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  World   Asia  09 Jun 2018  Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin draw closer as ‘rift’ with US deepens

Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin draw closer as ‘rift’ with US deepens

AFP
Published : Jun 9, 2018, 6:26 am IST
Updated : Jun 9, 2018, 6:26 am IST

Xi placed the large golden medal around Putin's neck at the grandiose Great Hall of the People in front of dignitaries from both countries.

Chinese President Xi Jinping awards Russian President Vladimir Putin with the Friendship medal during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Photo: AP)
 Chinese President Xi Jinping awards Russian President Vladimir Putin with the Friendship medal during a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Photo: AP)

Beijing: President Xi Jinping gave China's first friendship medal to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday as the neighbouring giants touted their close ties amid diplomatic and economic challenges from the US.

Xi placed the large golden medal around Putin's neck at the grandiose Great Hall of the People in front of dignitaries from both countries. China's "highest honour" is bestowed on foreigners who have made "outstanding contributions" to the country's modernisation drive and helped maintain world peace, Xi said. "This medal of friendship represents the Chinese people's lofty respect for President Putin, and symbolises the profound friendship between China and Russia," he said.

The most powerful Russian and Chinese leaders in decades, Putin and Xi have forged closer ties as US President Donald Trump has labelled both countries economic rivals that challenge US interests and values. Before the medal ceremony, Putin said the two heads of state had enjoyed "fruitful" talks.

"The relationship between Russia and China is a friendly, neighbourly one, developing... in the spirit of overarching strategic partnership," he said.

The two leaders later attended a youth ice hockey game in the coastal city of Tianjin. Analysts remarked on their similar leadership styles.

Xi and Putin are "soulmates who want to make their countries great again", Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told AFP. "Both share scepticism towards American hegemony and distrust US intentions, both are authoritarian personalistic rulers," he said.

Putin was re-elected to a fourth Kremlin term in March. That same month, Xi was given a path to indefinite rule when the Communist-led rubber-stamp parliament lifted presidential term limits.

Tags: xi jinping, vladimir putin