The awarding of Chinese leader Xi Jinping with Russia's highest award was an unexpected but logical symbol of the Russian-Chinese rapprochement. The decision of President Putin is absolutely unconventional both for the Russian practice of rewarding, and for our relations with China. And recognition of the really important personal role of the PRC President in relations between the two countries.
Xi Jinping's official visit to Russia was prepared long ago and was submitted by both sides as the main event in bilateral relations this year. As a rule, various agreements are being prepared for such visits, and solemn ceremonies and meetings are held during these visits.
So it was this time. Everything was intended to emphasize the growing Russian-Chinese rapprochement, which Vladimir Putin mentioned last year that now it is not enough even to simply call it "strategic interaction" and we need to come up with some new term.
Neither Moscow nor Beijing at the same time speak of an alliance, of allied relations. As a memory of the experience of the 50-ies, where the Chinese themselves first called the USSR "elder brother", and wishing to emphasize that both countries are equal, and their cooperation is not directed against anyone. But it is clear that this is actually a matter of the deepest degree of cooperation and coordination of actions on the world stage. Because our countries now really have the opportunity to achieve together the most important changes - both at home and in the international situation.
Russia and China have a lot of mutually beneficial projects. Moreover, the strengthening of economic cooperation - both in trade and in infrastructure projects - will ultimately bring long-term benefits to both parties. We have a very serious military cooperation, we have a common understanding of what a new architecture of world security should be. Putin and Si act in fact as allies in world affairs - that is, the geopolitical union of the two countries that is not made up on paper works in practice.
And nothing can change the mood of Moscow and Beijing to move forward together. Even if US President Trump succeeds in pursuing an independent policy and relations in the US-Russia-China triangle will begin to change, for example, by improving relations between Moscow and Washington, this will not be reflected in Russian-Chinese relations. Both sides have used the formula proposed by Xi Jinping in recent months: "no matter how the external situation has changed, our determination and confidence in developing and deepening strategic cooperation remains unshakable." These are not just words - but a concrete attitude of Beijing and Moscow, which give mutual assurances that their relations with Washington will not improve at the expense of Russia or China. And the role of personal trust of the two leaders is very great here.
Two leaders almost from the first meeting in the rank of heads of state held four years ago, began to call each other friends - the first word was used by the Chinese leader. At first it was, of course, a tribute of courtesy and advance payment. But now the relations of the two presidents have passed the test of time and geopolitical turbulence. For those 22 meetings that took place between Putin and Xi for four years (they are familiar with 2008, when Si became deputy chairman of the PRC, but began to communicate regularly since the spring of 2013, when he headed China), they got to know each other well . And when last year Putin called Xi "a very reliable partner," it was not a compliment. In the mouth of the Russian president, this is perhaps the highest praise for the head of a foreign state. After all, Putin's main claim to the same Western leaders is precisely their insecurity, their lack of autonomy, their inability to keep their word.
And on Tuesday, Xi Jinping was also awarded the highest state award of Russia - Putin signed a decree on awarding the President of the People's Republic of China with the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called. And at the solemn ceremony he personally awarded him this award.
It was really unexpected. First, based on the experience of awarding this order. For almost two decades of its existence, Si has become 17-m his Cavalier and only the third foreigner, awarded such a high award. And the previous head of the foreign state was awarded this order in 2003 year: it was Heydar Aliyev.
Russia never uses its highest awards to celebrate merit or simply display respect for the heads of foreign states - and in the case of Aliyev, and in the case of Nazarbayev (and he received the Order of St. Andrew in 1998), it concerned, in general, former compatriots , And Aliyev was generally one of the leaders of the USSR in the 80-ies. There are countries in which almost all visiting foreign heads of state receive the highest order - but this practice, as a rule, young African states. Well, or Ukraine - which at one time presented its highest order of Yaroslav the Wise to presidents and sultans. In Russia, for foreigners (but not only for them) there is a special Order of Friendship - it is given to those who contributed to strengthening the friendship of their country with Russia.
Secondly, in relations with China, we did not have the practice of awarding high awards to the leaders of the Middle Kingdom. When "Stalin and Mao listened to us", in the USSR there was practically no tradition of awarding the heads of socialist countries and simply friendly states with orders and, even more so, higher awards: Khrushchev widely used it, and Brezhnev became very widely used. Starting with the President of Egypt Nasser and until the middle of the 80, the Heroes of the USSR were the leaders of the GDR and Cuba, Mongolia and Czechoslovakia ... The Order of Lenin adorned the African leaders-Marxists. They were given, however, only to trusted comrades and, as a rule, to jubilees.
But relations with China began to deteriorate in 1960-m - so that neither Mao nor Zhou Enlai received Soviet awards. Yes, they would not have taken it - after all, the Chinese Communists were still fighters with bourgeois remnants, and orders and medals were considered such. Moscow and Beijing reconciled only towards the end of the 80. And although by this time the attitude of the leaders of the CCP to awards has already changed, the Soviet practice of rewarding itself has become obsolete, and soon the Soviet Union collapsed too.
So before Xi Jinping there were no awards from the Chinese leaders - except for Jiang Zemin, whom Putin in 2007 awarded the Pushkin medal, but it's still a different story.
At the same time, Xi Jinping received the highest Russian award entirely on merit. This is indeed the strongest Chinese leader since the times of Deng Xiaoping - and he consciously conducts business to strengthen relations between the two neighboring countries. During the ceremony in the Kremlin, he naturally said that he considered this award "not only to me personally, but also to reflect the great attention of the Russian side to the development of China-Russia relations, this shows a sincere sense of friendship of the Russian people to the Chinese people."
And then another unusual thing happened. Usually, the awarding ceremony follows an understandable protocol: first, the one who awards, then the one who is rewarded answers, everything ends here. So all went and this time - Putin spoke, delivered a speech Xi Jinping. But then suddenly Putin again took the floor:
"Of course, in such cases it is said that this is a sign of attention, a sign of respect for Russian-Chinese relations, a sign of respect for the entire Chinese people. The way it is. This award is a testament to our attitude towards China and the Chinese people.
But I have known Mr. Xi Jinping for several years. Although he heads a great power, a great country, but always shows a certain modesty on a personal level and prefers not to talk about himself. But I would like to emphasize that it is he who directs Chinese foreign policy. And I know firsthand, because we work together with him, that he personally makes a huge contribution to the development of bilateral relations and makes decisions on key issues of Russian-Chinese relations. And we really appreciate it, I want to emphasize this.
This award highlights your personal contribution to the construction of our relationship. We are very grateful to you for this. "
Putin and Si are almost the same age, but they are completely different people both in their life experience and in their characters. Putin came from a simple working family, Si was born into the family of one of the then leaders of the country, Putin worked in the special services, and Si spent several years in exile, Putin has been leading the country for 18 years, and Si is only four years old.
The political systems of Russia and China are also different. In the fall, Xi Jinping will have an important day of the congress of the CPC, at which his position as leader will be strengthened and, most likely, it becomes clear that he will lead China not only in the next five years. In any case, he and Putin have important things ahead of them, both in the field of bilateral relations and in the world arena. And the mutual trust and respect of these two people is a very significant factor in global politics.