Putin meets Xi in China at a time when the world is shaken by global conflicts

Hong Kong

Chinese President Xi Jinping will welcome Vladimir Putin China on Thursday on the Russian president’s second visit in less than a year — the latest sign of their growing alignment amid hardening global fault lines as the conflict ravages Gaza and… Ukraine.

Putin will arrive in China in just over a week Entering a new term in officeHe extends his authoritarian rule until 2030 – the result of elections without any real opposition.

His visit is scheduled to take place on May 16 and 17, according to Chinese official media Xi’s state visit to Moscow Just over a year ago, as he marked the record-breaking start of a new term as president – Like Putinafter Rewriting rules About how long leaders can serve.

Their meeting comes months before the US presidential elections and at a time when Washington is facing escalating international reactions due to its support for the Israeli war on Gaza. It has been set up to provide a platform for leaders to discuss how all of this can advance their shared ambition to deteriorate and provide a solution The alternative to American power.

The visit also comes as the two leaders work within what observers say is a loose but growing alignment of interests between the two anti-American nations, Iran and North Korea. Western governments believe that Pyongyang – whose economy depends almost entirely on China – does as well Help Russia With war supplies. And the United States says, This is TehranIt enjoys economic support from Russia and China, and is a strong player in the conflict in the Middle East.

Putin will arrive for a two-day state visit, encouraged by the survival of his wartime economy and the midst of a crisis Big new attack Along key points on the front line in Ukraine. For Xi, who has just returned from a European tour, the visit represents an opportunity to show that his loyalty to Putin has not compromised his ability to deal with the West.

But the optics of strict loyalty belie a more challenging picture.

Pressure on Beijing from Washington is increasing due to its alleged support for the Russian defense industry. In Europe, Xi had to do just that Navigating acute tensions In France – only Welcomed with a bang And in Serbia and Hungary, while Russia, China’s main partner, remains isolated on the global stage.

Xi intensified his calls for Europe and other countries to help the world Avoid the “Cold War” Which suggests they are resisting what Beijing sees as US efforts to contain China.

But the leader himself – including when he hosts Putin this week – is seen as tightening ties to highlight growing global division that could deepen divisions with the West, whose technology and investment experts say China needs.

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“We live in a more dangerous world, where authoritarian powers are increasingly aligned. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned last month that Russia is receiving support in its war of aggression from China, Iran and North Korea.

He added: “This reminds us that security is not regional, but rather global. We must work with our like-minded partners around the world to maintain and protect transatlantic security.

Sergey Gunayev/AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo before their talks on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, on Wednesday, October 18, 2023.

‘Grand strategy’

Looming on the horizon is Xi’s meeting with Putin this week Western threats of more comprehensive measures Against his country if it continues to send certain goods to Russia. The US government says Dual-use exports Enables Russia to build its defense industry.

“The pressures are arguably greater than in the past two years,” said Li Mingjiang, associate professor of international relations at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. A new set of sanctions from the United States earlier this month targeting Chinese companies — and potentially more, including from the European Union.

China said it closely monitors exports of dual-use goods and denies that its trade with Russia is outside the scope of normal bilateral exchange. The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries reached Record $240 billion last year.

Even close observers of Xi’s murky decision-making are divided on whether all this means the Chinese leader will seek to use his time with Putin this week to call for the conflict to be settled soon.

But China’s official trade data for March and April show a decline in exports to Russia compared to the same periods a year earlier, suggesting that Beijing may be taking steps to protect against Western sanctions that are hitting its trade and financial sectors deeper.

However, any recalibration there is unlikely to halt the deepening of cooperation across a range of areas between the two countries, which conduct regular military exercises and diplomatic exchanges. Analysts say it is also unlikely to change Beijing’s final outcome when it comes to the Russian war.

“Russia is central to China’s grand strategy,” said Manoj Kewalramani, who heads Indo-Pacific studies at the Takshashila Institute think tank in Bangalore. He added that while Beijing does not want escalation, “there is a deep interest in making sure that Russia does not lose the war.”

Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

Children watch smoke rising during Israeli raids east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024.

the The war in Gaza Analysts say the agreement – which is also expected to be a focal point in Xi and Putin’s discussions – has opened the opportunity to achieve common goals between the two countries.

These goals include, in general, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put it during a joint press conference with his counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing last month, creating a “just multipolar world order” free of American “neo-colonial hegemony and practices,” as well as working together. In order to “unite the countries of the Global South.”

When it comes to Gaza, both powers refused to condemn Hamas for its terrorist attack on Israel on October 7. They also criticized Israel And the United State – Convergence with the growing global reactions, especially across the Global South, against the Israeli war. More than 35,000 people died in Gaza during the war, according to the Ministry of Health there, and the collective humanitarian situation is worsening weekly.

Kewalramani said in Bangalore that China had limited strong influence in the region, while Russia had some level of presence, but “they see each other as force multipliers,” referring to the overlap in their response to this conflict.

He added that the conflict also affected how China and Russia view their relations with countries there. This includes Iran, which last year joined two international groups established by Beijing and Moscow, the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

He added: “They see Iran as part of the new order (which they are working to create), while they see Israel as an agent of the United States… The matter has become more acute since October 7.”

“Privately and quietly”

But as Xi continues to strengthen his relationship with Putin and Russia in an increasingly divided world, it also raises questions – including within Chinese policy circles and the public sphere – about where this is leading the world’s second-largest economy.

Unlike internationally isolated Russia or Iran, China is still seen throughout the West as an important player and potential partner on global issues such as climate change, despite concerns about its foreign policy. Human rights record And Aggression in the South China Sea And about Taiwan.

International researcher Shen Dingli, based in Shanghai, said: “The Chinese, like me, feel ashamed to receive Vladimir Putin, because his country defies the United Nations Charter… (and is viewed by) 141 countries as an aggressor.” He added that China “wants to use Russia” to achieve its goals, but Russia makes China weak.

Popular doubts and fears about Russia emerged in China earlier this month, when an account was created on the Chinese social media platform Weibo in the name of prominent Russian ultra-nationalist thinker Alexander Dugin.

Social media users flocked to the unverified page, with some voices calling for a Ukrainian victory and others pointing to historical frictions between the two countries, with one user commenting that received hundreds of likes calling on Moscow to return territories in the Russian Far East that had been ceded. For Russia. The Russian Empire in the nineteenth century.

CNN has been unable to confirm whether the account, which has more than 100,000 followers, is real.

Some observers argue that historical mistrust — linked to border tensions that were only officially resolved in the early 2000s and China’s realignment with the United States during the Cold War — means that even close relations between Xi and Putin are transactional in the face of shared tensions with The West – or at least lacks these relationships. Trust within their broader government ranks.

All of this comes into sharp focus ahead of the upcoming US election, where the outcome could have a sweeping impact on the future of the war in Ukraine and the US’s dealings with China – with former President Donald Trump re-elected. Maybe he plays for Russia.

“We know that some Chinese policy analysts will privately and quietly put forward the argument that despite the US pressure on China and the geopolitical rivalries of the past few years… China could have maintained slightly better relations with the United States and the West, and at the same time, it could have maintained “We have slightly better relations with the United States and the West.” “They avoided developing relations with Russia to the point where it is very close today,” Lee said in Singapore.

But in Xi’s China, there seems little room for such questions.

Instead, this week’s summit is poised to underscore the strength of the partnership – and an opportunity for both countries to validate the ambition that Xi expressed to Putin during his state visit to Moscow just over a year ago.

There, he is Announce That “changes that have not occurred in 100 years” were afoot. “Together, we must push (these changes) forward,” he added.

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