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Putin, Xi agree to defy US pressure on China to help RussiaExBulletin

Putin, Xi agree to defy US pressure on China to help RussiaExBulletin


Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands Thursday during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, China.

Contributor/Getty Images



Contributor/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands Thursday during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, China.

Contributor/Getty Images

MOSCOW and BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week strengthened their alliance against the West, accusing the United States and its allies of trying to block their countries' rise during a two-day official visit. days in China of the Kremlin leader. which ended on Friday.

It was Putin's first trip abroad since the start of his fifth term, following pro forma elections in March.

Although the visit was timed to honor the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's recognition of the People's Republic of China and kick off a year of Russian-Chinese cultural exchanges, there was little doubt about the broader geopolitical drama stake.

Following Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has repeatedly provided Moscow with diplomatic cover against Western condemnations and an economic lifeline against unprecedented Western sanctions.

In turn, China has rebuffed U.S.-led efforts. charges he gives power the Russian war machine, while benefiting from significant reductions on Russian energy and developing Chinese exports to Russia.

Underpinning it all is a shared view, which seems to be growing stronger by the day, that strong ties between China and Russia are essential to fending off Western countries perceived as increasingly hostile to both nations.

Putin was accompanied by a delegation including almost all of his senior cabinet members, military officials and Russian industry leaders from the energy, space and agriculture sectors.

Xi, who chose Moscow for his first state visit after his own re-election last year, warmly welcomed Putin in a lavish state visit-style welcoming ceremony outside Beijing's Great Hall of the People. As the two men marched on a red carpet, the Russian leader was greeted by an honor guard, a 21-gun salute and a line of children jumping and clapping in choreographed unison.

A partnership without limits

According to Putin, the two leaders met face to face more than 40 times, signaling both men's long-standing autocratic hold on power and a growing familiarity with each other. They now regularly share birthday gifts and openly refer to each other as “dear friend.” This week, they even hugged.

They signed aNo limits” partnership when Putin visited Xi in Beijing in February 2022, just days before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. It was never clear whether Putin informed Xi of his decision or requested l approval of the Chinese leader.

Formally, China proclaims its neutrality on what Xi calls “the Ukraine question” and has sought to position itself as a mediator in the conflict.

Yet Beijing has also refused to directly criticize Moscow, instead supporting the Kremlin's view that years of NATO's eastward expansion provoked Russia's actions.

Instead, Beijing He has long pushed a 12-point peace plan that Western governments have criticized as too vague, but which Xi approved with Putin at his side on Thursday.

“Both sides believe that a political solution to the Ukrainian crisis is the right direction,” Xi said. “China's position on this issue has always been clear and consistent.”

Putin said he welcomed Chinese diplomatic initiatives but would brief the Chinese leader on the war in which Russian forces have recently made progress on the battlefield in Ukraine's Kharkiv region.

Amid this pageantry and vague calls for peace, analysts say Beijing has made clear it refuses to downgrade relations with Moscow despite increased Western pressure.

“I haven't seen any indication that China is abandoning, you know, Russia and its stealth support for the war effort,” says Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center and a leading China watcher.

On the contrary, Putin and Xi appear to have strengthened their partnership, issuing a long joint statement which called the United States a “direct threat” and accused Washington of trying to prevent the rise of Russia and China.

In comments to cameras, Xi promised that it was China and Russia that would “uphold fairness and justice in the world.”

In turn, Putin called Russian-Chinese cooperation “one of the main stabilizing factors in the international arena.”

“All of this is underpinned by the shared sense that the United States is the main threat,” says Samuel Charap, an expert on Russia and Eurasia policy at the Rand Corp.

“This relationship will continue to strengthen and their mutual coordination to undermine U.S. and Western efforts globally will become more important over time,” Charap said.

The meeting came three weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Beijing, during which he told NPR he warned China against providing aid from Russia.

The economy tested by sanctions

Beyond geopolitical shadowboxing, trade was a key element of the negotiations.

Putin, in particular, views China as a buffer against Western sanctions imposed over its actions in Ukraine.

Russia has shifted its oil and gas exports to China from a declining European market.

Chinese products, including cars and consumer electronics, have flooded the Russian market while Western companies have folded.

Blinken told NPR that the Biden administration believes China has also become a major supplier of components that Russia is using to rebuild its defense industrial base to fight Ukraine, including “machine tools, microelectronics, optics and other elements that go directly into mass production of munitions.” weapons, tanks, armored vehicles.

Earlier this month, the United States hit a series of companies in China and Hong Kong with sanctions for supplying critical components to Russia. And recent U.S. threats to impose “secondary sanctions” against Chinese companies and banks seen as aiding Russia's war effort have further chilled business.

Putin focused on cross-border trade with a trip Friday to the Chinese city of Harbin, a city with deep Russian roots dating back to the 19th century and commonly known by the Chinese as “Little Moscow.”

In his meetings with local leaders, Putin insisted that Russia was more than ready to expand cooperation in energy, agriculture and other sectors. It remains to be seen whether any agreements have been reached.

“As with many economic aspects of Russian-Chinese relations, proclamations are one thing, and practical realities can sometimes be another,” says Charap de Rand.

Indeed, the talks have not brought any progress on Power of Siberia 2, a new Russian project. gas pipeline to China which has repeatedly encountered resistance from Beijing.

The role played by senior Russian military officials in the negotiations in Beijing is also unclear, with China having, at least publicly, ruled out supplying arms to Russia.

Carnegie's Gabuev likened the optics of the journey, what was visible to the outside world, to the tip of the iceberg.

“The underwater part of the iceberg, that’s where the center of action is,” he says. “And this is where both sides have reason to not give us any visibility into what was actually discussed.”

Speaking to students at a polytechnic university in Harbin on Friday, Putin offered his own metaphor of a Russian-Chinese alliance that has provided a degree of protection and calm amid two years of war.

“Look, if you plant seeds in the right direction and treat them with care,” Putin said, “they give a good harvest.”

Charles Maynes reported from Moscow; John Ruwitch of Beijing.




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