Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
May 22, 2023
Xi visited Putin in Moscow for a summit. It was a highly visible event and watched closely by the world. The US is particularly interested or concerned about this summit. But there are really no surprising outcomes.
- As expected, China and Russia renewed their national alliance in front of the world. As the US leads G7, EU, NATO, QUAD, AUKUS as a global block surrounding Russia and China, there is no other choice for China and Russia but aligned.
- As expected, Xi and Putin renewed their personal friendship in front of the world. The US is leading the crusade denouncing autocrats around the world, it is natural for the world two top autocrats be united.
- Xi and Putin reached agreements on closer economic partnership with a focus on energy and trade. Because the Ukraine war, the west has effectively decoupled from Russia. The US is leading the effort to decouple China from the west. So, both Russia and China naturally look for expanding bilateral trades.
- China does not support the Ukraine war and dropped a peace plan as a strawman. Putin shows interest and Zelenskyy wants to talk with Xi. Even the US rejected China’s proposal off hand, China shows no interest in taking sides.
- Xi-Putin summit should not upset Biden, but Japan may feel some pressure as China and Russia will expand joint military presences near Japan.
No path to peace: Five key takeaways from Xi and Putin’s talks in Moscow
By Simone McCarthy Updated 5:35 AM EDT, Wed March 22, 2023
Hong KongCNN —
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have made a sweeping affirmation of their alignment across a host of issues – and shared mistrust of the United States – in a lengthy statement following talks between the two leaders in Moscow this week.
Their meeting, which took place under the shadow of Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine, left no question about Beijing’s commitment to developing its rapport with Moscow, despite Putin’s growing isolation on the global stage as its devastating war continues into its second year.
It also failed to move the needle on bringing that conflict to resolution.
Instead, Xi’s three-day visit to the Russian capital, which concluded Wednesday, was an opportunity for the two self-described “friends” to showcase their close personal rapport amid the pomp of a state visit – and lay out how they could advance a world order that counters one they see as led by Washington and its democratic allies.
The meeting culminated in more than a dozen agreements bolstering cooperation in areas from trade and technology to state propaganda, according to a Kremlin list. The leaders’ central statement focused on how the two countries would “deepen” their relationship.
No meaningful path forward on Ukraine
The meetings yielded no breakthrough on resolving the conflict in Ukraine.
Both leaders called for the cessation of actions that “increase tensions” and “prolong” the war in Ukraine, according to their joint statement released by China’s Foreign Ministry. The statement did not acknowledge that Russia’s invasion and military assault were the cause of ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
The leaders also urged NATO to “respect the sovereignty, security, interests,” of other countries – a reference that appeared to echo long-standing rhetoric from both countries falsely blaming the Western security alliance for provoking Russia to invade.
In recent weeks, China had appeared to position itself as a peace broker, releasing its position on a “political solution” to the conflict calling for a ceasefire and peace talks.
Putin said that “many of the provisions” could be “taken as the basis” for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine, “when the West and Kyiv are ready for it,” in comments to reporters following Tuesday talks.
But the proposal has been viewed as a nonstarter in the West and Ukraine, because it includes no provision that Moscow withdraw its troops from Ukrainian land.
On Tuesday, Zelensky said a ceasefire would “simply freeze” the conflict, giving Russia time to “prepare and come back again with their single wish, the wish of their leader – that is to occupy our country.”
New world order and alignment against the US
Experts say that China and Russia’s inclination to build their alignment against the US – and a world order more suited to their own more autocratic agendas – was driving the meeting, not interest in resolving the conflict in Ukraine.
As Xi left the Kremlin following a state dinner on Tuesday evening with Putin, his parting message reiterated his view that global power dynamics are shifting.
“Together, we should push forward these changes that have not happened for 100 years. Take care,” he said during a goodbye handshake with Putin, alluding to what Xi sees as an era where the West is fading and China is ascendant.
In their joint statement, the two authoritarian leaders called for promoting a “multipolar world” – a buzzword for a system not led by so-called Western values and rules, and pledged to work together to “safeguard the international system,” and the United Nations – where the two have a track record of blocking motions, including against actors like North Korea.
They also hit out at Washington at multiple points – including saying they “urge the United States to stop undermining international and regional security and global strategic stability in order to maintain its own unilateral military superiority.”
‘Military mutual trust’ and defense ties
Perceived threats from bodies like NATO and AUKUS – a security pact comprised of Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States – emerged as a clear focus for both leaders, including their implications on Asia.
