YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—A member of the Chinese Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo reportedly expressed China’s readiness to forge “even closer” ties with Armenia when he met with President Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan on Saturday, May 21.
Meng Jianzhu, who is also the secretary of the ruling party’s powerful Central Committee on Political and Legal Affairs, arrived in Armenia at the head of a large delegation comprising other senior Chinese officials. Sarkisian’s office also referred to him as a “special representative” of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The high-level representative of the People’s Republic of China noted that the visit of his delegation is aimed at deepening and invigorating the Armenian-Chinese cooperation in the legal field, which he believes will considerably stimulate bilateral political relations,” the office said in a statement.
“According to him, all this is also important in the context of changes taking place in the world and in the region, which require friendly Armenia and China to establish even closer cooperation,” it said. “Meng Jianzhu assured that his country will spare no effort to promote stability and security in the region.”
Sarkisian was cited as saying that Chinese-Armenian relations have already expanded significantly since the early 1990s. “The People’s Republic of China is an important partner for Armenia, and we salute your successes and are happy for the achievements and progress which friendly China — an important player at the international arena — registers in every area,” he told Meng.
The Armenian leader recalled in that regard his March 2015 official visit to China that involved talks with President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang.
In a 5-page joint declaration released after their talks in Beijing, Xi and Sarkisian noted “mutual understanding on issues relating to pivotal interests and concerns of the two countries.” They also presided over the signing of a dozen Chinese-Armenian agreements to deepen bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including law-enforcement, tourism, education and energy.
Under one of those agreements, China and Armenia exchanged $160 million worth of each other’s national currency in an effort to boost bilateral trade. According to official Armenian statistics, it totaled over $480 million in 2015, making China Armenia’s second largest trading partner.
Xi and Sarkisian also called for closer military ties between their nations. Their joint statement referred to “mutual visits by military delegations, training of military personnel and provision of military aid.”
China has trained Armenian army officers and supplied multiple-launch rocket systems to Yerevan since the late 1990s. In 2011, the Armenian military reportedly purchased sophisticated Chinese rockets with a firing range of more than 100 kilometers.
Armenia has reciprocated the Chinese support with unequivocal endorsements of Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. The 2015 declaration made clear that Yerevan will continue to oppose Taiwan’s independence, avoid any “official contact” with the island and back “all Chinese government efforts to unite the country.”