Xi-Putin meeting: Understanding China and Russia’s deepening alliance

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At their first face-to-face meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin left little doubt that their countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership is here to stay.

Economic ties are growing, as China turns to Russia for energy and food amid global shortages, and military cooperation is also advancing. The countries intend to expand their diplomatic cooperation in multilateral organizations as well as the United Nations Security Council, with Mr. Putin saying last week that China and Russia “jointly stand for forming a just, democratic, and multipolar world.”

Why We Wrote This

China’s deepening ties with Russia are likely to grow even stronger in coming years as each country reaps key benefits from the other. Yet historical mistrust and differing global aspirations remain potential weaknesses.

The closeness of the leaders’ relationship is “a historical anomaly,” say experts, noting long periods of tension and estrangement in recent centuries. The overarching force pushing China and Russia together now – one unlikely to change anytime soon – is their shared hostility toward the United States and the West.

“They both think about the West as implacably opposed to them as great powers,” says Joseph Torigian, assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service. They’re willing to manage their differences and put aside past grievances to confront that perceived threat.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin struck different tones in public remarks last week at their first face-to-face meeting since Russia invaded Ukraine – but left little doubt that their countries’ “no limits” strategic partnership is here to stay.

Despite major Russian battlefield setbacks and Mr. Putin’s mention of China’s “concerns” over Ukraine, the two leaders pledged to deepen strategic cooperation, support each other’s “core interests,” and join forces to promote regional and global stability. On Monday, senior Chinese and Russian leaders followed up with a new round of high-level security consultations.

Mr. Xi’s decision to meet Mr. Putin – during Mr. Xi’s first overseas trip since 2020 and a month before his expected ascent to a rare third term as China’s top leader – underscores the importance he places on the alliance with Russia, experts say. For the embattled Mr. Putin, the relationship with China is increasingly indispensable.

Why We Wrote This

China’s deepening ties with Russia are likely to grow even stronger in coming years as each country reaps key benefits from the other. Yet historical mistrust and differing global aspirations remain potential weaknesses.

“Russia is the only ally of consequence for China,” says Alexander Korolev, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. And for Russia, “China is like a lifeline,” he says.

The overarching force pushing China and Russia together – one unlikely to change anytime soon – is their shared hostility toward the United States and the West, say experts in Sino-Russian relations.

“In both capitals, there’s a view that the big … challenge, the long-term strategic enemy, is the United States,” says Joseph Torigian, assistant professor at American University’s School of International Service.

“They both think about the West as implacably opposed to them as great powers,” he says, and manage their differences so together they can confront that perceived threat.



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