- Mr Putin’s remarks highlight the swing from the West to China.
- There was no sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from Mr. Xi.
- US says it is “concerned” about China’s rapprochement with Russia.
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 show of solidarity from Beijing as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine falters.
But an official Chinese reading of a video summit between the two leaders highlighted differences in the approach to their evolving alliance, made no mention of a visit and stressed that Beijing, which has refused to support or condemn the invasion, is sticking to its “goal and.” Fair” attitude.
Since Russia deployed troops to Ukraine in February, it has turned its back on Western powers, which have ostracized it economically and politically and have armed Ukraine, in favor of courting the rising world power of long-time rival China.
“We are expecting you, dear Mr. Chairman, dear friend, we are expecting you for a state visit to Moscow next spring,” Putin told Mr Jinping in an exuberant eight-minute introductory statement aired on state television.
“This will demonstrate to the whole world the strength of Russian-Chinese relations on key issues.”
Partnership without borders
He also said he intends to increase military cooperation with China – although this was not mentioned in Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s report on the call.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear on screen during a meeting via video link in Beijing on Friday, December 30, 2022. Source: AAP / AP
Although Mr Jinping called Mr Putin his “dear friend,” his opening speech, which lasted about a quarter the length of Mr Putin’s, was far more pragmatic in tone.
The two men had signed a borderless strategic partnership marked by shared distrust of the West in February, just days before Russia deployed its forces to Ukraine in what it described as a “military special operation”.
The United States said after the call it was “concerned” about China’s rapprochement with Russia and reiterated that it had warned Beijing of the consequences if it provided military assistance to Russia in its war against Ukraine or if it helped circumvent Western sanctions.
“We are closely monitoring Beijing’s activities,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
“Beijing claims to be neutral, but its behavior makes it clear that it is still investing in close ties with Russia.”
US officials have consistently said Beijing will not provide material support to Russia for the war just yet, a move that could provoke sanctions against China.
Bilateral trade is booming
As major Western economies responded to the invasion with an unprecedented, coordinated barrage of sanctions, Russia has been forced to seek other markets, overtaking Saudi Arabia as China’s top supplier of crude oil.
Bilateral trade has greatly increased and financial ties have expanded.
On Friday, Russia’s Treasury Ministry doubled the maximum possible Chinese yuan stake in its National Wealth Fund (NWF) to 60 percent as Moscow seeks to “de-dollarize” its economy and increase reliance on “unfriendly” nations, including the United States end , members of the European Union and Great Britain and Japan.
Moscow has also publicly supported Mr Jinping’s position on Taiwan, accusing the West of trying to provoke a conflict over the status of the self-governing island that China claims as its own.
Mr Putin told Mr Jinping: “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.”
However, Mr. Jinping has been less vocal in his criticism of Western countries, which are China’s top export market, and have been cool about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China has eschewed condemnation, instead emphasizing the need for peace, but Mr Putin publicly admitted in September that his Chinese counterpart had “concerns” about Russia’s actions.
However, Mr Jinping told Mr Putin on Friday that China stands ready to step up strategic cooperation with Russia amid what he described as a “difficult” situation in the world at large.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting was substantive and constructive, but no date had yet been set for Mr Xi’s visit.