Xi meets Putin on first trip outside China since coronavirus began

LONDON/BEIJING (Reuters) – Xi Jinping will leave China for the first time in more than two years on a trip this week to Central Asia where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, just a month early. Place as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

The trip, Xi’s first overseas trip since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, shows how confident he is in his grip on power in China and how dire the global situation is.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s standoff with the West over Ukraine, the crisis over Taiwan and the faltering global economy, Xi is scheduled to pay a state visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

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Kazakhstan and the Kremlin said the Chinese president would then meet with Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, told reporters last week that the Russian president is expected to meet Xi at the summit. The Kremlin declined to give details of their talks. China has yet to confirm Xi’s travel plans.

The meeting will give Xi an opportunity to assert his influence while Putin can demonstrate Russia’s inclination toward Asia; Both leaders can show their opposition to the United States just as the West seeks to punish Russia for the Ukraine war.

said George Magnus, author of “Red Flags,” a book about Xi’s challenges.

“In particular, I imagine Xi would be more concerned about how Putin’s war goes and whether Putin or Russia plays out at some point in the near future because China still needs anti-Western leadership in Moscow.”

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Russia suffered its worst defeat of the war last week, as it abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine. Read more

The deepening of the “borderless” partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resource giant of Russia is one of the most interesting geopolitical developments in recent years – and one that the West is watching with alarm.

Once the main partner in the global communist hierarchy, Russia is now considered, after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, a junior partner to a rising communist China that is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy in the next decade.

Despite the many historical contradictions in the partnership, there is no sign that Xi is willing to abandon his support for Putin in Russia’s most serious confrontation with the West since the height of the Cold War.

Instead, the two 69-year-old leaders are working to deepen ties. Trade rose by nearly a third between Russia and China in the first seven months of 2022.

Alexander Korolev, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of New South Wales, said the visit “shows that China is ready not only to continue ‘business as usual’ with Russia, but even to show clear support and accelerate the formation of a stronger alliance between China and Russia.” Sydney.

“Beijing is reluctant to distance itself from Moscow even as it faces severe reputational costs and the risk of becoming the target of secondary economic sanctions.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, February 4, 2022. Sputnik/Alexey Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters Attention Editors – This image is provided by a third party.

Xi is widely expected to break with precedent at the Communist Party Congress, which begins on Oct. 16 and secure a third five-year term for the presidency. Read more

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While Xi has met Putin in person 38 times since he became China’s president in 2013, he has not met Joe Biden in person since the latter became president of the United States in 2021.

The last time Xi met Putin was in February, just weeks before the Russian leader ordered an invasion of Ukraine that left tens of thousands of people dead and sowed chaos in the global economy.

At that meeting at the opening of the Winter Olympics, Xi and Putin announced a “borderless” partnership, backed each other over confrontations over Ukraine and Taiwan with a promise of greater cooperation against the West.

China has refrained from condemning the Russian operation against Ukraine or describing it as an “invasion”, in line with the Kremlin’s position, which describes the war as a “special military operation”.

“The bigger message is really not that Xi supports Putin, because it was quite clear that Xi supports Putin,” said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“The biggest signal is that he, Xi Jinping, will leave China for the first time since the epidemic in the run-up to the Party Congress. If there are plots against him, that is when the plots will happen. He is clearly confident that the plots will not happen because he is outside the country.” .

Xi, the son of a communist revolutionary, is preparing to secure a third historic term of leadership at the 20th Communist Party Congress, which begins on October 16. He last left China in January 2020, before the world went into a COVID lockdown. Read more

Kremlin head

After the West imposed the toughest sanctions on Moscow in modern history over the war in Ukraine, Putin said Russia was moving toward Asia after centuries of viewing the West as a crucible of economic growth, technology and war. Read more

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Portraying the West as a retreating US-dominated alliance aimed at constraining – or even destroying – Russia, Putin’s worldview chimes with that of Xi, who presents China as an alternative to the US-led order in the post-World War II era.

Ushakov, Putin’s aide, said the meeting between Xi and Putin would be “very important.” He did not give further details.

As Europe seeks to move away from Russian energy imports, Putin will seek to increase energy exports to China and Asia.

Putin said last week that a major gas export route to China through Mongolia had been agreed upon. Gazprom (GAZP.MM) It has been studying for years the possibility of constructing a new major gas pipeline – Power Siberia 2 – to travel through Mongolia, bringing Russian gas to China.

It will transport 50 billion cubic meters of gas annually, about a third of what Russia normally sells to Europe – or the equivalent of Nord Stream 1’s annual volume.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which groups Russia, China, India, Pakistan and four Central Asian countries, is set to accept Iran, one of Moscow’s main allies in the Middle East.

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Written by Guy Faulconbridge. Additional reporting by Olsas Oysoff in Almaty and Yu Lun Tian and Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Raisa Kasulowski and Alexander Smith

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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