Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping

China’s Xi Jinping rolls out red carpet for close friend Putin in strong show of unity

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to deepen their strategic partnership in Beijing on Thursday in a stark show of their growing alignment as Russian troops advance in Ukraine.

Putin – whose delegation includes top defense and security officials – was welcomed by Xi to Beijing’s Great Hall of the People earlier with full military pageantry, heralding the start of his for the start of his two-day state visit.

Xi hailed the two countries’ deepening ties, which were formalized in a joint statement inked by the leaders in a ceremony Thursday afternoon, saying they would “inject strong momentum” in the development of their relations.

In meetings with Putin, Xi proclaimed that China-Russian relations have “stood the test of a changing international landscape” and made “positive contributions to maintaining global strategic stability,” according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

Putin, whose economy has become increasingly reliant on China since his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, hailed the countries’ “practical cooperation” in meetings with Xi, noting their record bilateral trade last year, while and stressing the importance of energy, industrial, and agriculture cooperation, according to Russian state media Tass.

The meeting in Beijing is Putin and Xi’s fourth time speaking face-to-face since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 – which came weeks after the two declared a “no limits” partnership in Beijing.

This week state visit comes amid mounting international concern about the direction of the war amid delays in aid to Ukraine and as Russia’s economy and defense complex appears unbowed by Western sanctions – a situation that United States officials have alleged is linked to Chinese support, a claim Beijing denies.

Putin says he and Xi will discuss the war in Ukraine in informal talks later Thursday evening, which are expected to include Russian’s newly appointed Defense Minister Andrey Belousov and his predecessor Sergei Shoigu, now secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

Mounting international pressure over Ukraine

In an interview with Chinese state media Xinhua ahead of his arrival, Putin praised China’s “approaches to resolving the crisis in Ukraine.”

Speaking alongside Putin Thursday, the Chinese leader said both countries “agree that political resolution to the Ukraine issue is the right direction” and called for the construction of a “balanced, effective and sustainable security framework” – an allusion to Beijing and Moscow’s shared view is that NATO is to blame for the war in Europe.

“China hopes for peace and stability in Europe soon, and continues to play a constructive role,” Xi said.

Alignment on shared frictions

This week’s visit marks the leaders’ 43rd meeting in the more than one decade that Xi has been in power – a period during which the two, known for their close personal chemistry, have steadily expanded their countries’ diplomatic coordination and economic and security cooperation as both faced mounting frictions with the United States and its allies.

Even as Xi seeks to repair frayed relations with Europe and stabilize his relations with the United States, he is widely seen as unwilling to sacrifice his partnership with Putin, who the Chinese leader sees as an indispensable partner in reshaping a world order both believe is unfairly dominated by the United States and seeking to contain their rise.

This shared worldview was also on show today, as Xi, speaking alongside Putin, decried a lingering “Cold War mentality,” and said “unilateral hegemony, camp confrontations and power politics threaten world peace and security of every country” – using language typical to Beijing’s shared criticisms with Russia of the US and its allies.

Putin nodded to Xi’s concerns about rising engagement between NATO and likeminded countries in Asia, calling for a “reliable and adequate architecture of security in Asian-Pacific region in which there will be no place for closed military-political alliances.”

“We think the creation of such alliances to be counterproductive and harmful,” Putin said following meetings Thursday.

Besides engagements in Beijing, which are expected to include a “gala” marking the two countries’ 75 years of diplomatic ties, Putin is also expected to visit Harbin, the capital of China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province bordering Russia’s Far East, for trade and cooperation forums.

The region is historically a site of long simmering border tensions between the two neighbors, which erupted in conflict between China and the Soviet Union in 1969. It has seen increasing connectivity with parts of Russia’s Far East in recent years.

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