China’s leader Xi Jinping left Moscow on Wednesday morning after a two-day summit with Vladimir Putin marked with pomp, ceremony and some stern words for the West.

Here are the 7 key things you need to know about the trip:

It was a coup of sorts for Putin

Putin was obviously keen to play up the significance of the visit as both leaders hailed a “new era” in the two countries’ relationship.

The Russian leader said that bilateral cooperation “has truly unlimited possibilities and prospects” and toasted the “prosperity” of Russian and Chinese people at a state dinner after the talks.

But Putin is very clearly the junior partner in the relationship and is increasingly isolated on the world stage. The summit came just days after the International Criminal Court announced it had issued an arrest warrant against the Russian leader for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children.

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China analyst Alexander Gabuev said that the Hague-based court’s arrest warrant “only increases” China’s leverage over Russia.

“Xi Jinping can’t be embarrassed by meeting Putin, and the verdict only puts Xi’s ‘dear friend’ in the Kremlin deeper into his pocket,” said Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The irony factor

Against the backdrop of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the two leaders without any sense of irony whatsoever took aim at the West, accusing the U.S. of undermining global security.

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China’s latest military exercise took place unannounced three days after the island nation’s presidential inauguration and covered certain outlying islands for the first time.

“The parties call on the United States to stop undermining international and regional security and global strategic stability in order to secure its unilateral military advantage,” Russia and China said in the declaration.

They also expressed “great concern” over NATO’s growing presence in Asia.

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Xi said that as permanent members of the UN Security Council, Moscow and Beijing will promote a multipolar world and contribute to food and energy security.

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Chinese-Russian relations are important for “the modern world order and the fate of mankind,” added Xi.

To top it off, the two leaders also signed a declaration saying it was important to “respect the legitimate concerns of all countries.”

China the peacemaker

Xi called for dialogue over the conflict, while Putin praised China’s peace initiative for Ukraine and said it could form the basis of any future settlement if both Kyiv and the West are ready for it.

“However, so far we have not seen such readiness on their part,” the Russian leader added.

China’s peace plan would likely involve Ukraine ceding vast swathes of territory and would essentially reward Russia’s imperialistic war of aggression, something Ukraine, understandably, deems unacceptable.

The two leaders also signed a declaration saying it was important to “respect the legitimate concerns of all countries.”

The declaration stressed it was important to prevent the Ukraine conflict from getting out of control.

“The parties call for an end to all steps that contribute to the escalation of tension and prolongation of hostilities, to avoid a further deterioration of the crisis,” it read.

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Moscow and Beijing said they will regularly conduct joint military exercises and ramp up cooperation between their armed forces.

Russia and China also agreed that nuclear war must "never" take place, according to a declaration signed by President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

"There can be no winners in a nuclear war, and it must never be unleashed," said the declaration.

Ukraine’s reaction

Kyiv has been playing a delicate diplomatic game and is keen not to annoy or write off relations with the Chinese global superpower.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that Kyiv has invited China to talks and is waiting for an answer from Beijing.

“We proposed that China become a partner in the implementation of the peace formula,” Zelensky told a press conference.

“We conveyed our formula across all channels. We invite you to dialogue. We are waiting for your answer. We are receiving some signals, but there are no specifics yet.”

Energy supplies

Putin – who is seeking to redirect Russia’s energy supplies to Asia due to Western sanctions – said that Moscow could meet Beijing’s “growing demand” for energy resources.

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He said an agreement had been reached on the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, which would send Russian natural gas to China via Mongolia.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Tuesday it had reached a daily record in gas volumes supplied to China through the existing Power of Siberia pipeline.

Increased economic cooperation

Russia has been pummeled by multiple rounds of unprecedented Western sanctions over Moscow’s assault on Ukraine, and Putin said that expanding economic cooperation between the two countries was a “priority” for Russia.

The two leaders signed a declaration on the development of key areas of economic cooperation through 2030. Putin particularly stressed cooperation in agriculture and said Russia was ready to ramp up supplies of meat and grain to China.

He also said that by joining forces the two countries could become world leaders in IT and artificial intelligence.

Putin also said Russia favored the use of the Chinese yuan in trade with Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

“President Putin and I agreed to step up comprehensive planning at the highest level and increase trade in energy and resources,” said Xi. Despite Russia’s keen interest, analysts have warned that there will be limits to the relationship.

“President Xi will stop short of aligning China with Russia at the expense of the country’s relationship with the West,” said economic consultancy Macro-Advisory.

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The U.S. reaction

Few expect Xi Jinping’s diplomacy to yield breakthroughs on the Ukraine war. But in Washington, there are fears Beijing may succeed elsewhere – in winning credibility on the world stage.

Xi pushed forward positions on Ukraine during two days of talks in Moscow only a week after China had announced the restoration of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia – rivals in a region where the U.S. for decades has been the main diplomatic powerbroker.

The U.S. has been skeptical of China’s diplomatic offensive, believing its proposed ceasefire would only provide time for Russia to regroup forces that Ukrainians have been succeeding in pushing back for more than a year.

“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia – supported by China or any other country – to freeze the war on its own terms,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

But U.S. officials and experts say that China’s diplomacy is not so much about ending the war as an attempt to change the narrative. Xi “would like to be seen and be taken seriously as a peacemaker,” said Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China.

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“He’s more interested in that right now than actually doing specific things to attain peace in Ukraine. This is mostly about messaging.”

The U.S. has increasingly found success in persuading Western allies to see China as a global threat – a perception that has grown in Europe after U.S. assertions that Beijing is considering supplying weapons to Russia. Daly doubted China would provide major military support unless it sees a serious threat to Putin himself, Xi’s biggest ally in confronting the U.S.

But Daly said Xi casting himself as a mediator could help at the margins in Europe – and especially in developing nations which share little of the U.S. enthusiasm for preserving an “international rules-based order.”

Xi “doesn’t actually have to move the needle on peace or a ceasefire in Ukraine. All he has to do is profess interest in peace and, somewhat contradictorily, in sovereignty and respecting others’ territorial integrity and he gets what he needs.”

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