A little more than half a century ago, China began its economic reconstruction and modernization process, after going through a few tumultuous decades of wars and uncertainty. The construction of its first automobile assembly line was a pilot project at the time.
"We were then China's key partner and helped them build their first automobile works," Constantin Laptev, general manager of the Russian Lihachev automobile factory, recalled on Wednesday at the Crocus-Expo center in Moscow, where a Chinese National Exhibition is being held.
Now, Laptev is eager to further cooperate with the FAW Group, the largest automobile enterprise in China with an annual output of more than 1 million cars, and which has also established joint ventures with Volkswagen and Toyota.
"We will further exchange with our partners in northeast China's Changchun, where the FAW's headquarters are located, and expand our cooperation in making cars," he said.
FAW is not the sole star in the exhibition covering an impressive floor area of 20,000-square-meter. Other auto makers from China such as Chery, Great Wall and Brilliance also attracted Russian interest.
"Moscow is suffering from heavy traffic jams and Chery's small cars are easy to drive and park. I really want to try it on the road," said Leonid Kim, putting a hand on a red Chery.
A number of Chinese car makers, including Chery and Great Wall, have sold their products in Russia and have also established joint ventures there.
During Chinese President Hu Jintao's three-day state visit to Russia this week, he flew to Tatarstan and expressed support for the Great Wall, which is going to be one of the first companies to start a manufacturing plant in the Yelabuga free economic zone.
Other Chinese heavyweights such as PetroChina are also taking part in the exhibition and leading companies like Haier and Lenovoare showcasing their air-conditioners, laptops and super computers. Models of the three-gorges dam, the rail link to Tibet and the Shenzhou VI manned spaceship are also attracting a lot of attention.
"China used to produce only water bottles and toys. However, the Chinese National Exhibition shows that it has now recorded a much faster economic growth than the United States ever did," said former Prime Minister Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov, who is also chairman of the Russian chamber of commerce and industry.
The other celebrities at Moscow's largest exhibition center are the "Fuwa" - the five mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They represent four popular animals from China -- the fish, the panda, the Tibetan antelope, the swallow -- and the Olympic Flame.
"I learned from TV reports that Beijing will host the Olympics next year. I really want to go there then and travel around the country," said Anna Frumkina, a visitor.
In the past years, Russia and China have gone through a period of bonhomie with a surge in bilateral ties.
Gazing at dozens of old photos entitled "Flourishing red berry: Russians in Harbin," Valentina Yiakovlevna eagerly asked her Chinese interpreter for help. An uncle of this 80-year-old lady went to Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang province, in the 1930s where he married and settled down.
"My uncle must have passed away but I have come here to find out if there is any way I can trace a relative of mine still living there," she said. "I get really excited when I look at these pictures because one of these people might very well be my relative, even though I can never be sure."
(Xinhua News Agency March 29, 2007)