With talks between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin underway via videoconference, analysts warn China’s leader’s Russian response as the war in Ukraine drags on and China faces an unprecedented Covid outbreak. We are watching for signs of weakening support for
In an opening address broadcast by Russian television, Putin invited Xi to visit Moscow next spring. He added that the two countries would strengthen cooperation between their militaries, pointing to the growth of trade despite “adverse market conditions”.
He said the bilateral relationship was “the best it’s ever been and has stood the test of time.” “We share the same view on the causes, course and logic of ongoing change in the global geopolitical landscape.”
In his opening remarks, Xi also said, “Against the difficult international situation, China is ready to strengthen political cooperation with Russia,” according to Russian state media.
Moscow and Beijing have become closer in recent years, with Xi and Putin declaring the two countries to have entered into an “unrestricted” partnership, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Since then, China has refused to condemn aggression, instead repeatedly blaming NATO and the United States for the conflict, and remains one of the key supporters of an increasingly isolated Russia on the world stage. There is
But more than ten months after the war began, the world looks very different. Experts say the dynamics between the two partners have changed accordingly.
Instead of the expected swift victory, Putin’s invasion was bogged down by a number of setbacks on the battlefield, including a lack of basic equipment. Morale is low in some parts of Russia, and many civilians face economic hardships during the harsh winter.
On Thursday, Russia launched what Ukrainian officials described as one of the largest missile barrages since the war began in February, with explosions rattling villages and cities across Ukraine and damaging civilian infrastructure. , at least three people died.
Ukrainian officials have warned for days that Russia is preparing to launch an all-out assault on the power grid to end 2022, as Ukrainians look to welcome the New Year and celebrate the Christmas holidays. , is plunging the country into darkness. Orthodox Christians in the country will be his January 7th.
“China is desperate for an end (of the war),” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank.
“President Xi will try to emphasize the importance of peace to Putin,” she added. “With Russia frustrated by its lack of progress on the battlefield, the time is ripe for peace talks in China’s eyes.”
Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said China was also becoming increasingly isolated in its stance toward Russia.
Wu cited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an example of Russia’s hardening of its attitude towards the war.
India has not outright condemned Moscow’s invasion, but Modi told Putin in September that now was not the time for war, urging him to move towards peace.
The shift means China is becoming increasingly isolated in its relations with Russia, another reason Xi Jinping is eager for a quick resolution, Wu said.
Xi already showed signs of impatience when he last met Putin at a regional summit in Uzbekistan last September. At the time, Putin admitted that the Chinese government had “questions and concerns” about the aggression, and seemed to cover up their differences.
But experts say the domestic situation in China has also changed significantly in the months since, so a different approach to Putin may be needed this time.
The country is now battling its worst Covid outbreak ever after easing restrictions, partially reopening borders and finally abandoning its strict zero Covid policy. It came after an unprecedented wave of protests. In some cases, it has expanded to include broader dissatisfaction with Xi and the ruling Communist Party.
At the center of this crisis is Xi Jinping, who entered his third norm-breaking term in October, with a tighter grip on power and a tighter circle of loyal supporters.
“Now that the domestic issue is resolved, Xi is in a position to tackle the Russian issue,” Sun said, referring to the consolidation of power in October.
She added that despite the war’s unpopularity, China and Russia are “allied for geopolitics.” Both countries face tensions with the West, and the two leaders have often touted a shared vision for a new world order.
“Both leaders will emphasize partnership, cooperation and strong ties. They will want to send a message that all will overcome the war in Ukraine,” said the Sun. “(The war) was a nuisance to China last year and affected China’s interest in Europe, but not enough to cause China to abandon Russia,” he said.
Wu also acknowledged that the relationship was “fundamental to both countries” and pointed to China’s ability to profit from the war in Ukraine due to its access to Russian oil.
But he added that China’s protests, the Covid outbreak and the accompanying economic blow could leave Xi in a more vulnerable position and reduce material and outspoken support for Russia. .
“The policy tools that Xi Jinping can use to help Russia are currently quite limited and very constrained,” Wu said. “Politically, domestic support for Xi has fallen dramatically. His third term doesn’t really start with a rosy picture.”