For the past two days, the world’s attention was focused on Russia. Almost everyone wants to know the outcome of the several meetings between two of the world’s most powerful leaders, President Putin and President Xi Jinping.
The Chinese President arrived in Moscow on Monday and departed in the early hours of Wednesday after a robust exchange of ideas, with promises by both sides to stand by each other amid the war in Ukraine.
“It is true that both of our countries share the same, or some similar goals. We have exerted efforts for the prosperity of our respective countries…we can cooperate and work together to achieve our goals,” Xi said upon his arrival at the Kremlin.
“I’m very happy that I can visit Russia again, at your invitation. And that Russia is the first country that I visited after my re-election as China’s President,” Xi added.
Earlier this month, the Congress of the Communist Party granted president Xi a third term of five years. His visit to Russia soon after his reelection has caused many to conclude that the next five years of his tenure could be one that would see a united China and Russia.
Putin went on to congratulate president Xi, who in turn expressed optimism that Putin would get reelected as president in the coming Russian election.
“I know that the Russia presidential election is next year. Russia’s development has significantly improved under your firm leadership. I believe that the Russian people will continue to strongly support you,” Xi said.
Putin commended President Xi for leading China into making a colossal leap forward since his first election ten years ago. He said China’s progress within those years has sparked interest “in the whole world and “unfortunately envy.”
After a warm exchange of pleasantry, the two leaders got involved in serious issues, of which many were discussed behind closed doors. One such issue was China’s peace plan.
Beijing’s proposal to end the war in Ukraine
Last month, the Chinese government released a 12-point plan on steps to end the war in Ukraine. The government in Kyiv was quick to kick against the peace plan, insisting that Russia would need to pull out of Ukraine before any talks could begin.
During President Xi’s visit to Russia, Putin said his side has closely studied the proposals and was ready to negotiate peace following the plan.
“The Chinese side positively assesses the willingness of the Russian side to make efforts to restart peace talks as soon as possible,” a joint statement after the meeting between both leaders reads. “Russia welcomes China’s readiness to play a positive role in a political-diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian crisis and the constructive ideas outlined in the document drawn up by the Chinese side.”
“The parties stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for a sustainable resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, and the international community should support constructive efforts in this regard,” the statement added.
The Chinese peace proposal recommended the removal of sanctions, respecting the sovereignty of all countries, facilitation of grain exports, and the resumption of peace talks. It also condemned the use of nuclear weapons, insisting that negotiation was the only way out of the war and it was both sides to find a way to sit down and talk.
“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control,” the paper said.
China had continually insisted that it was neutral in the war, and that same position was maintained during the visit to Moscow.
Improved economic activities
A meeting between Putin and Xi would not end without talks on how to improve economic ties. During the two-day visit, Putin said Russia was ready to help Chinese businesses replace Western firms that have left Russia since the war began. Since the war started last year, several international companies have departed Russia as part of solidarity with Ukraine. Others were compelled to leave because of the sanctions imposed on Russia.
Putin added that China is now the biggest importer of Russian oil, hence a new pipeline would be constructed connecting Siberia to Northwest China.
“All agreements have been reached,” Putin said, adding that economic cooperation between the two countries was a priority for his government.
Xi invites Putin to China
One good turn, they say, deserves another. Chinese President Xi Jinping, after he met with Putin, has extended an invitation to the Russian president to come over to China this year, TASS news agency reported.
“Yesterday, I invited President Putin to visit China at a convenient time for him this year, since this year China will host the third international forum within the framework of the One Belt, One Road. President Putin took part in the previous two forums,” President Xi said.
No doubt, the relationship between both countries has grown significantly especially as the two sides a moving farther away from the United States. However, the US is not so comfortable with the growing friendship, which it described as a marriage of convenience.
Did Russia ask for arms?
So far, there has been no indication that China had sent ammunition to Russia since the war in Ukraine started over a year ago. However, following Xi’s meeting with Putin, NATO said it has seen some signs that suggest closer ties and possibly there was a request for lethal aid.
Following the visit, NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned China against supplying weapons to Russia.
“We haven’t seen any proof that China is delivering lethal weapons to Russia, but we have seen some signs that this has been a request from Russia, and that this is an issue that is considered in Beijing by the Chinese authorities,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
“China should not provide lethal aid to Russia, that would be to support an illegal war.”
The United States said although China had provided some sort of support for Russia, there was no proof that it had supplied weapons. However, the following days and weeks will tell if both sides reached a new agreement on arms supply.
A marriage of convenience or a true friendship?
The United States, as expected has commented on the meeting between President Xi and President Putin. John Kirby, National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said the relationship between the two like-minded leaders was a marriage of convenience and not of love.
“This is a marriage of convenience, not of affection, not of love … where they intersect is pushing back against the United States and our influence around the world,” Kirby told CNN. “They’d like to change the rules of the game, and in each other, they see a useful foil.”
“They’re basically trying to use each other here to challenge US leadership and the West — particularly in Europe,” Kirby added.