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Xi to meet Putin on first visit outside China since COVID outbreak

Xi Jinping will leave China this week for the first time in more than two years to visit Central Asia, where he will meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin just a month before cementing his place as the most powerful Chinese leader after Mao Zedong. ,

Xi’s first foreign trip since the beginning of COVID-19 The pandemic shows he is confident both about his grip on power as he heads to a third term in office and about his role as a world leader at a time of renewed great power friction.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s confrontation with the West Ukrainecrisis over Taiwan And Xi, with a faltering global economy, is on a state visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

The Chinese president will then meet Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, the ancient Silk Road city of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Kremlin said. China confirmed the visit on Monday.

Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters last week that the Russian president is expected to meet Xi at the summit. The Kremlin declined to provide details about their talks.

The meeting would give Xi a chance to underscore his clout while Putin could demonstrate Russia’s leaning towards Asia; Both leaders can show their opposition to the United States as the West wants to punish Russia for the Ukraine war.

“I think it’s all about Xi: he wants to show how confident he is domestically and that he should be seen as the international leader of nations opposed to Western hegemony,” author of “Red Flags” George Magnus said. Xi’s Challenges

“Personally I think Xi will be most concerned about how Putin’s war is going and indeed if Putin or Russia will play out at some point in the near future because China still needs an anti-Western leadership in Moscow. “

Russia suffered its worst defeat of the war last week, abandoning its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine.

The deep “no boundaries” partnership between China’s rising superpower and Russia’s natural resources titan is a geopolitical development the West is watching with concern.

Once a senior participant in the global communist hierarchy, Russia is now a junior partner of a resurgent communist China after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which is projected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy in the next decade.

While historical contradictions abound in this partnership, there is no sign that Xi is willing to give up support for Putin in Russia’s most serious confrontation with the West since the height of the Cold War.

Instead, the two 69-year-old leaders are deepening ties. Trade between Russia and China grew by almost a third in the first 7 months of 2022.

Alexander Korolev, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at UNSW, said: “This visit shows that China is not only ready to continue ‘business as usual’ with Russia, but also shows clear support and a strong China- Russia accelerates the formation of the alignment.” Sydney.

“Beijing is reluctant to distance itself from Moscow even though it faces severe reputational costs and the risks of becoming the target of secondary economic sanctions.”

eleventh highest

Xi is widely expected to break precedent at the Communist Party Congress, which begins on October 16, and secures a third five-year leadership term.

While Xi has met with Putin in person 38 times since becoming president of China in 2013, he has met with Joe Biden in person since becoming US president in 2021.

Xi last met with Putin in February, when the Russian president ordered an invasion of Ukraine that killed tens of thousands and sowed the seeds of chaos through the global economy.

At that meeting at the opening of the Winter Olympics, Xi and Putin announced their unlimited partnership, backing each other over the standoff over Ukraine and Taiwan, with the promise of more cooperation against the West.

China has refrained from condemning Russia’s operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion”, in line with the Kremlin, which describes the war as “a special military operation”.

“The big message is really not that Xi is supporting Putin, because it is very clear that Xi supports Putin,” said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“The big sign is that he, Xi Jinping, is going out of China for the first time since the pandemic at the Party Congress. If there were conspiracy theorists against him then it would be when the conspiracy would be hatched. And he clearly believes that the conspiracy is not going to happen because he is out of the country. ,

Xi, the son of a communist revolutionary, last left China in January 2020, before the world went into a COVID lockdown.

Kremlin chief

After the West imposed the most severe sanctions on Moscow in modern history because of the war in Ukraine, Putin says Russia is turning to Asia after centuries of viewing the West as the crucible of economic growth, technology and war .

Casting the West as a collapsing, US-dominated coalition that aims to bind — or even destroy — Russia, Putin’s worldview chimes with Xi, who sees China as America’s side. Led, presents as an alternative to the post-World War II order.

Putin’s aide Ushakov said the Xi-Putin meeting would be “very important”. He did not provide any further details.

As Europe seeks to move away from Russian energy imports, Putin will seek to boost energy exports to China and Asia.

Putin said last week that a major gas export route to China had been agreed via Mongolia. Gazprom has for years been studying the possibility of a major new gas pipeline — powering Siberia 2 — traveling from Mongolia to carry Russian gas to China.

It would carry 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year, which Russia usually sells to Europe – or the equivalent of Nord Stream 1 annual volumes.

The SCO, which includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan and four Central Asian states, is due to acknowledge Iran as one of Moscow’s major allies in the Middle East.

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