Significance of Putin’s Visit to China

Russia and China, once the fighting communist brothers, now appear to be in a great relationship. The bond between Moscow and Beijing has reached unprecedented levels. Both Presidents Putin and Xi Jinping celebrated their “no-limits” friendship, recognizing it as a counterbalance to the global influence of the US. This partnership is becoming stronger as the Biden administration seeks to isolate Russia from its Chinese lifeline following the full-scale invasion in Ukraine. While Russia increases its attacks in Ukraine and the United States increasingly expands into the Russosphere, President Vladimir Putin has arrived once again in Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, as he seeks to showcase the enduring strength of the relationship and engage in further discussions with Chinese authorities. It is Putin’s second visit to Beijing in less than a year, the first after he took his fresh term, and the visit will also commemorate 75 years since the Soviet Union recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Even Though, there are alot security issues to discuss, Experts believe business and the economy will be the main topics of discussion in Putin’s meeting with Xi. The two sides will be seeking ways to quietly circumvent US restrictions that have led to a decrease in Chinese exports to Russia following a post-war boom in both consumer products and dual-use goods, which have been crucial to the Russian war machine in Ukraine. China’s major banks are throttling payments out of concern over US sanctions, prompting Russia to propose a solution to the issue through a decentralized payment system that the West would be unable to track. Both sides will seek mechanisms that are immune to sanctions in the future. China officially opposes US sanctions, but in reality, banks and companies often find ways to comply to avoid encountering blowback from the US or being blocked from US dollar payments. Russia also aims to confront the decline in its gas exports, which have sharply dropped since its invasion of Ukraine, causing record losses for Gazprom, formerly the nation’s most profitable company. However, observers question whether Moscow and Beijing will be able to finalize an agreement on the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, a long-anticipated project that would supply China with Russian gas. Putin is bringing an expanded team of advisers and industry leaders to Beijing; the team includes a number of seasoned technocrats whom he has dubbed the Russian “A-Team”.

Putin’s relationship with Xi first took shape in May 2014 when the Russian leader traveled to Beijing for a two-day state visit to discuss a major gas supply deal. The visit occurred shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, resulting in Moscow being isolated by many Western countries. Xi promptly returned the favor by visiting Moscow and sitting alongside Putin during the city’s Victory Parade, an event boycotted by Western leaders as Russian-backed rebels seized territory in eastern Ukraine. Weeks before Putin sent his troops to invade Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian leader flew to Beijing where the two leaders famously celebrated their “no-limits” friendship. In an unmistakable show of support for Putin after his decision to invade Ukraine, Xi traveled to Moscow in the spring of 2023. For all the favors China does for Russia, in return, China gained a strong ally, as they have no more powerful allies. Xi praised Putin as his “best friend,” and many deals were signed between Russia and China. Russia provided China with oil and natural gas at a cheap rate and opened up the markets of Russia and Central Asian countries to China, which was an important move for China as they are losing European, American, and Indian markets. The United States responded fiercely. With tariffs raised by Trump, the Biden administration unveiled tariffs on $18 billion of Chinese imports last Tuesday. Tariffs were extended or introduced on a range of strategic sectors, including solar panels, electric vehicles, and semiconductors. On electric vehicles, rates were hiked from 25% to 100%, a situation that can pull them out of the flourishing market. 

The Russian leader’s two-day trip to China comes as his country’s forces have pressed an offensive in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, which began last week, marking the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began. Russia, which has signaled it is unwilling to abandon the war, will become increasingly dependent on China as a trade partner and as a key diplomatic ally in its deepening conflict with the West. Tensions in the South China Sea, increasing blocs in East Asia, and Central Asia’s recent lean towards the United States, and possibly Gaza, will be additional talking points. However, the primary objective of this meeting will be to prove their friendship to each other and demonstrate it to their enemies.