Words of praise and partnership were exchanged by Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao as they opened a huge trade show in Moscow.
The show, which emphasised Chinese achievements, underlined the drive of the one-time rivals to increase political and economic relations.
“For Russia, China has always been and remains one of the most important economic partners in the world, and in recent years our business ties have been growing and strengthening stably,” Mr Putin said.
Also on display were the rituals of politeness and praise that mark meetings between the leaders of two massive neighbours, which claim a strategic partnership despite past clashes and uncertainty about the future.
“The products on show here reflect the most meaningful achievements of the Chinese economy and give us a truly unique opportunity to get acquainted with the successes of China’s policy of reform and openness,” Mr Putin said.
Framed by a backdrop depicting the Great Wall and a modern Chinese skyline, Mr Hu said China and Russia aimed to “cultivate new growth in economic co-operation”,
The exhibition, he said, would be “a celebration for the development of traditional friendship between our peoples and a bridgehead for the advancement of our co-operation”.
The backdrop also featured a symbol of the “Year of China in Russia,” which began with Hu’s visit: a panda in a red tunic and a brown bear in a Russian peasant shirt, elbows locked and marching forward with smiles on their faces.