President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to use the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 2019 as an opportunity to promote bilateral ties.

They also expressed their hopes of further strengthening pragmatic cooperation between China and Russia as they exchanged congratulatory letters on the new year.

On behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, Xi extended sincere greetings and good wishes to President Putin and the Russian people.

Calling 2018 a year of special significance in the history of Sino-Russian relations, Xi said the two countries’ relationship entered a new era as they both completed their own important domestic political agendas.

High-level exchanges are even closer, political mutual trust keeps intensifying, pragmatic cooperation in various fields has achieved fruitful outcomes, the year of local cooperation and exchanges developed smoothly and the foundation of people-to-people friendship has been further consolidated, Xi said in the message.

The two countries also actively coordinate in international and regional affairs and play an important and constructive role in safeguarding international justice and world peace and stability, he added.

In the new year, Xi said, he stands ready to work with Putin to continue to guide bilateral ties and push for cooperation between the two countries to make new progress so as to further benefit the countries and their peoples.

Putin congratulated President Xi on the new year in his message, and wished the Chinese people happiness and health.

In 2018, Putin said, the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination reached an unprecedented high point, the two sides carried out meaningful political dialogue, bilateral trade volume greatly increased and coordination in the resolution of major regional and global issues was productive.

He trusts the two sides will use the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 2019 as an opportunity to continue to develop effective collaboration in bilateral and multilateral affairs, Putin said.

Also on Monday, Premier Li Keqiang exchanged New Year’s greetings with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. They vowed to continue to promote bilateral cooperation in various fields.

Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov said last week that Putin will become a key guest and participant in the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, to be held in Beijing in April, and Xi will also visit Russia in the coming new year.

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed last Wednesday that the two sides are making preparations for a series of high-level talks about the coming exchanges, saying China and Russia have a tradition of supporting each other in hosting major international events and making mutual visits by the heads of state every year.

The two sides will also organize various events among different departments at the national and subnational levels for the 70th anniversary to consolidate the time-honored friendship between the two peoples, Hua said.