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BOB MOON: Vladimir Putin’s wrapping up a trip to China today, talking energy. The Russian prime minister met with Chinese President Hu Jintao as both sides try to make a deal for Russia to sell natural gas to China. It wasn’t too long ago that Red Russia and Red China were Cold War rivals. These days, it’s all about economic collaboration. Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports from Shanghai.
SCOTT TONG: When Putin pops over to China these days, it’s a business trip and politics takes a back seat. The two countries signed $3.5 billion in trade and investment deals.
One has Russia doubling its oil sales to China to 600,000 barrels a day. That makes Moscow a key supplier. And helps it diversify its customer base beyond Europe.
Economist Kang Wu is with the East-West Center in Honolulu.
KANG WU: For the national interest of Russia, they certainly want to open up the Far East. For many years, if not decades, Asia-Pacific region is where the growth is.
China the importer wants to get more diverse, too. It’s taking affirmative steps away from depending on the Middle East and Africa.
Oil from those parts comes on tankers that navigate dicey waters known as the Straits of Malacca. There are pirates there.
Russian oil is more secure, says analyst Alex Brideau at the Eurasia Group.
ALEX Brideau: It’s right next door, it’s being carried over pipeline via land routes, rather than through these sea lanes.
This week Russia also committed to help China build nuclear energy plants. For its part, China will lend nearly $2 billion to Russian banks.
Zhao Huasheng at Shanghai’s Fudan University finds the mutual back-scratching historic.
Zhao HUASHENG: This is the best period ever, in China-Russia relations. Because both sides treat each other as equals.
But is this new alliance a new eastern bloc?
The two countries have come together to blast the U.S. dollar and its global dominance.
In these parts, though, most think Russia and China are simply doing business.
As one analyst puts it, it’s an axis of convenience.
In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.