Home news Vladimir Putin to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing: Five things to know

Vladimir Putin to meet Xi Jinping in Beijing: Five things to know

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing and is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday.

Ties between Russia and China have deepened in recent years, and Putin and Xi have developed a strong personal friendship. The two men last met in March in Moscow.

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Putin’s trip to China during which he will take part in a forum to mark 10 years of the Belt and Road Initiative, is the first time this year that the Russian leader has travelled to a country beyond those that were once part of the former Soviet Union.

“(The) Russian delegation’s presence in Beijing is important for Moscow,” Alicja Bachulska, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the AFP news agency.

“It will legitimise Russia in the international arena by creating a positive image of Putin not being completely isolated in the context of war.”

Here are five things to know:

A deepening friendship …

Xi and Putin forged their friendship when the pair shared cake and vodka shots to mark the Russian leader’s birthday at a summit in Indonesia in 2013.

They have since drawn closer, with Xi accompanying Putin on a high-speed train ride across China to make traditional steamed buns five years later, and the two men eating caviar-topped blini during a river cruise when Xi later visited Russia.

In 2019, the Russian leader threw Xi a birthday party, surprising him with ice cream at a conference in Tajikistan.

On a visit to Moscow the same year, Xi told Russian media: “President Putin is the foreign colleague that I have interacted with most extensively. He is my best friend, and I greatly treasure our friendship.”

In an interview with Chinese state media ahead of the latest visit, Putin was effusive in his praise for Xi, praising the relevance and significance of Xi’s policies and vision of a multipolar world.

Broadcaster CGTN said that Putin described Xi as a “true world leader”.

The two men were born just a few months apart in the early 1950s.

While Xi was the scion of a family of communist revolutionaries, Putin was born in more humble circumstances before becoming an intelligence officer in the Soviet Union.

Both men found lessons in the collapse of the USSR – for Putin, it was a humiliation and a “major geopolitical disaster” and for Xi, a cautionary tale for China’s own Communist Party.

… and closer bilateral ties

In line with their leaders’ deepening friendship, China and Russia have also moved closer.

Putin was last in Beijing in February 2022, just days before he sent thousands of troops across the border into Ukraine in what he called a “special military operation”.

At that time the two men signed an agreement promising a “no-limits” relationship. By March this year, they were talking of a “new era” of cooperation.

Russia is now China’s second-largest trade partner outside Asia, and trade between the two countries surged 30 percent in the first half of this year, Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said on a visit to China.

Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, said that from China’s view, “Russia is a safe neighbour that is friendly, that is a source of cheap raw materials, that’s a support for Chinese initiatives on the global stage and that’s also a source of military technologies, some of those that China doesn’t have.”

“For Russia, China is its lifeline, economic lifeline in its brutal repression against Ukraine,” Gabuev told The Associated Press news agency.

Israel-Hamas war

Putin comes to Beijing amid expectations that Israel could soon launch a ground invasion of the blockaded Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

The issue was high on the agenda when the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers held talks in Beijing on Monday, with both calling for intensified efforts to avoid a humanitarian disaster.

“It is imperative that a ceasefire be put in place, that the two sides be brought back to the negotiating table, and that an emergency humanitarian channel be established to prevent a further humanitarian disaster,” Wang said at the meeting, according to a Chinese transcript of the meeting.

A Russian-drafted UN Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire failed to get the minimum nine votes needed in the 15-member body on Monday, and Putin and Xi are likely to pick up the baton on the issue.

Putin held multiple calls with leaders in the region on Monday including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

He told Netanyahu that Moscow wanted to help prevent a humanitarian disaster.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported earlier that Zhai Jun, Beijing’s special envoy on the Middle East, will visit the region this week to push for a ceasefire and promote peace talks.

Ukraine war

Even amid the deepening crisis in the Middle East, Russia’s continuing conflict in Ukraine is also likely to feature in the talks between the two men.

Recent reports suggest intense fighting on the eastern front around Avdiivka, as well as in the northeastern Kupiansk-Lyman area.

Beijing has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the war and in March, about the time of Xi’s visit to Moscow, embarked on a flurry of diplomatic activity to promote its 12-point peace plan.

Those efforts have made little headway and Ukraine’s allies have largely dismissed Beijing’s attempt to position itself as mediator.

Still, on a visit to China that ended at the weekend, European Union policy chief Josep Borrell urged China to do what it could to end the war in Ukraine. Borrell said he had conveyed to the Chinese that the EU considered Russia “a huge threat” to its security and that the group was committed to supporting Ukraine.

The EU is expected to have a summit with China before the end of the year.

Energy

Oil and gas is a key concern for Russia amid international sanctions, and the bosses of Russia’s Gazprom and Rosneft are said to be part of Putin’s delegation to Beijing.

Russia is eager to secure a deal to sell more natural gas to China and plans to build the Power of Siberia-2 pipeline, which would travel through Mongolia and have an annual capacity of 50 billion cubic metres (bcm).

For China, Russia is not only a major source of oil and gas: one of the world’s biggest nuclear powers is also a rich potential source of technology as its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) seeks to modernise its conventional and nuclear forces by 2035.

Russian aviation, rocket and even submarine technology have been shared over recent decades with China, according to a 2022 assessment by the United States.

China and Russia also cooperate closely on civilian nuclear plants.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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