Chinese leader Xi Jinping is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in a show of diplomatic support as Moscow faces growing international isolation over its controversial invasion of Ukraine.
During their meeting, Russian state media reported that Putin condemned US “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait, and said he “highly appreciates” China’s “balanced position” on the Ukraine crisis.
The two authoritarian leaders have emerged as close partners in recent years, fueled by growing conflict with the West and strong personal ties.
China has offered Russia tacit support for Ukraine, while Moscow has sided with Beijing and criticized Washington over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August. Beijing responded with unprecedented military drills over the autonomous diplomatic island it claims as its territory.
The two are holding talks in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, a security-focused regional grouping that also includes India, Pakistan and four Central Asian nations.
In a symbolic show of strength and unity, the navies of Russia and China conducted joint patrols and exercises in the Pacific Ocean, hours before the leaders’ meeting, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The meeting, their first face-to-face since the invasion, comes at a potentially momentous moment for Putin, whose troops are retreating en masse in northeastern Ukraine, losing more territory in one week than they have gained in five months.
Putin is one of the few world leaders that Xi has met face-to-face since early 2020. The Russian leader traveled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics in February this year and was seen as the most prominent world leader to attend. Event. Some Western nations called for a diplomatic boycott, citing China’s human rights record.
At the meeting, the two leaders outlined their “borderless cooperation” and released a 5,000-word document sharing their opposition to “further enlargement of NATO”.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while increasing economic aid to its neighbor, pushing bilateral trade to record highs thanks to Russian business amid Western sanctions.
For Xi, on the other hand, the meeting comes as part of his first trip outside China’s borders in more than two years, a move he seeks to secure a rule-breaking third term at a major political meeting in Beijing just weeks before. cemented his status as China’s most powerful leader in decades.
China has become increasingly inward-looking since the pandemic began. Xi’s trip to Central Asia is a return to the world stage and an opportunity for him to show that, despite growing tensions with the West, China still has friends and partners and is ready to reassert its global influence.
On his first stop, Xi visited Kazakhstan, where in 2013 he unveiled a flagship Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure project stretching from East Asia to Europe.
In a meeting with Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday, Xi said China would like to cooperate with Kazakhstan “to remain a pioneer in Belt and Road cooperation.”
Xi also told Tokayev that “China will always help Kazakhstan maintain its national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese state media reported.
The Chinese leader went to Uzbekistan on Wednesday evening and met with the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He also met with the presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on Thursday.