Russia hosts China's 'premier-in-waiting'

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev were set Friday to host a top Chinese official who is tipped to become premier amid transitions of power in both countries.

Putin, who will return to the Kremlin for a historic third term on May 7, and Medvedev, set to become premier in a job swap with his mentor, will host Vice Prime Minister Li Keqiang for political and economic talks, officials said.

"Political changes in China and Russia do not have any effect whatsoever on bilateral ties," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP. He declined to go into specifics of the upcoming talks.

Russia, the world's largest energy producer, and China, the world's largest energy consumer, set much store by their bilateral ties.

Putin has paid frequent visits to China in his capacity as president and prime minister since he took power in 1999.

His first trip abroad since he announced his Kremlin comeback was to China last October.

Putin's next China visit is set for June, one of his first foreign trips upon reclaiming his old presidential job, the Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday.

"During the talks the sides are planning to exchange opinions on the pressing issues of the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership," the Kremlin said in a statement, using the phrase it reserves for close friends and allies.

The Kommersant broadsheet reported in February that Putin had earlier refused to host Li due to his busy agenda ahead of parliamentary and presidential polls, putting a strain on bilateral ties.

The newspaper, citing sources in the Russian-Chinese inter-governmental commission, the Russian foreign ministry and the government, said Li had wanted to visit Russia in February ahead of his expected replacement of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The newspaper said Li was forced to postpone the visit when the Russian government indicated that Putin would not be available to host him due to his busy agenda.

Putin's spokesman Peskov declined to confirm the report on Friday.

A new generation of leaders must take over the reins of power in China within a year.

President Hu Jintao will end his second five-year term as party head this year, while Li is expected to take over from Wen, who will resign in 2013.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 11 hours ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 12 hours ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 15 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after Manchester United announced he left as manager after less than a season in charge.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.