China and Russia reaffirm their bond: ‘A bridge between civilizations’

BEIJING – Chinese and Russian officials Friday reaffirmed their commitment to the increasingly strained relationship between their two countries as a joint parade in Moscow Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of World War II’s end.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with their delegations, attended a tribute ceremony in Moscow’s Red Square on Friday to commemorate those killed in the war and to place a wreath at Moscow’s memorial to those “who have died defending the Motherland and its ideals.”

At the end of a two-day summit in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke of his country’s “profound friendship” with Russia, and said the two countries would become “a bridge between civilizations.”

Wang called on both countries’ authorities to “resolutely respect human rights,” an apparent reference to the authoritarian system in Russia where critics say dissent is quashed, including with so-called “gay propaganda” laws.

Wang’s comments on human rights came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came under pressure in the United States this week for remarks he made at a conference in Russia on combating extremism and terrorism.

In September, Lavrov said that the unrest in Syria had been rooted in traditional ideas and Western propaganda rather than in modern-day Islamic State and other radical groups. In October, he said the U.S. should compensate Moscow for “the cost of the contribution of Russian citizens” to fighting extremist groups.

Lavrov said this week that in a commentary for Novaya Gazeta, a leftist newspaper in Moscow, he had expressed his opinion only on certain aspects of the U.S. agenda and believed, like the president of the Russian State Duma, that President Trump “shouldn’t be judged so soon,” according to state news agency Tass.

By contrast, Putin congratulated Lavrov on his party’s election success.

Wang did not refer to the renewed tensions with the West, at least on the public stage. But in remarks Friday, Wang called on both countries to maintain a tone of reconciliation and cooperation in their relations, and Xi made a similar call in his meetings with G-20 leaders at the weekend.

Xi made similarly cautious comments before the war between the two countries began.

He was a young lieutenant in the People’s Liberation Army on Aug. 8, 1941, and was sent in April 1941 to study in Siberia, according to Li Xiaoqing, a professor of modern China history at the National University of Singapore.

China was a key ally of the Soviet Union, which led the Red Army’s defensive war against Nazi Germany.

The allies pressured Stalin into refusing China’s request for unconditional surrender. When he began the Warsaw Pact, in 1946, the move was intended to counteract Communist expansionism.

Rapprochement between China and Russia began in the early 1950s, Li said, and there were periodic periods of stormy relations, such as the bitter competition for strategic assets after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

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