Li Zhanshu’s visit to Russia where he will attend the 7th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok next week, will also make him the senior-most Chinese official to visit Moscow since the Ukraine war began
BEIJING: Li Zhanshu, number three in China’s leadership hierarchy and China’s top legislator, will visit Russia and Nepal during a four-country tour beginning next week, which will make him the senior-most Chinese leader to leave the country since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out two-and-half years ago.
Li’s visit to Russia where he will attend the 7th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok next week, will also make him the senior-most Chinese official to visit Moscow since the Ukraine war began.
“China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu will pay official visits to Russia, Mongolia, Nepal and the Republic of Korea (the official name of South Korea) from September 7 to 17,” official news agency Xinhua announced on Sunday. He will attend the four-day forum, set to begin on Monday, during his stay in Russia, it said.
Li is currently chairperson of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), and is number three after President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) politburo’s seven-member standing committee.
Li’s 11-day tour will be the first time a senior Chinese leader would have stepped outside the mainland since President Xi Jinping went to Myanmar in January, 2020. Since then, none of the seven leaders have left China.
Li’s Russia visit assumes significance in the backdrop of China’s staunch support to Moscow over the Ukraine war, now in its eighth month, which Beijing has refused to call an invasion.
Li’s visit will further strengthen bilateral ties, the “no limit” strategic partnership announced by Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in February, just weeks before Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Russia, for one, has overtaken Saudi Arabia as China’s top oil supplier with Beijing snapping Russian oil at lower rates.
Earlier this week, Li told the outgoing Russian ambassador to China, Andrey Ivanovich Denisov that Beijing expects to join hands with Russia to continue mutual friendship and development.
Li, according to Xinhua, told Denisov that the two countries have headed towards the right direction under the strategic guidance of the two leaders, with firm mutual support and constant political trust.
“Through close strategic and practical cooperation, the new era of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has shown deeper meaning, manifesting the special value of the two countries,” he said.
Li is expected to stay for three days in Nepal from September 12 where, according to the Kathmandu Post, he will pay courtesy calls on the top Nepalese leadership comprising President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota.
This will be the third high-level visit by the Chinese leadership to Nepal in recent months including state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit in March and a visit by Lin Jianchao, CPC’s international department chief , in July.
In August, China agreed to finance a feasibility study for a cross-border railway with Nepal under the trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network, part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and pledged $118 million for China-assisted projects in the country.
This was agreed during a meeting between Wang and his Nepalese counterpart, Narayan Khadka, during a meeting in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao.
“China is ready to work with Nepal to jointly build the BRI with high quality, carry forward their ever-lasting friendship and open up new prospects for the development of bilateral relations,” Wang told Khadka, a statement on the meeting released by the official news agency, Xinhua, said.