|Chinese, Russian presidents hold talks in Shanghai
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday held talks with visiting Russian leader Vladimir Putin, as the two powers seek to build ties in the face of Western criticism and territorial disputes.
Putin is visiting China's commercial hub Shanghai for an Asian security summit and the two countries will also show off their military prowess as 14 ships begin week-long drills in the East China Sea, AFP reports.
The visit is Putin's first since Xi became head of state last year and could see a huge and long-awaited natural gas deal finally signed.
A welcoming ceremony was held for Putin before the formal talks started, China's official Xinhua news agency said in a brief report.
Russia's relations with the United States and European Union have plunged to a post-Cold War low in recent months over its seizure of Crimea and Western accusations Moscow is fomenting unrest in the east of Ukraine.
At the same time, Beijing is bickering with neighbours over maritime territorial disputes, including Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines.
"For the Russians, it is much more about showing 'We have other options... We've got a very strong relationship with China','' said Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies.
"The Chinese are much more agitated about what happens on the sea and one sees support there from Russia,'' he said.
The two countries are both veto-wielding members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, are regularly criticised by human rights groups, and have often worked together to counter the United States on a range of issues.