Xi to meet Putin on his first trip outside China since COVID began

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China February 4, 2022. Sputnik/Aleksey Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

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LONDON/BEIJING, Sept 11 (Reuters) – Xi Jinping will leave China for the first time in more than two years for a trip this week to Central Asia where he will meet Russian Vladimir Putin, just a month before he was to is about to cement his place as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

The trip, Xi’s first overseas since the COVID-19 pandemic began, shows how confident he is about his grip on power in China and how perilous the global situation has become.

Amid Russia’s confrontation with the West over Ukraine, the Taiwan crisis and a sluggish global economy, Xi is due to pay a state visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

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The Chinese president will then meet Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Kremlin.

Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters last week that the Russian president was due to meet Xi at the summit. The Kremlin declined to give details of their discussions. China has yet to confirm Xi’s travel plans.

The meeting will give Xi a chance to underscore his influence while Putin can demonstrate Russia’s tilt towards Asia; both leaders can show their opposition to the United States just as the West seeks to punish Russia for the war in Ukraine.

“For me, it’s all about Xi: he wants to show how confident he is domestically and be seen as the international leader of nations opposing Western hegemony,” said George Magnus, author of “Red Flags “, a book on The Challenges of Xi.

“Privately, I imagine Xi will be very anxious to know how Putin’s war unfolds and even if Putin or Russia are in play at some point in the near future, because China still needs direction. anti-Western movement in Moscow.”

Russia suffered its worst defeat of the war last week, abandoning its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine. Read more

The deepening “limitless” partnership between rising superpower China and natural resource titan Russia is one of the most intriguing geopolitical developments of recent years – and the West is watching it with anxiety.

Once a senior partner in the global communist hierarchy, Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is now seen as a junior partner in a resurgent communist China that is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy over the next of the next decade.

Although historical contradictions abound in the partnership, there is no sign that Xi is ready to drop his support for Putin in Russia’s most serious confrontation with the West since the height of the Cold War.

Instead, the two 69-year-old leaders are deepening their bond. Trade soared by nearly a third between Russia and China in the first 7 months of 2022.

The visit “shows that China is willing not only to continue ‘business as usual’ with Russia, but also to show explicit support and accelerate the formation of a stronger China-Russia alignment,” he said. Alexander Korolev, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at UNSW. Sidney.

“Beijing is reluctant to distance itself from Moscow, even in the face of serious reputational costs and risks of becoming the target of secondary economic sanctions.”

SUPREME XI

Xi is expected to break with precedent at a Communist Party congress that begins Oct. 16 and secure a third five-year term in office. Read more

While Xi has met Putin in person 38 times since becoming president of China in 2013, he has yet to meet Joe Biden in person since the latter became president of the United States in 2021.

Xi last met Putin in February, just weeks before the Russian president ordered an invasion of Ukraine that left tens of thousands dead and wreaked havoc on the global economy.

At that meeting at the opening of the Winter Olympics, Xi and Putin declared a “limitless” partnership, supporting each other in clashes with Ukraine and Taiwan with the promise of further collaboration against the West.

China has refrained from condemning Russia’s operation against Ukraine or calling it an “invasion”, in accordance with the Kremlin which presents the war as “a special military operation”.

“The most important message is really not that Xi supports Putin, because it’s pretty clear that Xi supports Putin,” said Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

“The biggest signal is that he, Xi Jinping, is coming out of China for the first time since the pandemic as the party congress approaches. If there were to be any conspiracies against him, that’s when that the conspiracies would happen. And he’s clearly convinced that the conspiracies won’t happen because he’s out of the country.”

Xi, the son of a Communist revolutionary, is set to secure a historic third term as leader of the Communist Party’s 20th Congress starting Oct. 16. He last left China in January 2020, before the world was locked down by COVID. Read more

HEAD OF THE KREMLIN

After the West imposed the toughest sanctions in modern history on Moscow over the war in Ukraine, Putin says Russia is turning to Asia after centuries of viewing the West as the crucible of economic growth, technology and war. Read more

Presenting the West as a waning coalition dominated by the United States that aims to hinder – even destroy – Russia, Putin’s worldview matches that of Xi, who presents China as an alternative to the order led by the United States after World War II.

Putin’s aide Ushakov said the Xi-Putin meeting would be “very important”. He gave no further details.

As Europe seeks to shift away from Russian energy imports, Putin will seek to boost energy exports to China and Asia.

Putin said last week that a major gas export route to China via Mongolia had been agreed. Gazprom (GAZP.MM) For years, it has been studying the possibility of a major new gas pipeline – the Power of Siberia 2 – crossing Mongolia to bring Russian gas to China.

It will transport 50 billion cubic meters of gas per year, around a third of what Russia usually sells to Europe – or the equivalent of Nord Stream 1’s annual volumes.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China, India, Pakistan and four Central Asian states, is expected to admit Iran, one of Moscow’s main allies in the Middle East.

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Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty and Yew Lun Tian and Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alexander Smith

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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