegation grabs the freshly printed pages, rapidly takes the pre-readied folders from his bag, and puts the sheets in there. Perhaps the speed was the reason there were phrases like "the confirmatory agreement regarding the willingness to sign the obligatory documents".
In the end, there were dozens of actual projects. A Chinese car factory is opening in Tula Oblast. Gazprom has already been asked to increase the shipment volumes after the Power of Siberia had been launched.
Alexander Miller, CEO of Gazprom: "That'll be about 212 billion cubic feet of gas in addition."
There are so many numbers in the Russian-Chinese relations that they need to be written down just in case. The most important need to be underlined.
- That's the trick. Everyone prepares their own materials — making them…
- Is it your personal trick?
- Yes, these are my personal developments.
- Why are the letters so small?
- So that I could fold it and put it in my pocket.
The 70th anniversary of the diplomatic relations and the trade turnover of more than a hundred billion dollars are important landmarks; the leaders believe they won't be the last.
Vladimir Putin: "Regardless of what heights one conquers, it's important to never cease to perfect oneself, apprehending harmony and the truth".
The ancient Palace of Facets. The ceremonial reception for Xi Jinping is being held here. That's especially significant. We can now see the Chinese leader saying his ceremonial speech. Vladimir Putin is right next to him. Back in the days, the Russian emperors used to celebrate their coronations here. The president decided to show his counterpart the Red Porch the emperors used for ceremonial entries.
"Nice, now the second one".
This is an unplanned spontaneous walk so all they had to urgently open all the ancient locks and doors at the Kremlin.
"It's a time machine that can move through space. It's actually very interesting, follow me".
Putin was eager to show his companion around the Kremlin. He also mentioned where the most numerous groups of guests come from.
Vladimir Putin: "We have a lot of Chinese tourists here".
- Do you use some Chinese phrases during your meetings?
- Ni Hao.
Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft: Sure, Ni Hao, xiexie.
- Do you say anything else, besides hello and thank you?
- Then, we discuss figures, millions of tons. National currencies. Yuan.
The Russian Ambassador to China was eagerly telling how Russian names sound in Chinese. It's clear whose last name he likes the most.
The Russian students of the University of St. Petersburg, which has been teaching professional Sinologists, sing the Chinese anthem.
"I'm just a fan of Chinese culture".
The Chinese students are trying their best at performing the Russian anthem.
The university that welcomed the leaders of the planet's two leading countries has been clearly thoroughly preparing for the event.
- How many times have you rehearsed this?
- A million times perhaps.
The Chinese delegates were so focused they started sweating. They were wiping their heads with towels. The Chinese students were nervous as well.
"It's all fine I guess".
They were being instructed on how to hand the Chinese leader his diploma.
- I'm Xi Jinping now. Put it down carefully, if I accidentally put it like this, it may slide down. Keep an eye on Xi Jinping.
- What's it like being Xi Jinping?
- I'm not just Xi Jinping, I also play the roles of Chancellor Kropachev and Putin. I'm enjoying all the roles. But it's better to be myself.
- And who are you really?
- Event management department of the University of St. Petersburg.
- Can I touch it? I'd suggest not to.
- What if we hold it together?
- Fine, let's hold it together. Only together?
- Yes, only together. I was told to guard it with my life.
Vladimir Putin: "I've known the new fellow of the University of St. Petersburg for many years. I can assure the board of studies and the entire university that you've made the right choice. All metaphors aside, he's an actual scientist. That applies to both our bilateral relations and global issues. He's both a scholar because he's the author of these ideas and a practitioner".
The presidential Aurus has two flags, the Russian and the Chinese. Putin and Xi Jinping will ride this car together. That happened several times during the visit. And of course, only the two of them know what matters they discussed in the car and in the isolated theater box at the Bolshoi Theater.
- Splendid. Being an elderly man, I immediately recall the slogans of those times, "forever brothers." That might be true now. Anyway, American became extremely nervous. Trump blamed the witch hunt for everything. Otherwise, he would've had great relations with Russia but there's still a chance. We'll see how the situation develops in Osaka at the G20 meeting. Anyway, I can't remember such serious statements being voiced at the reception of any other state leader.