Xi Jinping Says China and Russia Can Work Together as ‘Great Powers’
In their first face-to-face discussions since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged his Russian counterpart to work with him to promote global stability as “big powers.”
Three weeks prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chinese President Xi hosted Vladimir Putin in Beijing for the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony in February. In the previous six months, the 69-year-old leaders have spoken over the phone at least twice.
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“China is willing to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers, and play a guiding role to inject stability and positive energy into a world rocked by social turmoil,” Xi told Putin, who he addressed as a “dear and old friend.”
The two leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian economic and security organization whose presidents of member nations are currently gathering in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, till Friday, exchanged brief statements before a private discussion.
Beijing, which views Moscow as a vital strategic partner in its competition against the U.S., hasn’t condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine but hasn’t provided material assistance to sustain the war effort either.
Putin thanked Xi for China’s “balanced position” on Ukraine, and said the pair would discuss Beijing’s “questions and concerns” about the crisis, without elaborating. In return, the Russian president condemned “provocations by the United States and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait.”
“The foreign policy tandem of Moscow and Beijing plays a key role in ensuring global and regional stability,” Putin told Xi. “We jointly advocate the formation of a just, democratic and multipolar world order based on international law and the central role of the United Nations.”
He also made reference to recent discussions with Li Zhanshu, China’s third-ranking official, who last week provided Beijing with its most resounding endorsement of Moscow’s justification for starting a war. Interestingly, Ukraine was not brought up in Xi’s public speech.
The best resolution, according to China, is a negotiated political settlement between Russia and the West. China claims it is not a party to the war.
The Russian and Chinese leaders have established a personal bond that depends on each other’s political and economic weight at the U.N. and elsewhere as a result of deteriorating ties with the West in recent years. However, with Moscow involved in an expensive war against a Ukraine that the West is actively supporting, observers doubt the partnership’s long-term stability as Russia is consigned to a decreasingly important position.
Analysts have taken Xi’s request for Russia to play a stabilizing role as a subtly critical reference to the continued disruptions to international trade and energy prices caused by the lengthy conflict in Ukraine. However, there have been no signs to date that Beijing is thinking about leaving Moscow, either now or in the future.