Putin and Xi – allies in the spirit of multipolarity
Initial setting of the visit
Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, on March 20-22, is a state visit, in order to underscore its importance but it will be business-like, without any “protocol stuff,” Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov characterized Xi’s visit to Russia. “The most important thing is negotiations” he added. According to the diplomatic protocol, the state visit status is the highest class of foreign visits and it is rarely used. Usually, such visits imply a number of additional protocol events and meetings.
“My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace. I look forward to working with President Putin to jointly adopt a new vision, a new blueprint and new measures for the growth of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the years to come,” the Chinese president said just before the visit.
The Russian president has lauded the strengthening relations between the two nations and joint efforts in building a multipolar world.Beijing and Moscow are working together to shape “a more just multipolar world,” and ties between the two countries are now “at the highest level in their history,” President Vladimir Putin said in an article, released on the eve of a visit. “We actively promote democratic multilateral structures such as the SCO and BRICS, which become more and more authoritative and influential and attract new partners and friends,” he said.
Putin also touched on the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, re-iterating Moscow’s readiness to seek a diplomatic solution. He also expressed his gratitude for Beijing’s “well-balanced stance” on the hostilities. Last month, China unveiled a 12-point peace roadmap, which was welcomed by Moscow and dismissed by Kiev’s Western backers.
During the visit, Xi is going to have an in-depth exchange of views with Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of mutual interest as well as sign important bilateral documents.
The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era is based on independent foreign policy and the regular reciprocal visits of heads of states of Russia and China have been a tradition since mid-1990s. Both parties see that this time Xi’s visit is a milestone for China-Russia relations in the new era injecting a strong impetus into bilateral relations and lead the sustained development of bilateral ties at a high level.
Context of great power relations and Ukraine war
In February, 2023, China released a 12-point position paper called “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis“ and called for the cessation of hostilities and resumption of peace talks, ending unilateral sanctions and abandoning the Cold War mentality.
Xi Jinping has called for “pragmatism” to end the war in Ukraine, saying his country’s peace proposal reflects the unity of the global community’s views and aims to neutralize the consequences of the crisis. In a 12-point peace plan (roadmap) published last month, China called for an immediate ceasefire, dialogue, an end to unilateral sanctions, and respect for all countries’ sovereignty to replace the continuous fighting in Ukraine.
Some US officials and Western media have been badmouthing China’s role as a possible peacemaker in the Ukraine crisis, continuing to hype on claim of China’s shipment of lethal weapons to Russia’s forces in Ukraine and casting doubt over China’s neutral stance on the crisis, western smear campaign is going.
John Kirby, spokesperson for the US National Security Council, told reporters ahead of Xi’s planned trip to Russia, that “We don’t support calls for a ceasefire right now”, adding that “if coming out of this meeting (Putin-Xi), there is some sort of call for a ceasefire, well, that’s unacceptable.” Biden administration is completely engaged in resuming the war in Ukraine.
France and Germany, which have been under the shadow of the crisis over the past year, are expecting China to play a bigger role in mediating the conflict but on the other hand, are sensitive and shy publicly oppose the American position.
Russia will certainly trust China in playing the role of a mediator. The problem is that Ukraine and the West will not. Therefore, China could hardly play a mediating role, number of Chinese and Russian researchers share this assessment.
Chinese researchers assess that two permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia are major players responsible for advancing the course of a multipolar world and rejecting unilateralism and hegemony. From China’s point of view, it’s important to enhance strategic coordination with Russia and remain vigilant on Washington to reproduce the Ukraine crisis in Asia.
As if a special “coincidence” just day before Xi’s visit, 40 African Presidents were in “The Russia – Africa in a Multipolar World” conference, addressed by President Putin, in Moscow. The fact that not a word was reported about this historical conference, is illustrative of the distorted worldview of the western media.
Days of negotiations, Monday 20 – Tuesday 21
President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow on Monday 20 morning and despite the long flight and short rest, Xi Jinping started talks with Vladimir Putin. No doubt, all the most important issues were talked and agreed on, in this informal face-to-face meeting.
During their first “informal” meeting, Xi and Putin talked for no less than four and a half hours. Xi invited Putin to visit Beijing later this year and at the end, Putin personally escorted Xi to his limo. This conversation was the real deal: mapping out the lineaments of multipolarity, which starts with a solution for Ukraine. Putin politely stressed he respects China’s position – expressed in Beijing’s 12-point conflict resolution plan, which has been completely rejected by Washington. But the Russian position remains ironclad: demilitarization, Ukrainian neutrality and accepting the new facts on the ground.
On Tuesday 21, as stipulated by the protocol for state visits, the meeting between Putin and Xi begins with a presentation ceremony for delegations. This was followed by two rounds of talks, signing of documents, press statements by the leaders and a state dinner.