Xi and Putin both expressed “serious concerns” in their joint statement about NATO’s “continuous strengthening of military-security ties with Asia-Pacific countries” and said they “oppose external military forces undermining regional peace and stability.”
Russia and China pledged to “further deepen military mutual trust,” citing strengthening their military exchanges and cooperation and regularly organizing joint maritime and aerial patrols.
Economic and energy boost
Putin said Tuesday that Moscow was ready to support Chinese business “replacing Western enterprises” that left Russia since the start of his invasion of Ukraine.
The partners appeared poised to expand what has already been a surge in energy trade over the past year as Europe cut its reliance on Russia’s key resource.
Both leaders also said they “will build a closer energy partnership, supporting companies from both countries in advancing cooperation projects in oil, gas, coal, electricity and nuclear energy.”
Putin in comments to media added that further growth in Russian gas exports to China was discussed, including “implementation of the initiative to build the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline through the territory of Mongolia.”
The joint statement did mention working together to promote “research and consultation” related to a “new China-Mongolia-Russia natural gas pipeline project.”
The optics of the Moscow summit was a deep contrast to the coinciding meeting in Ukraine between Zelensky and Japanese leader Kishida.
Zelensky praised Kishida and other leaders who have visited as “showing respect” not only for Ukraine but “for the preservation and functioning of civilized rules and civilized life in the world.”
“Given Japan’s strength, its leadership in Asia in defending peace and the rules-based international order, and Japan’s responsibility as the (Group of Seven) chair, our talks today can truly yield a global result,” he said in a nightly address Tuesday.
Xi has yet to speak with Zelensky since the Russian invasion began, though a senior Ukrainian official told CNN Tuesday that discussions are underway between the two countries to organize a call between them about China’s resolution proposal, with “nothing concrete” scheduled.
“(Xi’s visit) clearly puts China and Russia relations above any kind of other bilateral relations China can have,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.
However, this “joint statement is not going to win (China) many friends in Europe,” he said, “because the whole Europe is so mobilized behind Ukraine to try to kick out the Russians.”
Xi’s visit to Russia was humbling for Putin and showed how much China is dominant, experts say
During President Xi Jinping’s first visit to Moscow since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine this week, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seemed keen to impress.
“The asymmetry of the Sino-Russian relationship has been growing increasingly apparent for some time,” Ali Wyne, an analyst with the Eurasia Group in Washington, DC, told Insider. “And the summit has underscored it.”
China hands Putin a lifeline
Putin is regarded as a pariah by much of the international community over the brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the Russian economy has been weakened by sweeping Western sanctions that isolated it from swathes of the global economy.
China though has refused to join the blockade, and has provided Russia with vital diplomatic, political, and economic support in the conflict.
China kept buying Russian oil — albeit at a hefty discount — and so helped keep the Russian economy afloat. China has been prepared to sell goods to Russia including jets parts and electronics jamming equipment which Western companies are forbidden from providing.
“China assesses that a stronger partnership with Russia is a pillar of its efforts to offset growing pressure from advanced industrial democracies, especially in the West,” said Wyne.
Russia ties its economy to China
The summit featured a host of announcement of joint Chinese-Russian projects; but analysts characterized the deals as one-sided, giving Xi’s China economic opportunity while doing little to strengthen Russia.
The US taunted Putin in the wake of the summit, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby calling Russia is now the “junior partner” in the alliance.
The new projects include additional oil and gas pipelines from Russia to China (at prices China can determine) and new opportunities for Chinese companies to take over businesses in Russia left vacant by Western companies that pulled out.
The nations also agreed for China to take a key role in developing dilapidated regions in eastern Russia.
Instead, Xi tried to portray himself as an impartial peace broker, proposing a plan for a ceasefire in Ukraine.
While Putin was diplomatic about the plan, Kyiv has rejected it. Analysts told Insider that China is likely more concerned about burnishing its global image than actually securing an agreement to end the war.
Xi, Putin wrap up summit in Moscow in full display of close bilateral relations
NHK, March 22, 2023
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have wrapped up their summit talks in Moscow in a full display of close bilateral relations, apparently aiming to keep the United States in check.
The Russian presidential office says Xi and Putin held talks for a total of over 10 hours.
On the situation in Ukraine, no concrete solutions were presented. While showing support for China’s proposal that calls for dialogue and a ceasefire, Putin blamed the West. He said it intends to fight Russia right to the very end.
Xi also showed a willingness to further deepen cooperation with Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized Russia on Twitter on Wednesday for continuing its drone and missile attacks. He said, “Every time someone tries to hear the word ‘peace’ in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes.”