Xi Jinping honors Vladimir Putin with China’s first-ever Friendship Medal

Chinese President Xi Jinping awarded his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the highest state honor, the Friendship Medal of the People’s Republic of China, on June 8 in Beijing.

Xi presented it to Putin at the Great Hall of the People after the Russian leader arrived in China for a three-day state visit. He will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit in Qingdao during the weekend.

The award ceremony signaled China’s desire for a closer relationship with Russia, especially given tense U.S.-China relations due to trade disputes. Xi told media that the China-Russia partnership has become “mature, firm, and stable.”

It was the first time China has awarded the medal since it was established in 2015. The award can only be given to foreign individuals who made outstanding contributions in promoting exchange and cooperation between China and the rest of the world.