Xi Jinping heads to Russia in first foreign tour

Xi Jinping heads to Russia in first foreign tour

Xi Jinping is heading to Russia on the first stop of his maiden overseas tour as president of China.

Mr Xi is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, with the two likely to discuss energy and investment deals.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Xi said the two countries were "most important strategic partners" who spoke a "common language".

He will also visit Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo on his tour, which continues until 30 March.

In South Africa, he will attend the fifth Brics summit from 26-27 March. Brics stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - five key emerging economies.

The choice of Moscow as Mr Xi's first destination is seen as symbolic, and a move from China to counter the US pivot to Asia, correspondents say.

Bilateral trade is booming, reaching a record $88bn (£58bn) last year.

At a press conference, Mr Xi called Russia China's "friendly neighbour", and said that the fact that he was visiting so soon after assuming presidency was "a testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia."

"China-Russia relations have entered a new phase in which the two countries provide major development opportunities to each other," he said.

China is also Africa's largest trading partner, surpassing the United States and its traditional European partners.

"China-Africa co-operation is comprehensive," Mr Xi said. "It has contributed to Africa's international standing."

Xi Jinping was confirmed as China's president last week, concluding a lengthy transition process that saw him assume the Communist Party leadership in November 2012.