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Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi's first trip abroad after the traditional Chinese New Year — to South Africa and Russia — could show Beijing's diplomatic blueprint and emphasis under the new leadership, observers said.
Yang will visit the two BRICS member countries from Sunday to Feb 23 at the invitation of his counterparts, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Saturday.
The trip is likely to pave the way for China's top political leader Xi Jinping's maiden visit abroad to the two countries after the two sessions in March, which refers to the meetings of national legislatures and political advisory bodies, said Da Wei, an expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
The Voice of Russia reported in December that Xi plans to make his first state visit to Russia. South Africa will host the fifth annual BRICS Summit from March 26 to 27. Leaders from emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are scheduled to meet in Durban.
Analysts said such an arrangement, if true, is not surprising as China has always valued traditional relations with Russia and Africa as well as multilateral mechanisms to promote cooperation and a more equal international structure.
The visits will also unveil more about Xi's diplomatic blueprint in his new capacity in bilateral and multilateral platforms, Da added.
Yang's trip comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin's presentation of a new foreign policy concept on Friday, which put relations with China as one of the country's priorities.
Russia's basic foreign policy principles remain unchanged while it has taken recent developments around the world into account, including the global financial crisis, the changing global balance of power and growing tension in the Middle East and North Africa, Putin said.
The guideline hailed the similar stance shared by Russia and China over core international issues, saying it is a basic element for regional and global stability, said Xinhua News Agency reported.
Russia will strengthen cooperation with China through the UN Security Council, G20, BRICS, East Asia Summit and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to address emerging regional and global challenges, according to Xinhua.
The two countries are bound as they share important understandings on economic cooperation, persisting in UN principles over international issues such as the ongoing crisis in Syria and developing multilateral mechanisms based on equal negotiations, said Feng Shaolei, director of the Centre for Russian Studies with the East China Normal University in Shanghai.
Before his re-election last March, Putin for the first time in years, clearly stated that Russia's foreign policy priority rests with the Asia-Pacific, including China. Xi also guaranteed in December that Beijing will not change its diplomatic priority of developing China-Russia relations.
Moscow will not give up its traditional relations with Europe, but it is getting eager to revive its eastern land and accelerate economic restructuring through cooperation with Asia, an economic engine amid the global recession, said Feng, adding that Asia will also benefit in the next decade from Russia's abundant resources.