By Feng Shaolei
About 100 years ago, a scholar said the people in Asia who best understood Russia were the Chinese, and the people in Europe who best understood China were perhaps the Russians. A complex history of more than 100 years has brought clouds and storms to the Sino-Russian relationship, but relations are currently at their best in a century.
President Hu Jintao's ongoing visit to Russia is a testimony to the relationship.
The ongoing deepening of the Sino-Russian relations is set against a backdrop of history and emerging realities. Modernization of the two large countries has entered crucial and similar phases.
After getting rid of traditional development patterns controlled by dogmatism, both countries have to choose their paths in social and economic development. They can blindly follow the patterns of developed countries or create their own approaches.
Similar trends have emerged in the two countries since the start of this century. Both China and Russia are paying increased attention to people's lives, reinforcing central government management, and reviving memories of their national history.
These similarities in development have enhanced the relationship.
Simultaneously, the economic surge in the new century is highlighted by the rise of a series of newly emerging countries transforming themselves into market-oriented economies.
Among them, the continuous economic development in China and Russia has offered new impetus for the global economy. This will inevitably be accompanied by changes in world politics. Multi-polarization will rise in global politics while power politics' ambition to dominate the world will meet with frustration.
Under these new situation, Sino-Russian cooperation is faced with important opportunities.
The history of the strategic partnership established in 1996 is seen as a success. At the same time, the two nations realize that it is not easy to further improve the partnership.
Among all of China's bilateral relationships with large countries, the Sino-Russian one may be the one with the soundest foundation. The stability can be expected to continue.
I believe the most important task now is to create a blueprint for the long-term development of the relationship, in accordance with both long-term benefits for the peoples of both nations and global development.
Another distinctive characteristic of the current Sino-Russian relationship still requires huge efforts to tap its potential. This is the mutual complement of the two economies.
Every sector government, enterprises, experts and mass media need to pursue thoughtful, practical study, communication and consultation to build mutual understanding to form a higher-level platform for cooperation.
Compared with surging collaboration in economic and political fields, people-to-people contact has lagged far behind. Over half a century ago, the two nations dispatched their most excellent personnel to communicate. They laid a solid foundation to protect the relationship under difficult conditions and facilitate the large-scale progress of their partnership in favorable times.
The market-oriented economy offers a new area for people-to-people communication. It demands more attention and funding from society and government to achieve the progress that is urgently needed but cannot be realized by the market alone.
With the launch of the "Year of China" in Russia this week, we have reason to be confident about the future. Closer relations will not be limited to an annual friendly activity but will open up a path for long-term development of bilateral relations.
The Year of China will also make its own contributions to the construction of a steady and harmonious global society.
The author is a director of the Russia Study Center of at East China Normal University.
(China Daily March 29, 2007)