Chinese President Xi travels overseas to promote his strategic role

BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping is using his first overseas trip since the start of the pandemic to promote China’s strategic ambitions during a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other leaders of a Central Asian security group.

Chinese leader promotes ‘Global Security Initiative’ announced in April following formation of Quad by Washington, Japan, Australia and India in more assertive response from Beijing foreign police. Xi gave few details, but US officials complain that this echoes Russian arguments for Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

Xi, 69, is due to meet Putin in Uzbekistan this week at a summit of the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.

“China and Russia share the same position in opposing the Western practice of imposing sanctions and overthrowing other countries’ regimes,” said Li Xin, director of the Institute of European and Asian Studies. from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

Putin and Xi will hold a one-on-one meeting on Thursday and discuss Ukraine ahead of the next day’s security summit, the Russian president’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow.

“The issue will be thoroughly discussed at the meeting,” Ushakov said.

Xi’s trip at a time when his government is urging the Chinese public to avoid overseas travel as part of its “zero COVID” strategy underscores the importance for the ruling Communist Party of affirm China’s role as a regional leader.

The summit takes Xi abroad as the party prepares for an October congress in which he is expected to break with political tradition and seek a third five-year term as leader.

This suggests that Xi, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s, is convinced he doesn’t need to stay at home to strike political deals. It could also help promote his position with nationalists in the ruling party.

Beijing-Moscow relations were cold during the Soviet era, but the two sides have developed political and business ties since the late 1990s. They have few common interests but are driven by a shared frustration with US domination on global affairs and Chinese demand for Russian oil and gas.

Xi’s government refused to criticize Putin’s attack on Ukraine. He accuses the United States of having provoked the conflict.

“China has taken a balanced approach to the Ukrainian crisis, clearly expressing its understanding of the reasons that prompted Russia to launch the special military operation,” said Ushakov, Putin’s adviser.

Xi said the two governments had a “boundless” friendship when the Russian leader attended the Winter Olympics in Beijing ahead of the Feb. 24 attack on Ukraine.

The two governments have no alliance and have divergent interests in Europe, said Wang Yiwei, an international relations expert at Renmin University in Beijing. He said the “no limits” language is meant to give them leverage in their dealings with the West over Taiwan and other issues.

“It’s a deterrent,” Wang said. He said China wants an independent foreign policy: “If we bring China and Russia too close, it’s not necessarily good for China.

Russia has expressed support for Beijing amid tension with the United States after House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy claimed by the Communist Party as part of its territory.

China has sent 2,000 troops and three warships to take part in a military exercise this month in Russia’s Far East, Vostok 2022.

En route to Uzbekistan, Xi was due to pay a one-day visit to Kazakhstan, another supplier of oil and gas to China, on Wednesday to meet President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

The two sides are expected to discuss “turbulence in the global economy” and “the future of energy markets”, Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko said.

Pope Francis is due to be in Kazakhstan at the same time as Xi, but there is no indication that they could meet. On board his flight, the pope was asked about a possible meeting and replied: “I have no news about it. But I’m still ready to go to China.

Xi has participated in other global rallies via video link. His only trip outside the Chinese mainland since early 2020 was a hong kong day tour to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule.

The other SCO governments are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Iran and Afghanistan are observers.

“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization attracts more countries with a completely different new principle from the West in managing relations between nations,” Li said.

China sees the group, founded under Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, as a counterweight to American alliances across East Asia to the Indian Ocean. Beijing has participated in multi-state military exercises, showing its rapidly developing forces.

Relations with Washington, Europe, Japan and India are increasingly strained due to complaints about trade, technology, security, Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights and territorial disputes at sea and in the Himalayas.

In April, Xi said the “Global Security Initiative” aims to “uphold the principle of the indivisibility of security” and “oppose the construction of national security on the basis of insecurity in the world.” ‘other countries”.

Despite the bland language, US officials and Asian security analysts see Xi’s move as vindication for China, with the world’s second-largest military after the United States, to dominate the region.

A State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said in April that he appeared to be “repeating some of what we heard from the Kremlin” to justify the attack on Ukraine.

“This is a blatant effort in China’s pursuit of Asian hegemony,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan of the Observer Research Foundation, an Indian think tank, wrote in The Diplomat. It is “designed to promote the interests of China in its great competition with the United States”.

At a meeting in July, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that China would “strengthen strategic communication” with Moscow on international security, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. .

It will “show the fundamental momentum of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership” and “practice genuine multilateralism”, the ministry said.

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Isachenkov reported from Moscow. AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and AP writers Ken Moritsugu in Beijing and Kostya Manenkov in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, contributed to this report.

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