It was planned that before the meeting in the Kremlin, the Chinese President talks also with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. Xi also invited Mishustin to visit China as soon as possible and called for the two countries’ intergovernmental mechanisms to be intensified. Presidents, supported by delegations, had wide discussions about energy, military-technical cooperation, trade and economic cooperation and strategic partnership. Tuesday meeting lasted over six hours.
The list of documents, signed during the state visit, covers 14 subjects, among other things: deepening comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, development of key areas of economic cooperation, deepening cooperation in trade, investment cooperation in forest resources, deepening cooperation in food and agricultural industry, strengthening cooperation in the field of basic scientific research, comprehensive program of atomic energy cooperation and cooperation in the field of radio & tv and media.
Russia-China intergovernmental investment commission has 79 projects for over $165 billion covering several massive energy projects, high-tech research projects, mechanical engineering, space research as well as agro-industrial cooperation.
Russia and China will set up a joint working body for the development of the Northern Sea Route, Putin said at talks with Xi Jinping on Tuesday. The Northern Sea Route is a shipping route and the main sea line in the Russian Arctic sector. It stretches along the northern coasts of Russia across the seas of the Arctic Ocean. The route consolidates the European and Far Eastern ports of Russia and navigable river mouths in Siberia into a single transport system. The route’s length is 5,600 km.
Xi said China attaches great importance to the synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and stands ready to work with Russia and other EAEU members to advance the implementation of the agreement on economic and trade cooperation between China and the EAEU, so as to carry out regional cooperation at a higher level and at a greater depth.
In trade and other economic relations, the use of national currencies is growing rapidly. Already two thirds of bilateral trade is done in rubles and yuan. Russia is now going to use the Chinese yuan for settlements between Russia and the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping said that fostering bilateral relations was Beijing’s strategic choice on the basis of its own fundamental interests and the prevailing trends of the world. Xi also noted that China was firm in pursuing its course toward strengthening strategic cooperation with Russia.
Perhaps, the most important takeaway from Xi’s visit to Russia, was the new trade deals and procedures, where the settlements will be made in Chinese yuan and Russian rubles. Based on these decisions, the process of de-dollarization will be expanding and strengthening further in next few years.
Joint Statement and Farewell on Wednesday 22
China-Russia relations go far beyond the bilateral scope and are crucial to the world and the future of mankind. China and Russia will work together to promote true multilateralism and post-pandemic economic recovery as well as build a multipolar world. The Joint Statement of China and Russia on deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era has been signed and released by Xi and Putin.
On the Ukraine issue, the two sides stressed talks as solution to the crisis and called for respect for security concerns of all countries in resolving the crisis. The Ukraine crisis and the worsening ties between Russia and the West cannot affect the development of China-Russia ties and this is a key message sent to the world. When China promotes peace and a cease-fire in the Ukraine crisis, most countries, including Russia and Ukraine, appreciate China’s sincerity but there is one country – the US, that openly opposes and criticizes China’s mediation effort.
On the day of departure, both President Xi and President Vladimir Putin published weighty articles in each other’s mainstream media, providing the highest-level interpretation of this visit from the perspective of China and Russia. This also reflects the extremely high level of strategic mutual trust between China and Russia. From these two articles, it’s not difficult to sense the deep personal friendship between the two heads of state and the ever-lasting China-Russia friendship.
Importance of the visit – aftermath and ramifications
Political significance of the visit
After the end of the Cold War and the start of what Francis Fukuyama dubbed the “End of History”, the world seemed firmly in the hands of the political West. America’s superiority was both quantitative and qualitative, leaving nearly everyone else far behind. The only exception was Russia, whose only advantage was its massive strategic arsenal (nuclear weapons), the last vestige of the Cold War that kept the US from exerting absolute dominance.
China’s meteoric rise to superpower status would have been very difficult without it (Russia’s nuclear arsenal) and the Asian giant’s leadership is well aware of this. It could be said that both Russia and China “have each other’s backs”, with the cooperation reaching unprecedented levels, not seen in approximately 60 years. I have analyzed in details the partnership of Russia and China on my website.
In the last 30 years, particularly since President Putin consolidated Russia’s geopolitical standing, the relationship of Moscow-Beijing has transformed into a fully-fledged strategic alliance in virtually every aspect, truly limitless, as Putin and Xi Jinping recently described. Since the early 1990s, Russia has transferred copious amounts of its massive technological know-how, particularly in military tech, helping push China’s defense capabilities nearly half a century ahead in less than a decade.
