Chinese Leader: “Armenia, China always treated each other as equals”

Chinese President Hu Jintao described Armenia as a “trustworthy friend” of his country and called for the expansion of bilateral political, economic and cultural ties as he met with his visiting Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, on Sunday, RFE/RL reports.

In a staggering display of Asian-style diplomatic courtesy, the Chinese leader said the two nations have “always treated each other as equals”. Even if RFE/RL provides solid background info to illustrate Hu Jintao’s ‘equality’ point, I’m still finding it hard to hold the ironic chuckle.

Chinese companies have been involved in the multimillion-dollar reconstruction of two Armenian thermal-power plants. One of those facilities, located in Yerevan, went on stream late last month.

Sarkisian also pointed to the recent launch in northern China of a Chinese-Armenian joint-venture producing synthetic rubber. Much of its technology and equipment was contributed by a big Soviet-era chemical factory located in Yerevan.

The implementation of these and other commercial projects has been accompanied by a rapid growth in Chinese-Armenian trade. According to official Armenian statistics, China surpassed Germany as Armenia’s second largest trading partner after Russia last year and solidified this status in the first quarter of this year.

The total volume of first-quarter commercial exchange between the two countries jumped by 66 percent year on year to $95 million and accounted for 9.4 percent of Armenia’s overall foreign trade. Chinese imports to Armenia made up the bulk of the sum, despite a more than tenfold surge in Armenian exports to China recorded during the three-month period.

According to Sarkisian’s office, the Armenian leader also discussed with Hu possible Chinese involvement in an ambitious project to build a railway connecting Armenia to neighboring Iran. The office did not specify whether they reached any agreement to that effect.

It said in a separate statement that Sarkisian also met in Shanghai with the chief executives of two Chinese corporations specializing in the manufacturing of telecommunication equipment. One of them, Huawei Technologies, is considering investing in Armenia, said the statement.

Earlier in 2008, China pointedly declined to vote for an Azerbaijani-drafted UN General Assembly resolution that demanded an “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces” from occupied Azerbaijani lands. Armenian leaders regularly praised Beijing for its “balanced” position on the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict both before and after that vote.

Successive Armenian governments, for their part, have voiced unequivocal support for the restoration of Chinese control over Taiwan. Former President Robert Kocharian reaffirmed that support in a joint declaration with Hu signed during a 2004 state visit to Beijing.

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