New Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to follow the example of his predecessor and choose Russia as the destination of his first State visit overseas, Chinese media reports and analysts here said on Monday.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi travelled to Moscow on a trip widely seen as laying the groundwork for the much-awaited first foreign visit of Mr. Xi, who was appointed as the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) General Secretary in November.

Mr. Xi, who also took over control of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in November, will replace Hu Jintao as President following the meeting of the National People’s Congress, or Parliament, which opens here on March 5 and is expected to last around one week.

Mr. Xi will travel to the BRICS Summit in South Africa – where he is also expected to hold his first interaction with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the summit’s sidelines – on March 25. The Communist Party-run Global Times on Monday quoted an unnamed source as saying

Mr. Xi would land in Moscow before travelling to South Africa.

By doing so, Mr. Xi will be following the example of his predecessor: Mr. Hu’s first State visit overseas was to Russia, in May 2003. The Global Times quoted strategic analysts as saying the selection of Russia suggested that “China-Russia relations remain the priority of China’s diplomacy in Xi’s era”.

"China still positions itself as a developing country. Therefore, a steady and sound relationship with other developing countries in the world is the cornerstone of China's overall diplomacy,” Shen Jiru, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the newspaper.

“Another ring of China's diplomacy is to safeguard a peaceful neighboring environment. A good relationship with Russia fits all the needs of China’s overall diplomacy.” Mr. Xi’s first two visits “could show Beijing’s diplomatic blueprint and emphasis under the new leadership”, which were likely to focus on emerging countries, the official China Daily reported.

Feng Shaolei, the director of the Centre for Russian Studies at Shanghai’s East China Normal University, told the newspaper China and Russia “are bound as they share important understandings on economic cooperation, persisting in UN principles over international issues

such as the ongoing crisis in Syria and developing multilateral mechanisms based on equal negotiations”.

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