Xi and Putin talk by video as Ukraine war tests China-Russia partnership

Hong Kong

The Kremlin said Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are expected to speak by videoconference on Friday, with analysts watching for any sign of support for the Chinese leader. for the Russian President eased after more than 10 months of war in Ukraine and when China faced a conflict. unprecedented Covid pandemic.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders will mainly discuss bilateral relations between the two countries and exchange views on regional issues as well as strategic partnership.

Moscow and Beijing have drawn closer together in recent years, with Xi and Putin declaring the two countries an “unlimited” partnership weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Since then, China has refused to condemn the aggression, instead repeatedly blaming the conflict on NATO and the United States – and remains one of Russia’s key remaining backers as it This is increasingly isolated on the world stage.

But more than 10 months after the fierce battle, the world looks much different – ​​and the dynamics between both partners has changed, experts say.

Instead of a quick, predictable victory, Putin’s invasion faltered with a lot defeat on the battlefield, include lack of basic equipment. Morale is low in parts of Russia, with many civilians facing economic hardship during the bitter winter.

On Thursday, Russia launched what Ukrainian officials describe as one of the biggest missile battleground since the war began in February, with explosions rocking villages and cities across Ukraine, damaging civilian infrastructure and killing at least three people.

Ukrainian officials have been warning for days that Russia is preparing to launch an all-out attack on the power grid to end 2022, leaving the country in the dark as Ukrainians try to celebrate the New Year and eat celebrate Christmas. The country’s Orthodox Christianity falls on January 7.

“China wants (the war) to end,” said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Washington-based think tank Stimson Center.

“Xi will try to emphasize the importance of peace to Putin,” she added. “As Russia is growing impatient with the lack of progress on the battlefield, the time is ripe for peace negotiations in the eyes of China.”

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said China is also becoming more isolated in its stance towards Russia.

Wu points to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an example of Russia’s hardline stance on the war.

Although India did not outright condemn Moscow’s invasion, in September, Mr. Modi told Mr. Putin that now was not the time for war and urged him towards peace.

That shift means China is now standing alone in its relationship with Russia, another reason Xi might be eager to see a quick resolution, Wu said.

Xi showed signs of impatience when he last met Putin in September at a regional summit in Uzbekistan. At the time, Putin acknowledged Beijing had “questions and concerns” about the invasion, what appeared to be a veiled admission of their divergent views.

However, experts say that China’s domestic situation has also changed dramatically in the months since, which may require a different approach from Putin this time around.

The country is currently battling the worst Covid outbreak after the last abandon the strict no Covid policy, with restrictions eased and borders partially reopened. The U-turn comes after an unprecedented wave of protests across the country to protest the absence of Covid – which in some cases expanded to include broader grievances against Xi and the Communist Party. ruling.

in at the heart of this crisis is Xi – the one who entered the third term breaks the norm in October, with tight control over power and a close loyalist group.

“Now that domestic problems have been resolved, Xi Jinping is in a better position to work with Russia,” said the Stimson Center’s Sun, the Stimson Center’s Sun. mentioned his consolidation of power in October.

She added that trade between the two countries has increased this year due to high global energy prices – and that the two leaders could “reaffirm their commitment to economic cooperation”.

However, Wu said, the protests, the Covid outbreak and the consequent economic damage have put Xi in a more vulnerable position, which means less material and financial support. more public for Russia.

“The policy tools that Xi Jinping can use to support Russia are quite limited right now, it is quite limited,” Wu said. “Politically, domestic support for Xi has dropped dramatically. His third term doesn’t really begin with a rosy picture.”


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