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When Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan, the mood was markedly different from the victorious talks in Beijing weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
No more touting the “no limits” friendship declared on the first day of the Winter Olympics. Instead, Putin Beijing admits it has ‘questions and concerns’ about his waning aggression by subtly agreeing with the limits of Chinese aid and the growing asymmetry in bilateral relations.
Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said Xi Jinping didn’t even mention the much-touted “strategic partnership” between Beijing and Moscow in China’s readout at the conference. . Xi said it was “the most cautious and understated statement in years” about the strategic relationship between the two countries.
Given that Russia has suffered a series of humiliating defeats on the battlefield, exposing Putin’s weaknesses to friends and foes alike, the change in tone is understandable. These setbacks also come at a bad time for Xi Jinping as he seeks his third term breaking the norm at key political meetings.
Under Xi, China’s ties with Russia are closer than ever. Already facing domestic hardships from a slowing economy and a relentless zero-corona policy, Mr. Xi needed a projection of strength, not vulnerability, in his personally endorsed strategic alliances.
Six days later, in a hopelessly escalating devastating war, Putin announced in a televised address the “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens and even raised the specter of the use of nuclear weapons.
It is not known whether Putin discussed his planned escalation during his recent meeting with Xi Jinping.
Some Chinese analysts believe Putin’s setbacks and the escalation of the war have provided an opportunity for China to move away from Russia.
“Because of Putin’s escalating wars, aggression and annexation, and the new threat of nuclear war, China has no choice but to stay away from Putin,” said Shi of Renmin University.
“China did not want this indifferent friend to fight. What happens to his fate on the battlefield is not a business China can handle.”
But others are more skeptical. Putin’s open acknowledgment of Beijing’s concerns does not necessarily indicate a rift between his two diplomatic allies. Teresa Fallon, director of the Center for Russian-European-Asian Studies in Brussels, said China would get more diplomatic wiggle room given how tacit support for Russia has hurt Beijing’s image in Europe. He said there could be a way.
“My impression is that the Chinese government just wanted a little bit of light between China and Russia, but I think a lot of people overinterpret that,” she said. “I think it was for a European audience.”
“For China’s long-term interests, China must keep Russia on board,” Fallon added.
The two authoritarian powers are strategically aligned in their attempts to strike a balance with the West. The two leaders share deep suspicion and hostility toward the United States and believe the United States seeks to suppress China and Russia.they too share a vision of a new world order – A country that is more responsive to national interests and is no longer dominated by the West.
A few days after the meeting between President Xi and President Putin, Russian Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev and Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi held a security meeting in southern China’s Fujian province, where the two leaders reached a “consensus”. promised to do it.” deepen strategic alignment When Further military cooperation.
Putin said the two countries are also looking to deepen their economic ties, with bilateral trade expected to reach $200 billion in the “near future.”
“I don’t think we’ve seen a big divide between Russia and China,” said Brian Hart, a China Power Project Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I see this as a continuation of China’s attempt to draw a very thin line against Russia and continue to help Russia as much as possible without compromising its own interests.”
So far, Beijing has carefully avoided actions that violate Western sanctions, such as providing direct military aid to Moscow. But it is providing a lifeline to the battered Russian economy by boosting fuel and energy purchases at lower prices. China’s Russian coal imports in August 57% increase Highest year-on-year in five years.crude oil imports 28% jump from a year ago.
After Putin called up the Army Reserve to join the war in Ukraine, Beijing continued to walk a fine line, reiterating its longstanding stance for dialogue to resolve the conflict.
When asked about Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons at a press conference on Wednesday, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry sidestepped the question.
“China’s stance on the Ukraine crisis is consistent and clear,” spokesman Wang Wenbin said. We urge you to find a corresponding solution as soon as possible.”
Also on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Wang stressed that China will continue to “maintain an objective and impartial stance” and “promote peace negotiations” on the Ukraine issue, according to a Chinese statement.
But its “fair stance” was made clear in an evening news program on state broadcaster CCTV, China’s most-watched news programme.
After a brief report on Putin’s “partial mobilization”, the program “continues to fuel the conflict between Russia and Ukraine” without mentioning protests in Russia or international condemnation. citing international observers who squarely criticize the United States.
“The conflict between Russia and Ukraine should be resolved through dialogue. A former defense adviser to Timor said:
“Conflict-induced sanctions are having repercussions all over the world…East Timor’s oil prices have also risen significantly. We are suffering the consequences, too.”
The comments are in line with Russia’s claims that Chinese officials and state media have been working tirelessly to promote over the past few months. In other words, the US is fomenting war by extending NATO to Russia’s doorstep, putting Moscow in a corner.
Hart of CSIS said a key factor driving strategic ties between Russia and China is the perception of threats from the United States.
“As long as that variable doesn’t change, I think China will continue to strengthen its ties with Russia as long as Beijing continues to worry about the United States,” he said.