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International relations

Russian gateway to China eyes 'friendship' dividends after COVID

Backed by 20-year-old treaty, Blagoveshchensk banks on tourism and export boom

The Chinese city of Heihe as seen from Blagoveshchensk, Russia: The area was once a flashpoint for tensions between the giant neighbors. (Photo by Tatiana Simes)

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, Russia -- As the sun dips below the horizon, Russians out for an evening stroll in the city of Blagoveshchensk often stop to gaze at the tall red-lit buildings with enormous Chinese characters on the other side of the Amur River.

The Chinese city of Heihe lies just 750 meters across the water. Citizens of the two countries frequently gather on opposite riverbanks to watch motorboats race by, some flying Russian flags and others Chinese.

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