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Russian currency has equal status with renminbi
China strengthened its economic ties with Russia on Sunday by allowing the rouble to circulate unrestricted in Suifenhe, Heilongjiang province.
It's the first time that Beijing has given a foreign currency the same legal status as the renminbi on Chinese territory, underscoring the two nations' determination to forge a closer alliance.
The border city Suifenhe has been dubbed the capital of Sino-Russian trade. The move allows Russian visitors to Suifenhe to pay for their meals, shopping and taxi fares in roubles.
Underground currency trading was rampant in the city, and analysts believe that the trial will create a boom of rouble use in the city.
Wang Jianhui, Beijing-based chief economist with stock brokerage Southwest Securities Co Ltd, believes that Russia will reciprocate by allowing the renminbi to trade freely in one of its own border cities.
The move will help define the yuan-rouble exchange rate and promote Sino-Russian financial cooperation on a broader scale, he added.
Beginning last month, Russians were allowed visa-free to the Suifenhe Sino-Russian Trade Zone, a 4.53-square-km area dedicated to promoting China-Russia trade.
The Suifenhe announcement comes after Premier Li Keqiang said in March that Sino-Russian relations are "already very good politically", and there should be more "pragmatic cooperation".
In March, President Xi Jinping chose Russia to be his first foreign destination, where he called Sino-Russian ties among the most important in the world and "also the best relationship between major countries."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said during his visit to China in October that Sino-Russian relations have reached an "unprecedented level".
Sino-Russian relations have been warming in recent years against the backdrop of NATO aggression and US plan to "pivot" to Asia.
As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia have vetoed sanctions against Syria this year. They also held joint military exercises this year as sovereignty disputes escalated along China's coastline.
Despite growing mutual political trust, economic cooperation between the two countries is still only in the preliminary stage. Bilateral trade was just $88.1 billion in 2012, compared with the $500 billion trade between China and the US.
China and Russia have agreed to increase bilateral trade to more than $100 billion by 2015 and beyond $200 billion in the longer term. China and Russia have vast space for cooperation in the energy area, as China's growing need for resources pairs with Russia's vast reserves, analysts say. Both sides see investment opportunities in Arctic and Russian Far East resources development, and in the extension of related pipeline infrastructure and maritime transport links.