President Serzh Sarkisian flew to Beijing on Tuesday for a four-day state visit aimed at cementing Armenia’s warm relations with China.
Sarkisian’s office said he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping for talks that will be followed by the signing of Chinese-Armenian agreements meant to “develop and strengthen bilateral cooperation in a number of areas.”
In a statement, the office said Sarkisian will also hold talks with the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and parliament speaker, Zhang Dejiang, and deliver a speech at Peking University.
Relations between the two states have been cordial throughout Armenia’s independence not least because of successive Armenian governments’ unconditional support for Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, described Armenia as his country’s “trustworthy friend” when he received Sarkisian in Shanghai in 2010.
The Chinese government has supported the South Caucasus nation financially on an annual basis ever since 1999. Chinese aid to Yerevan amounted to $37 million between 2012 and 2014. It is due to total about $10 million this year.
Meeting with then Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian in 2013, Li said his government will encourage Chinese businesspeople to invest in the Armenian economy and import more Armenian goods. “We want to see Armenian cognac, jewelry items and precious stones in the Chinese market,” the Chinese premier said.
China is Armenia’s second largest trading partner, with the total volume of bilateral commerce soaring by almost 30 percent to $590 million in 2014. Armenian exports to the People’s Republic nearly tripled to $170 million, according to Armenian government data.
Chinese-Armenian military ties appear to have also deepened in recent years. The two states signed 2012 what the Armenian Defense Ministry called an “agreement on military and military-technical cooperation” during a visit to Yerevan by a high-level delegation from the Chinese National Defense Ministry. Several other Chinese military officials visited the Armenian capital later in 2012 to lecture Armenia’s top army generals on China’s traditional strategies of warfare.
In 2011, the Armenian military reportedly acquired Chinese AR1A multiple-launch rocket systems with a firing range of up to 130 kilometers. It already had in its arsenal less advanced WM-80 rockets systems also manufactured in China.
Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian highlighted the military cooperation with a December 2013 trip to China.