February 2, 2023

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Putin expects Xi to visit China soon, and Xi is sticking to his line on Ukraine

  • Putin’s remarks highlight the pivot from the West to China
  • Both men share a distrust of the West
  • Xi’s reserved remarks contrast with Putin’s optimistic tone
  • There is no sign of Xi supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine
  • The United States is “concerned” about China’s siding with Russia

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he expects Chinese President Xi Jinping to pay a state visit early next year, in what would be a public expression of Beijing’s solidarity with the faltering Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But an official Chinese readout of a video summit between the two leaders highlighted differences in approach to their developing alliance, made no mention of the visit, and asserted that Beijing, which refused to support or condemn the invasion, would maintain “objectivity and fairness”. “Situation.

Since sending troops into Ukraine in February, Russia has turned its back on Western powers that have shunned it economically and politically and armed Ukraine, courting instead the rising global power of its longtime foe.

“We expect you, Mr. President, my dear friend, we are expecting you next spring on a state visit to Moscow,” Putin said in an eight-minute introductory statement broadcast on state television.

This will show the whole world the strength of Russian-Chinese relations on key issues. “

He also said he aimed to boost military cooperation with China – although there was no mention of this in Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s report on the call.

Although Xi called Putin his “dear friend,” his introductory statement, which is about a quarter of Putin’s length, was more matter-of-fact in tone.

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The two men had signed a “borderless” strategic partnership in February, due to a shared mistrust of the West, just days before Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine in what it calls a “special military operation”.

After the call, the United States said it was “concerned” about China’s siding with Russia, and confirmed that it had warned Beijing of the consequences if it provided Russia with military assistance in its war against Ukraine or helped it evade Western sanctions.

“We are watching Beijing’s activity closely,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Beijing claims to be neutral, but its behavior shows that it is still invested in close relations with Russia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, February 4, 2022. Sputnik/Alexey Druzhinin/The Kremlin via REUTERS

US officials have consistently said they have not yet seen Beijing provide material support to Russia for the war, a move that could lead to sanctions against China.

Trade speeds up

Since the major Western economies responded to the invasion with an unprecedented barrage of coordinated sanctions, Russia has been forced to look for other markets, overtaking Saudi Arabia as the largest supplier of crude to China. Bilateral trade soared and financial relations expanded.

Russia’s Finance Ministry on Friday doubled the maximum possible share of the Chinese yuan in the National Wealth Fund (NWF) to 60% as Moscow tries to “de-dollarize” its economy and end dependence on “unfriendly” countries including the United States and Europe. Union members, Britain and Japan.

Moscow has also publicly endorsed Xi’s stance on Taiwan and accused the West of trying to stir up a dispute over the status of the self-ruled island, which China claims as its own.

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“You and I share the same views on the causes, course and logic of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape, in the face of unprecedented pressure and provocations from the West,” Putin told Xi.

However, Xi has been less outspoken in his criticism of Western countries that are China’s main export market, and has sounded lukewarm about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China refrained from condemnation, stressing instead the need for peace, but Putin publicly acknowledged in September that his Chinese counterpart had “concerns” about Russia’s actions.

But Xi told Putin on Friday that China is ready to increase strategic cooperation with Russia against the background of what he called the “difficult” situation around the world.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting was substantive and constructive, but no date has yet been set for Xi’s visit.

Reporting by Reuters. Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Shanghai and Michael Martina in Washington. Written by Kevin Levy. Editing by Andrew Heavens, Thomas Janowski, and Nick McPhee

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