BEIJING: After sealing pledges of a “new era” of strategic partnership with China’s Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday is set to highlight the growing importance of trade near the Russian border in China’s northeast.

Putin ends his two-day, red-carpet visit to China in Harbin in Heilongjiang province, which has long-running trade and cultural ties to Russia, touring a Russian-China Expo and a forum on interregional cooperation.

Facing political isolation and Western sanctions over Russia’s two-year-old invasion of Ukraine, Putin is increasingly turning to China to support its war economy.

Amid the pomp of a full state visit, Putin and Xi signed a joint statement on Thursday that hailed the “new era”, countering the US across a sweep of security and economic issues and a shared global view.

“The China-Russia relationship today is hard-earned, and the two sides need to cherish and nurture it,” Xi told Putin. “China is willing to… jointly achieve the development and rejuvenation of our respective countries, and work together to uphold fairness and justice in the world.”

The joint statement fleshes out the “no limits” partnership the two declared in February 2022, days before Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into neighbouring Ukraine, launching the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two.

Beijing is helping Moscow’s war effort by providing drone and missile technology, satellite imagery and machine tools, US officials said last month, although China says it has not provided weaponry to any party.

Xi, Putin hail ties as ‘stabilising’ force in chaotic world

Russia’s isolation from other powers has fuelled its trade with China, which surged 26.3% last year to a record $240.1, Chinese customs data shows.

Russia has overtaken Saudi Arabia as China’s top source of crude oil, with shipments jumping more than 24% despite Western sanctions.

An editorial in China’s state-controlled Global Times newspaper on Friday cited the importance of burgeoning trade ties to the wider relationship, saying China had been Russia’s largest trading partner for 13 straight years.

“These achievements are not easy and have been achieved by both countries overcoming various external challenges and unfavorable factors, highlighting the solid foundation of the China-Russia relationship,” the editorial said.

Putin is flanked by a large trade delegation, which includes Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina.

Others include the heads of Russia’s largest banks - Sberbank CEO German Gref and VTB chief Andrei Kostin - billionaire Oleg Deripaska, top oil producer Rosneft chief Igor Sechin and liquefied natural gas giant Novatek’s boss, Leonid Mikhelson.

It was not immediately clear if Putin would make any further stops in Asia.

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