China awarded its first highest state honour Friendship Medal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The award was personally bestowed on Vladimir Putin by Chinese President Xi Jinping in grand ceremony held at Great Hall of the People in capital city of Beijing.
This was first time China has awarded medal since it was established in 2015. Friendship Medal is conferred by China only on foreigner who has made outstanding contributions in promoting exchange and cooperation between China and world, and in maintaining world peace. Russian President Vladimir Putin was presented this award during his official state visit to China, which will include attending 18th Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit at Qingdao.
China and Russia had been cooperating since late 1990s as they responded to quite similar pressures from West. For China, Russia always had been its best friend and for Russia, China is strategic partner. In December 2017, US labelled both countries strategic rivals that challenge US interests and values. China is currently locked in ongoing trade dispute with the US, which has also imposed tough sanctions on Russia. Both China and Russia have no choice but to increase cooperation so they can jointly deal with US if it increases pressure on both countries. The award to Russia’s most powerful leader Vladimir Putin is considered as clear sign that both countries were growing closer amid increasing pressure from US. It is also reflection of the special relationship that has existed for few decades.