Putin, seeking support, meets Xi in Beijing

Putin, seeking support, meets Xi in Beijing
Putin, seeking support, meets Xi in Beijing

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin hailed the relationship between their two countries on Thursday in Beijing as a factor of ‘stability’ in the world. The Russian president also hoped for increased support from China for the war in Ukraine.

The relationship between Moscow and Beijing ‘is not only in the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples, but it is also conducive to peace,’ Xi Jinping said. And ‘China is ready to work with Russia to (…) support fairness and justice in the world’. According to him, this relationship ‘was hard-won and both parties must cherish and nurture it’.

It is ‘a factor of stability on the international scene’, added Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin. It ‘is not opportunistic and it is not directed against anyone’.

“Together we support the principles of justice and a democratic world order reflecting multipolar realities and based on international law,” added the Russian president.

‘Without limits’

Mr. Putin arrived in the Chinese capital at dawn on Thursday for a two-day visit, his first trip abroad since his re-election in March and his second to China in just over six months. The Asian giant is a crucial economic lifeline for Moscow, plagued by heavy Western sanctions taken to punish it for its military offensive in Ukraine.

Having just returned from a tour of France, Serbia and Hungary, Xi Jinping defended the right to maintain normal economic ties with his Russian neighbor. China benefits in particular from cheap Russian energy imports.

The two countries celebrated in early 2022, just before the outbreak of the invasion of Ukraine, a bilateral partnership described as ‘limitless’.

Personal friendship

‘This is Putin’s first trip after his inauguration and is therefore intended to show that Sino-Russian relations are moving up another level,’ independent Russian analyst Konstantin Kalachev told AFP. ‘Without forgetting the visibly sincere personal friendship between the two leaders.’

In an interview with the official Xinhua news agency published on Wednesday, Vladimir Putin welcomed Beijing’s ‘sincere desire’ to work towards resolving the Ukrainian crisis. China regularly calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries (including Ukraine) but also urges consideration of Russia’s security concerns.

These close links are viewed with growing suspicion among many Western countries. Washington has set a red line for Beijing – not directly supplying weapons to Russia – and says it has to date not had proof to the contrary.

But the United States believes that Chinese economic support still allows Russia to strengthen its production of missiles, drones and tanks.

Jump in trade

Trade has exploded since the invasion of Ukraine and will reach $240 billion in 2023, according to Beijing. But Chinese exports to neighboring Russia fell in March and April after Washington threatened to sanction financial institutions supporting the Russian war effort.

Because a decree signed in December by American President Joe Biden now authorizes secondary sanctions against foreign banks linked to the Russian war machine. In short: the US Treasury can exclude them from the global financial system, based on the dollar.

Cautious banks

China is seeking to renew its ties with the United States anyway and could therefore be reluctant to want to strengthen its cooperation with Russia, despite the latter’s expectations, according to analysts.

Several Chinese banks have therefore interrupted or reduced their transactions with their Russian clients, according to eight nationals of the two countries involved in bilateral trade.

Banks ‘start from the principle that it is better to be prudent than to do something you might later regret,’ Alexander Gabuyev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, told AFP.

‘Determining whether payments are linked to the Russian military-industrial complex (…) represents a considerable difficulty for Chinese companies, including banks,’ he also underlines.

During this visit, however, experts expect the two countries to celebrate their partnership and sign several trade agreements. The two leaders are also expected to issue a joint statement and attend an evening marking 75 years of diplomatic relations between their countries, according to the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin is also due to meet Prime Minister Li Qiang then go to Harbin (north-east) on Friday to visit a fair dedicated to trade and investments.

/ATS

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