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Putin Arrives in China for Two Day Summit, Meeting Between “Old Friends”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing marks a significant moment in international diplomacy, as he arrived for a two-day state visit aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between Russia and China. Greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People with a grand welcoming ceremony and a multi-gun salute, Putin’s arrival was celebrated as a meeting between “old friends.” This visit, characterized by high-level talks and significant ceremonial events, underscored the deepening ties between the two nations amidst ongoing geopolitical tensions and economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Putin Praises China’s Support During Ukraine War

In an extensive interview with Chinese state media outlet Xinhua, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised China’s efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis and described his upcoming meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “dialogue between old friends.” He commended China’s initiatives to address the conflict, lamenting that “neither Ukraine nor its western patrons support these initiatives.” According to Putin, they are not prepared to engage in an “equal, honest and open dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests.” The war in Ukraine began when Russia invaded in February 2022, leading to the loss of thousands of soldiers on both sides and devastating civilian casualties in Ukraine. Amid Western sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow, China has acted as a crucial economic lifeline for Russia, increasing trade and remaining one of the top importers of Russian oil and gas.

Strengthening Strategic Partnerships

Putin arrived in Beijing for a two-day state visit intended to deepen the strategic partnership between Russia and China. Chinese state media confirmed his arrival, describing it as a visit from an “old friend.” At a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, Xi greeted Putin while artillery fired a multi-gun salute. Putin emphasized that the cooperation between Russia and China is a stabilizing factor for the world and is not directed against any other power. Xi noted that the two leaders had met more than 40 times and highlighted the importance of cherishing and safeguarding their relationship. “The China-Russia relationship today is hard-earned, and the two sides need to cherish and nurture it,” Xi told Putin.

Economic and Trade Cooperation

The bilateral talks focused heavily on enhancing trade and economic cooperation. Analysts believe that both countries will seek ways to quietly circumvent U.S. restrictions that have impacted Chinese exports to Russia. Speaking to Chinese state media before the visit, Putin criticized “western elites” for their efforts to “isolate and weaken” Russia. He also praised China for its initiatives to resolve the Ukraine crisis. The leaders will also participate in a gala celebrating 75 years since the Soviet Union recognized the People’s Republic of China, highlighting their historical ties and commitment to future cooperation.

Financial Independence and Sanctions Evasion

During the meeting, Putin revealed a significant shift in the financial dynamics between China and Russia, stating that “90% of all payments are already made in rubles and yuan.” This change came after Western countries removed Russian banks from SWIFT, the world’s main international payments network, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The aim was to hinder Russian trade and make business transactions difficult. However, Putin and Xi are exploring sanctions-proof mechanisms to ensure their economic activities continue smoothly. According to Alexey Maslov, director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, “China’s major banks are throttling payments out of concern over U.S. sanctions,” and Russia has proposed a decentralized payment system that the West cannot track.

Military and Political Dynamics

Putin’s delegation to China includes his new defense minister, Andrei Belousov, who recently replaced longtime ally Sergei Shoigu. Analysts view this as the most significant reshuffle in the Russian military command since the invasion of Ukraine. Belousov, a veteran economist with ties to Ding Xuexiang, a close ally of Xi Jinping, is expected to play a key role in upcoming economic discussions. Despite his recent removal, Shoigu is also part of the delegation in his position as head of Russia’s powerful security council. Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, noted, “Both countries have invested a lot of effort to really get their teams acquainted and establish personal bonds.”

Celebrating Historical Ties and Future Cooperation

Xi and Putin’s meeting celebrated 75 years of diplomatic relations since the Soviet Union recognized the People’s Republic of China. The leaders emphasized the importance of nurturing their partnership, which they view as essential for upholding global fairness and justice. “China is willing to…jointly achieve the development and rejuvenation of our respective countries, and work together to uphold fairness and justice in the world,” Xi stated. This visit, marked by high-level talks and ceremonial events, underscores the strength of their alliance in the face of Western opposition.

Global Implications and U.S. Rivalry

The visit highlights the broader geopolitical rivalry between the U.S. and the China-Russia alliance. Xi and Putin share a worldview that portrays the West as decadent and declining, while they seek to challenge U.S. supremacy in various fields, from technology to military power. This visit follows a recent mission by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing, where he warned China against deepening military support for Russia. Despite these warnings, China continues to bolster its trade and military ties with Russia, illustrating the complex dynamics of modern global politics. Putin’s choice of China for his first foreign trip since his re-election underscores the significance he places on their partnership and his personal ties with Xi. As Putin noted, “It was the unprecedentedly high level of the strategic partnership between our countries that determined my choice of China as the first state that I would visit after taking office as president.”

Editor’s Note: Not much of a surprise, that Russia and China are holding hands and declaring brotherhood. The question is how much of the rest of the world will they pull into their sphere.

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