The result was quite positive for Beijing but was seen with contempt in Washington, which detests the idea of having to deal with “another Soviet Union”. However, despite US attempts to prevent it, exactly this happened. Russia started regaining its strength, this time not as a socialist empire but rather as the “realpolitik great power”. With such an approach, Moscow kept most of its historic geopolitical partnerships and was also able to expand them, including with China. President Xi Jinping’s latest visit, the first foreign trip he went on after being reelected for his third term, serves as a testament to this growing alliance.
The three-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin bespeaks the point that all the attempts by the West to isolate Moscow in light of the special military operation in Ukraine are failing. Xi’s landmark visit to Moscow is a glaring proof of the fact that no matter how fervently Washington sought to isolate Russia, its plans have backfired.
The historians of the future may group this visit of China’s president on March 20-22, 2023, with other “bookmarks of an era,” like November 9, 1989 and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, December 21, 1991 and the dissolution of the USSR, which marked the start of an era of so-called unipolarity, when the United States was left as the so-called sole remaining superpower. This event will mark, what has been in motion for years now, the complete end of the US unipolarity and a strong emerging of multipolarity. We can also see China, as a great power, in the passing lane overtaking the US.
China and Russia are now practical allies, with China being the largest industrial power in the world and Russia the largest supplier of critical commodities. Their political union marks the end of Pax Americana and the US domination of the international order.
Both Russia and China positively assess the position of other party in Ukraine crisis and peace negotiations; both parties believe that in order to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, it is necessary to prevent bloc confrontation and incitement of conflict; both parties urge to avoid the degradation of the crisis in Ukraine and its transition “to an uncontrollable phase”.
Both parties are concerned about the risks associated with the creation of AUKUS and their plans to build nuclear submarines; both parties oppose the formation of “closed exclusive bloc structures, bloc policies and opposing camps” in the Asia-Pacific region.
Russia and China are concerned about the military-biological activities of the United States, they demand clarification on this matter; both parties are pushing for the US to speed up the elimination of its stockpile of chemical weapons; both parties oppose all unilateral sanctions imposed bypassing the UN Security Council.
The two leaders also touched on China’s blueprint for a peace settlement in Ukraine, which the White House and the EU have rejected outright. The US has lost its self-declared position of global unipolar hegemony as the sole superpower but the West has failed to comprehend this fundamental change. Events in Europe are dependable on events in Asia-Pacific, and vice-versa. The Biden administration is getting itself into a “two-front war” and the crazy thing is that they don’t seem to be aware of it.
It’s Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that are now running the multilateral, multipolar show. What Xi and Putin are setting out to do was explained in detail before their summit, in two Op-Eds penned by the presidents themselves. Putin’s vision was laid out in the People’s Daily in China, focusing on a “future-bound partnership,” while Xi’s was published in the Russian Gazette and the RIA Novosti website, focusing on a new chapter in cooperation and common development.
In parallel, over 40 delegations from Africa arrived in Moscow a day before Xi to take part in a “Russia-Africa in the Multipolar World” parliamentary conference – a run-up to the second Russia-Africa summit next July. Putin chose this exact moment to write off more than $20 billion in African debt.
So, the Xi-Putin summit definitively sealed China-Russia as comprehensive strategic partners for the long haul, committed to developing serious geopolitical and geoeconomic competition with declining western hegemons.’
Confirmed reality in economy
It appears quite clear that Beijing is a crucial economic partner for Moscow in the face of increasing Western sanctions. Wrapping up key points of the summit, the following items below can be defined.
Record bilateral trade growth hit a record high last year (up to $ 190 billion), growing by nearly a third despite Western sanctions against Moscow. This year jumping by double digits in the first two months of 2023 in annual terms, the $200 billion turnover goal could be achieved in 2023.
Chinese companies have been actively filling the gaps in the Russian market left after the departure of Western companies. There was a surge in Chinese exports to Russia, primarily of machinery and other types of goods, including computers, cell phones and cars.
Russian exports growth, in the pulp and paper industry, chemical industry, fertilizer production and metallurgy. Over the past several months, China has overtaken the EU as the top importer of Russian agricultural products
“Yuanization” of Russian settlements,the Chinese yuan has become a major player in Russia’s foreign trade. At the same time, the share of the US dollar and euro in their bilateral trade is decreasing.
Energy cooperation in the oil and gas sectors has been growing dramatically. Russia has become one of the leading oil suppliers to China and the largest supplier of natural gas to the country.
Joint projects (80 projects at over $190 billion),Moscow and Beijing have completed a number of projects in transport infrastructure, energy, aviation, space and connectivity. Collaboration in scientific and technological innovation, cross-border e-commerce and other emerging areas are showing strong momentum.
Global projects, the development of the ambitious BRI, the expansion of BRICS and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) are also on the agenda, in order to provide more institutional support for bilateral and regional cooperation.
