Many Chinese people have a mixed perception of Russia: While they favor the rapport between the two strongmen Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, many are still of the view that Moscow is treacherous, given a history fraught with conflicts and feuds between the two nations, from the invasion by czarist Russia to the strained camaraderie in the Soviet era.

Also, some observers tend to badmouth Russia, calling its superpower status purely “past tense.” One fact is that southern China’s Guangdong province is set to surpass Russia in gross domestic product.

Yet a top strategist has called for more efforts to boost trust between Beijing and Moscow, amid a thaw in Sino-US relations following China’s red-carpet treatment last week for Donald Trump’s “state visit plus” that was packed with events and banquets.

Wang Haiyun, of the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, a quasi-governmental think-tank, noted in an op-ed in the Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times that neglecting or belittling Russia served no good for China, stressing that Russia is still a heavyweight influencer in global affairs.

“It may no longer be a superpower, with its GDP being eased out from the world’s top 10, [but] Russia’s huge territory, natural-resource reserves, self-sustainability and huge potential are elements that it can count on to retain its global stature.… And don’t forget the Russian military, R&D [research and development] capabilities [and] its judicious strategizing in diplomacy and geopolitics,” urges Wang.

Russia’s penchant for maximizing its gains with limited economic or military input, as seen in its alleged influence in US and European elections as well as its recapture of Crimea, is food for thought for China.

Wang warns against betting on the illusion that Washington won’t seek to contain China, but instead urges relying on the Sino-Russian bromance for mutual benefits.

Territorial rows concerning border areas in northeastern China and Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, a major obstacle in the way of enhancing ties, were settled in a 2001 treaty that delineated a permanent boundary.

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Vladimir Putin was seen providing a shawl for Xi Jinping’s wife Peng Liyuan at the 2014 APEC fireworks show. Photo: CCTV

Thus Beijing must seek to beef up its Russia ties in its quest for a balanced, pluralistic world order, as our enemy’s enemy is our friend, at a time when Washington and Moscow are continually at odds with each other, according to Wang.

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Xi and Putin meet prior to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo: Xinhua

China and Russia share more resonance in strategies and ideologies, on the base of a slew of stared identities: Both are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and, as each other’s largest neighbor, the two countries have common stakes in regional stability and counterterrorism.

Economic incentives can bind the two even closer, the expert says, as illustrated in Russia’s exports of gas and other natural resources to China, in deals that benefit both parties.

A video clip showing Putin putting a shawl on Xi’s wife Peng Liyuan at the fireworks show at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing that went viral, and Xi’s attendance at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics amid the West’s boycott, among others, are cited as examples of the bromance between the two countries.

As both Xi and Putin have cemented indisputable authority in their respective counties, they should join hands in rebalancing and resisting Washington’s hegemony, especially when the latter’s clout is on the wane, Wang says.