Xi meets with Putin in Russia

Today, Xi Jinping traveled to Russia for the first time since the start of the war in Ukraine. He held a four hour meeting with President Putin.

Ukraine is expected to be a key point of discussion throughout Xi’s visit, which will be closely watched for any potential impact on an entrenched conflict that has killed tens of thousands and triggered a mass humanitarian crisis.

“In the last few years, China has made a colossal leap forward,” Putin told Xi, sitting side by side with him at the Kremlin on Monday afternoon. “In the whole world, this evokes interest, and unfortunately even envy.”

Xi called Putin his “dear friend” and said “Russia’s development has significantly improved under your leadership.”

China has billed the trip a “journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” amid a push from Beijing to frame itself as a key proponent for the resolution of the conflict. But Xi’s trip is likely to be seen in some Western capitals as a ringing endorsement of the Russian leader in the face of broad international condemnation of his war.

There’s no reason to think his visit can bring about a resolution of the conflict as there’s no sign so far that Putin has any intent of leaving Ukraine.

China has called for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia and the opening of peace talks as part of a 12-point proposal, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed willingness to speak to Xi. But the plan seems to have no chance at success, largely because it does not address Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory.

The Kremlin claims to be giving the proposal “great attention” while insisting there can be no peace until Ukraine accepts “new realities,” an apparent reference to Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. Zelensky, in turn, has pledged to retake all occupied lands, including Crimea.

It would be a big move if China could actually broker a peace here but it’s not going to happen. The more likely goal is forming a tighter bond with another authoritarian country opposed by the west.

“The grim outlook in China is that we are entering this era of confrontation with the U.S., the gloves are off, and Russia is an asset and a partner in this struggle,” said Alexander Gabuev, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace…

In an article published Sunday evening in China’s People’s Daily, Putin gushed about the brotherly friendship between Russia and China, which he said were standing “shoulder to shoulder,” including against Western hegemony.

“Sticking more stubbornly than ever to its obsolete dogmata and vanishing dominance, the ‘Collective West’ is gambling on the fates of entire states and peoples,” Putin wrote. “The U.S.’s policy of simultaneously deterring Russia and China, as well as all those who do not bend to the American dictation, is getting ever more fierce and aggressive.” He also warned that NATO is “seeking to penetrate the Asia-Pacific.”

Both Xi and Putin have set themselves up to govern for life and both are being directly challenged by the US and Europe. In Putin’s case, the opposition comes in the form of money and weapons being used against his forces in Ukraine. In Xi’s case, the conflict isn’t a shooting war but also involves money and weapons. We recently made a deal to sell several US-built nuclear subs to Australia. We’ve also been selling more weapons to Taiwan. No doubt China is very aware that an attack on Taiwan could look a lot like Russia’s current quagmire in Ukraine. So the two countries have common enemies, i.e. the western countries that collectively refuse to let them do whatever they want to the rest of the world.