Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives in Moscow today, offering trade deal in return for Russian oil and gas. Hu’s three-day state visit to Russia will be his third as president, showing how seriously Beijing is courting President Putin.

“At present, Chinese-Russian relations are developing vigorously and have reached unprecedented levels,” Hu said. He is expected to unveil business deals worth more than US$4 billion (HK$31.2 billion). China is the world’s No2 oil consumer, and Russia the second-largest exporter.

However the relationship between the two sides is still fractious. And although Moscow is keen to diversify buyers for its fuel amid rising tension with major European customers over everything from its management of the energy sector to human rights, Russian officials are reluctant to let foreigners take a substantial stake in the lucrative industry.

There is no point in them retrieving assets off Shell and Bp only to give them to the Chinese. So there could be some frosty talks ahead.