MOSCOW, March 5 (Xinhua) -- As dust settled on the tough man's return to the Kremlin after Sunday's election, Russian international relations experts have focused on how Vladimir Putin will navigate Russia through the waters of regional and global politics.
Though opinions vary, most agree on a main course -- the Russian president-elect will try to hold the West, bolster neighbors and face the East, all relations-wise that is.
As a pragmatic helmsman, Putin cannot be expected to steer the Russian ship of state too close to or too far from the American one.
But, he has outlined in his campaign manifesto that Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, which in turn requires a strong and successful Russia.
It is thus predictable that Russia-China relations, which have been evolving healthily for many years, will further develop steadily.
RUSSIA IN PUTIN ERA
Looking back only facilitates looking forward.
It was Putin who rendered a Boris Yeltsin's Russia of dilapidated economy, political instability and shaking society into a nation of order, stability and even resurrection, mostly thanks to his tough-guy style and soaring oil prices during his two-term, eight-year presidency from 2000.
As prime minister during the Dmitri Medvedev presidency, Putin continued to work Russia toward its political and economic renaissance through what has come to be known as the Medvedev-Putin tandem.
In more than two decades spanning the presidencies of Yeltsin and Putin, Russia has stuck to its friendly relations with China, due to the frequent flip-flopping in attitudes toward it by the West.
With concerted efforts from both nations, Russia and China have forged a strategic partnership of cooperation which has witnessed an increasing cooperation in every aspect.
Putin can certainly take credit for fostering these relations.
The strong momentum of Russia-China friendly cooperative relations are demonstrated in the following areas:
First, frequent visits by the top level of the administrations on both sides have facilitated stronger mutual trust. The two countries firmly stand by each other's side whenever core-interest issues arise, such as sovereignty, security and development.
Second, pragmatic cooperation has yielded abundant fruit. Russia and China have deepened their cooperation in energy, high technology and bilateral trade and investment.
While the global economy was struggling out of the crisis, the Russia-China trade volume reached 80 billion U.S. dollars in 2011, with China being Russia's No. 1 trading partner for a second year.
Third, people-to-people communication between the two countries have developed vigorously, resulting in the successful staging of year-long activities featuring each other's nations and languages. This year, the two countries are holding yet another year-long activity centered on tourism.
All these activities have helped the Russian and Chinese people better understand one another, especially among the younger generation, helping to pass their friendship from generation to generation.
Fourth, Russia and China have frequently demonstrated their strategic cooperation in coping with the turns and twists of international politics on such multi-national platforms as the United Nations, G20 and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, by keeping close contacts and coordination with each other.
This, in turn, has helped safeguard their shared interests in the process of promoting stability and peace in the region and the world.
During a visit to Russia last June, Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Russian counterpart Medvedev summed up the achievements and experiences in the decade following the signing of "China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation."
The two presidents also worked out the direction and goals of joint efforts between their countries for the next decade.
Also last year, Putin, then prime minister, visited China and worked with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao to flesh out a comprehensive arrangement for materializing the Hu-Medvedev blueprints for further development.
The Putin-Wen arrangement added additional impetus to the healthy and steady development of the bilateral strategic partnership of cooperation and made bilateral ties more positive and all-encompassing.
SIGNIFICANCE OF SINO-RUSSIAN TIES
For the Russian president-elect, sustaining the development of healthy and steady relations with China carries deeper connotations.
Good relations with China is a strategic foothold in Putin's foreign policy. It serves both the national interests and his presidential administration.
Putin's nostalgia for the old and powerful Soviet era, which can be seen through his aspiration to coordinate and orchestrate once again the alliance of the Commonwealth of Independent States, also brings him closer to his Chinese friend.
Because of interference from the West, the Russian president-elect seeks common interests in international affairs and deeper strategic cooperation with China. Putin was bluntly clear when he said: "We know our Chinese partners respect us while the Americans do not."
Putin believes China's fast development is a peaceful phenomenon and not a threat to Russia, and it is an opportunity for furthering bilateral relations with far-reaching prospects.
With the international politics and global economy undergoing profound and complex changes, the financial and economic crises are still brewing far-fetched consequences, with new challenges and new threats mushrooming all the time.
It is only reasonable to believe that, in Putin's coming six-year presidency, the Russian-China relations will move into new spheres as a result of their peaceful win-win development strategy and their shared interests and reliance on each other.