Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow this week shed light on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two presidents have met more than 40 times in recent years and have become so familiar that they now call each other “dear friends.” Other world leaders have already described Xi as a great friend, including Robert Mugabe and Donald Trump, but the Chinese president doesn’t always return the compliment as he did with Putin.
Moscow is the first foreign capital visited by Xi as the President of China. There, he tells Putin that the two have similar personalities and that “they always treat each other without preconceived ideas.” Putin adds that China and Russia are “natural partners and allies”. The latter is a term that Russia does not generally use in relation to China.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea, an international condemnation act, a UN resolution in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and numerous sanctions against Russia. In contrast, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said China “fully understands” the challenges facing Russia and supports “Moscow’s approach to resolving the Ukraine issue.”
The two countries sign an arms sales treaty, among other agreements, and sign a “non-aggression pact” that includes a commitment not to launch cyber attacks against each other. Xi and Putin will meet in France in November.
China-Russia relations are officially on the upswing with the announcement of a five-point “comprehensive strategic partnership” based on mutual understanding and “win-win cooperation”.
The two leaders are also strengthening personal ties, receiving honorary doctorates from each other’s alma mater: St. Petersburg State University, Russia; and Tsinghua University, China.
“President Putin is the foreign colleague I communicate with the most, he is my best friend, and I value our friendship very much,” Xi told Russian media.
On a three-day official visit to Moscow, Putin will take Xi to St. Petersburg, where he was born in 1952, on a cruise on the Nevsky River. Xi says the trip is an honor. “This fertile land has raised great people, it is the pride of Russia and its people,” he says.
During the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Xi and Putin are holding their first face-to-face meeting with a head of state since the pandemic began. In it, two leaders sign the so-called “Boundless” association. In announcing the increase in bilateral relations, Xi and Putin confirm that there will be no “prohibited areas of cooperation”.
A few weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine. According to reports at the time, Western intelligence services suggested that Xi was aware of the plans but asked Putin to wait until after the Games. Other reports at the time suggested that Russia had asked China for weapons or military assistance.
To this day, China continues to claim that it was unaware of Putin’s plans. The invasion is an awkward point in relations between Xi and Putin, with the world reeling from Russia and China trying to back their friends over sanctions and other retaliation.
Xi and other senior Chinese officials have refused to condemn the invasion, expressing growing support for Russia’s position throughout the year while portraying their country as a neutral peace broker.
A report by Taiwan-based organization Doublethink Labs reveals that close ties between Russian and Chinese state media, along with tight government controls on information, are rapidly spreading Russian propaganda in China, “Nazifying” Ukraine in the eyes of some Chinese citizens, and fostering pro-Russian sentiment.
Senior US officials are urging China to use its influence to persuade Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine. China refuses, denying “pressure or coercion” from parties such as the United States and accusing the United States and NATO of a “Cold War mentality.”
During the phone conversation, Xi tells Putin that Russia has China’s support in matters of sovereignty and security.
Xi and Putin meet again, this time electronically, at the summit of leaders of the BRICS bloc. Both criticize economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West and other allies.
Xi and Putin meet again at a regional summit in Uzbekistan, the country chosen by Xi for his first international trip since the pandemic. In comments that some analysts interpreted as a sign of some rift between the two, Putin said he understood the list’s “questions and concerns” about Ukraine.
The meeting of the leaders of Central Asia and the region in Samarkand is taken as a “boundary” test of friendship. Central Asia is an area where Russia and China compete more than cooperate in what analysts call a “silent rivalry.”
In October, a draft UN Security Council resolution seeking to condemn Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian territory failed due to a veto by permanent Security Council member Russia. China does not support Russia in the vote, but abstains.
A UN resolution was passed calling on Russia to withdraw its forces and cease hostilities in Ukraine, although China still abstained from the vote. China publishes a 12-point peace plan rejected by the West, in which it calls for a ceasefire and an end to sanctions. It also suggests an opportunity for China and its companies to help rebuild efforts when the war is over.
The plan was drawn up without consulting Ukraine. He does not criticize Russia or call for the withdrawal of forces. It contains a strong statement about the need to avoid nuclear weapons and attacks on civilians, a message aimed primarily at Russia.
Xi welcomed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin’s main ally in Beijing. The fact that he ignored pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to instead warmly welcome Lukashenko, a head of state with “international pariah status” who directly contributed to Putin’s invasion, undermines Beijing’s intention to be a neutral peacemaker, some analysts say.
On March 20, Xi embarks on a state visit to Moscow after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president on suspicion of war crimes. They greet each other like old friends, and in an informal meeting, Xi says that China, together with Russia, is ready to “protect the world order based on international law and promote the development of the multipolar system.” The two leaders sign a declaration “on deepening the strategic partnership of coordination for a new era” and Putin affirms that the bilateral relationship is “at the highest stage in history”.
Regarding Ukraine, the Russian leader claims that “many provisions” of China’s peace plan “can be accepted as a basis for a peaceful agreement when they are ready for them in the West and in Kiev.” According to some reports, President Xi will hold a phone call with Zelensky after his visit to Moscow. This will be the first call after the invasion begins.
Source: El Diario