Asia Minute: Key Chinese Leader Heads to Russia

May 22, 2018

Wang Qishan
Credit Foreign and Commonwealth Office / Flickr

There has been lots of reaction in recent days to trade talks between the United States and China. But much less attention is being paid to another diplomatic mission from China. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

One of China’s most powerful politicians is heading to Russia.

Wang Qishan made his name as a government graft-buster on behalf of Chinese President Xi Jinping. In March, Wang was appointed vice-president, and this week he takes his first overseas trip in his new office — to Russia.

Wang is an interesting figure in the world of Chinese politics —and not just because of his record in tracking down government corruption.

Up until last year, he was a member of the standing committee of the Politburo, the highest level of political leadership in the Chinese communist party, and by extension, in the country.

At 69, he followed tradition and stepped down from the standing committee because of his age. But President Xi has given him broader roles — some Chinese media refer to him as a “fire-fighter” — tackling sensitive diplomatic projects.

This week, he’ll head to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum . . . and then to Belarus — a key stop on China’s infrastructure drive known as the “Belt and Road Initiative” linking regional economies to China.

Credit The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons

Next month, Vladimir Putin heads to China on an official visit.

A columnist in the South China Morning Post said the fact that Wang’s first international trip as vice president is to Russia is significant – as the two countries seek to, quote, “hedge against U.S. president Donald Trump’s unconventional and aggressive approach on trade and global affairs.”