September 26, 2022

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China’s Xi Jinping meets Putin amid Russian military losses

Amid global economic uncertainty caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, highlighting their responsibility to “inject stability into a troubled world”.

In a rare admission, Putin said he was aware of China’s “questions and concerns” about the war, but assured Xi that he would address them all in their first face-to-face meeting since the February 24 invasion.

Xi said China is ready to work with Russia “to show the responsibility of a major country to play a leading role and inject stability into a troubled world,” according to China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

The Chinese president said China will support Russia’s core interests, as the two countries test the limits of their friendship, which has been disrupted by Russia’s setbacks in the invasion. But the separate formality of their meeting was a far cry from the warmth of a “borderless” friendship pact, when Putin attended the Winter Olympics in Beijing, weeks before the war.

In a meeting that was symbolically crucial for Putin, who seeks to demonstrate continued global influence, he told Xi, “We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukraine crisis, and understand your questions and concerns on this issue, and during the day,” Putin said in his opening remarks. In Uzbekistan, at the start of his meeting with Xi, who addressed him as his “dear and old friend,” Putin said in his opening speech in Uzbekistan, during the meeting, we will, of course, elaborate all these details in detail.

Chinese President Xi Jinping received a welcoming ceremony in Uzbekistan on September 15 before the summit where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Video: Reuters)

The Russian leader added that Russia adheres to the one-China principle and “condemns the US provocations” in Taiwan.

When the two leaders met in February to mark the beginning ofno limits“Partnership, it was also signaling the beginning of a new alliance of two of the most powerful tyrannical nations in the world.

Since then, Russia’s war against Ukraine has worsened for Moscow more than anyone expected, with Russia facing repeated humiliating military setbacks, Putin largely ostracized by Western leaders, and the Russian economy taking a hit with unprecedented sanctions.

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Xi visits Central Asia ahead of expected meeting with Putin

Their first face-to-face meeting since the war began – held on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand – comes at a fragile time for both leaders, and tests how borderless that friendship truly is.

Russian forces suffered Amazing losses On the battlefield in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Beijing increasingly finds itself at odds with Western countries Taiwan and human rights violations in Xinjiang.

For Putin, the meeting sends a crucial message that he remains a global player, with friends who share his authoritarian views and determination to create a new world order in which the United States is no longer dominant.

For Xi, the . file First trip abroad in nearly three years It marks his diplomatic re-emergence ahead of a party conference in October when he is expected to secure an unprecedented third term.

“It is of course a show of mutual support and solidarity, a message primarily to the United States and the West,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center.

However, Xi is unlikely to offer Putin more tangible support. Doing so could risk a Western backlash that could exacerbate a growing list of domestic challenges, including the slowing Chinese economy, the real estate crisis, and public discontent with tough “no virus spread” policies.

China has maintained a delicate balance on Russia’s war against Ukraine, calling for peace while endorsing Russian complaints that NATO is to blame for the expansion of the alliance. Beijing has attempted to provide moral support to Putin without backing an outright invasion or sending financial or military aid that would result in secondary sanctions.

Having pledged to maintain normal trade relations with Moscow, China continued to export goods to Russia as well as import Russian oil and gas. Bilateral trade grew 31% in the first eight months of 2022, according to Chinese customs data.

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“Concrete support for the war in Ukraine is unlikely,” Sun said. Military support and aid are not out of the question. China does not need Russia’s support in the war. It’s just not against it.”

China is likely to continue its approach, which some analysts have described as “stretching Beijing“for diplomatic support to Russia in a partnership aimed at countering the international order led by Washington while also complying with Western sanctions.

But in recent days, China has signaled stronger support for Russia. Li Zhanshu, China’s third-largest leader, visited Moscow last week and confirmed that Beijing had provided “support with coordinated action” to Russia as it responded to security threats “on its doorstep.”

A Russian reading of the meeting said Li expressed support for the war, but the Chinese version was more moderate in saying that China “fully understands and supports” Russia’s security interests.

Despite China’s efforts to strike a balance, Xi’s meeting with Putin will raise more questions about China’s position in the conflict.

said Joseph Turorgian, an assistant professor who focuses on Russia and China at American University.

The rapid loss of territory in Ukraine reveals the exhaustion of the Russian army

In the midst of the talks, the Kremlin described Russian-Chinese relations as “at an unprecedented high level,” saying it “attaches great importance to China’s balanced approach to the Ukraine crisis.”

The Kremlin claims that the Moscow-Beijing partnership guarantees “global and regional stability”, even though Russia’s war on Ukraine has destabilized the region, and created suspicions, especially in Central Asia.

“The two countries jointly support the establishment of a just, democratic and multipolar world order based on international law and the central role of the United Nations,” the Kremlin statement said.

In Uzbekistan, Xi is having the added difficulty of maintaining neutrality while attending a summit with Central Asian nations, most of which oppose war and fear a possible Russian incursion into their territory.

Before traveling to Samarkand, Xi visited Kazakhstan where he met President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for a symbolically important first stop, appearing to send a subtle message about the Ukraine war, pledging to strongly support Kazakhstan’s efforts to protect its independence, sovereignty, and territory. Integrity, “no matter how the international situation changes.”

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Russia has been alarmed by Kazakhstan’s refusal to support the war or recognize the independence of two “republics” proxies from Russia in eastern Ukraine.

Like Ukraine, Kazakhstan has a large Russian-speaking component, about 18 percent of the population, concentrated in the north of the country. With Moscow’s often publicized historic mission to “protect” Russian speakers around the world – one of the reasons it provided for the Ukrainian invasion – they are seen as a source of insecurity.

Xi’s trips to Central Asia are part of a long-term effort to create better trade and communication routes through the region, an increasingly urgent task as China faces the prospect of conflict in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea that could impede access to shipping. lanes.

In protest of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China in August launched large-scale military exercises simulating a blockade of the main island of Taiwan, resulting in what became known as the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis.

“That makes this trip very important because Xi is basically there with a mission to convince Central Asian leaders that having a strong relationship with China is still important. [and to] “Please consider our goals and what we can offer you,” said Neva Yao, a senior researcher at the OSCE Academy, a Kyrgyz foreign policy think tank.

In Central Asia, where countries have for years had to juggle between two giant powers in quiet competition, a dwindling Putin could give Beijing an opportunity to expand its presence.

“The old saying is that China has deep pockets, and Russia has the guns,” said Theresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russia, Europe and Asia Studies in Brussels. “The question now is, as Russia’s military footprint in the region recedes, will China grow?”