No-limits partnership and sanctions, Beijing has proven to be a particularly crucial economic partner for Moscow due to the unprecedented Western sanctions and having the world’s second biggest economy as a major trading partner makes Russia sanctions-proof and impossible to isolate from the global economy.
Technological and military cooperation
China and Russia will further expand their cooperation in areas such as information technologies and advanced AI. This includes aircraft and machine tools manufacturing, space research and strengthening of military cooperation, including further unification of Moscow’s and Beijing’s know-how.
In a joint statement, the parties reiterated their commitment to regularly conduct bilateral naval and aerial patrols, as well as regular military exercises, expand cooperation within and beyond the framework of existing bilateral agreements and deepen mutual trust and interoperability between their armed forces.
One particularly important segment of this growing alliance is the exchange of military technologies in which both countries excel. China’s impressive strides in microelectronics and semiconductors are of great interest to Russia, while Moscow’s traditionally world-class expertise in rocket/missile and space technologies is greatly appreciated in Beijing. This includes the latest Chinese developments in new network-centric capabilities, with drone swarms being of particular interest for Russia, which could provide key tactical advantages on the battlefield.
Moscow has developed a number of its own similar capabilities but getting Beijing to participate in these efforts will help expand the said capabilities even further. China is greatly interested in Russia’s unrivaled hypersonic technologies, especially naval, as the primary threat to its security and development comes from the US Navy and their regional allies.
The US (and also the EU) has publicly expressed its concerns that China is going to provide Russia with lethal weapons but misses the point.
When it comes to advanced hi-tech weaponry, Russia is the leader, not China. China’s Xi Jinping is not in Moscow with a catalogue of weapons he is ready to sell to Putin but rather Russia has weapons, that China needs in deterring US military actions against China.
The West mistakenly believe that any bilateral relationship between China and Russia is lopsided in favor of China and that Russia, as a “junior partner”, has little to offer for its neighboring giant. The truth of the matter is that China needs Russia as much, if not more, than Russia needs China. While Russia’s population is tiny compared to China, its technological sophistication, particularly on the military side of the equation and its ample supplies of oil and gas makes it a large and vital country for the Chinese.
Russian military expert Andrei Martyanov (living in the US) outlined the virtually unknown aspects of this cooperation, including the immediate threat that the AUKUS represents for Beijing.
Martyanov points out that China’s current hypersonic missile, the DF-21 ballistic anti-shipping missiles with their range (1,500 km) would be not enough against a US Carrier Battle Group parked 2,000 km from China’s mainland. Moreover, the F -18 Hornets on those carriers are armed with the AGM-158 JASSM XR, would have an effective range of 2,600 kilometers. Based on Martyanov’s arithmetic, China needs Russia’s hypersonic missiles and according to Martyanov, precisely this was very likely one of the key topics of the behind-closed-doors talks between Russian and Chinese delegations.
Another important issue is the air defense systems. The US Defense Department’s report (2022) shows that China’s air defense systems present a substantial and growing threat to the US and allies in the Pacific region. China operates Russian-built (S-300 and S-400) and indigenously produced systems capable of tracking and attacking enemy aircraft. The technological sophistication of these weapons systems and the extent to which they can be upgraded, would naturally make it quite difficult for US or allied countries to establish air supremacy over China in any kind of large-scale engagement.
These Russian systems are reportedly among the best and most effective in the world. The most recently purchased S-400 missiles and emerging S-500 missiles are networked together. This is made possible by high-speed computer processing capable of precise, long-range threat detection. These weapons systems have much greater range and sensitivity than previous weapons systems.
Russia’s latest system, the S-500 Prometheus, is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system. It is designed to counter aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles and reportedly can target low-orbit satellites. It is now in production and shared with the Chinese, would represent a significant upgrade in China’s already robust air defenses.
The Russia – Chinese summit in Moscow produced a number of agreements, which have been in negotiation for more several months. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, was in Moscow in February to put the final touches on these agreements. Besides an agreement of mutual defense and cooperation, Russia and China signed a long-term deal on oil and gas that will ensure China has a reliable supply for the foreseeable future.
But this is not a one-way street. China provides Russia with a key ally for creating a multipolar and defeating the attempt by the United States and Europe to isolate and destroy Russia. China wields significant diplomatic clout among the so-called Global South nations and can use that influence to rally support for Russia at the UN and other international bodies.
“Days where decades happen”
After the state dinner on Tuesday March 22, as the leaders bid farewell, President Xi and President Putin had a very prophetic short talk. The two presidents bid farewell in a poignant manner.
Xi: “Now, there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.”
Putin: “I agree.”
Xi: “Take care, dear friend.”
Putin: “Have a safe trip.”
Even ex-US President Trump called the dialogue between Putin and Xi Jinping about the changes driven by Russia and China, possibly the worst moment in the US history.