Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy premier in charge of defence and space industry, visited Beijing on Thursday. He used to be the special representative on missile defence [ABM] to NATO, but on Wednesday, he was relieved of this charge. Not many details have appeared in the media about his visit to China, but Beijing obviously appreciates Rogozin’s key role in the modernization and technological upgradation of Russia’s defence industry.

China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping received Rogozin. Rogozin held structured talks with State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Dai stressed the importance of China-Russia relations for “safeguarding regional peace, safety and security.” He said: “A growing and strong Russia is an indispensable part of the world’s development. China hopes Russia will develop faster and better.”

There has been a stepping up of criticism by Beijing regarding the US’ ABM deployments in Asia-Pacific, but it stops short of hinting at forming a common front with Moscow. However, China is expected to be among the 50 countries (including all 28 NATO countries) participating in the missile defence conference that Russia is convening  in Moscow on May 3-4.

Equally, the 4-day visit of Chinese vice-premier Li Keqiang to Russia this week is indicative of the two countries preparing for a new phase in their partnership. Li is a member of the standing committee of the politburo of the Chinese communist party and is a likely successor to Wen Jiabao as China’s premier. Li was received by Vladimir Putin  at his suburban Novo-Ogarevo residence outside Moscow.

People’s Daily featured a ‘curtain-raiser’ on Li’s visit to Moscow, which was authored by China’s vice-minister of commerce Zhong Shan. The article said Li’s talks will focus on promoting bilateral economic cooperation with Russia, which will “promote the economic development of the two countries and the region as a whole”. The article stressed promotion of border trade and “strengthened cooperation in energy.” Beijing is pinning hopes on finalizing a trillion-dollar natural gas deal with Russia in the near future.