China’s Xi arrives in Moscow :- Xi Jinping has arrived in Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin, marking the first visit by China’s leader to his neighbor and close strategic partner since Russia launched an aggressive invasion of Ukraine.
Xi’s visit comes only days after the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged Putin with war crimes in Ukraine and issued an arrest warrant for him.
Ukraine is anticipated to be a major topic of conversation during Xi’s three-day visit, which will be keenly monitored for any potential influence on an entrenched war that has killed tens of thousands and produced a massive humanitarian disaster.
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Unless the Chinese leader is able to achieve a meaningful diplomatic breakthrough, Xi’s trip will be perceived in some Western capitals as a resounding support of the Russian leader in the face of widespread worldwide condemnation of his war.
“Of course, the subjects raised in [Beijing’s peace] plan will unavoidably be raised during the exchange of ideas on Ukraine [between Putin and Xi],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.
“Of course, President Putin will provide thorough explanations so that [Chinese] President Xi Jinping can obtain a first-hand picture of the present situation from the Russian side,” he continued.
China has framed the trip as a “tour of friendship, cooperation, and peace,” as part of an effort by Beijing to position itself as a main proponent for conflict resolution.
But, Western policymakers are skeptical of China’s possible role as a mediator and its purported impartiality. Instead, the US and its allies have been warning China since last month that it is considering giving deadly help to Russia for its war effort, which Beijing has rejected.
On the table
The visit of Xi is intended to serve as a platform for the two nations to expand their close strategic alignment, which includes diplomatic cooperation, cooperative military training, and substantial commerce.
“In the face of a chaotic and changing world, China is willing to continue to cooperate with Russia to firmly defend the international order,” Xi said in a statement published following his arrival on Monday.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, one of Russia’s ten deputy prime ministers, met Xi upon his arrival at Vnukovo airport in Moscow.
In separate letters released in each other’s national state-run media outlets before of the visit, Putin and Xi both lauded the “new energy” their meeting would bring to their bilateral relationship.
Both used the letters to condemn “hegemony,” an allusion to their common goal of opposing what they regard as a US-led international order.
On his visit to Moscow, Xi will need to walk cautiously. At issue for the Chinese leader is whether he can strengthen relationships with a partner Beijing regards as critical to combating perceived American dominance while not alienating a Europe weary of the China-Russia relationship.
Putin started his invasion just days after he and Xi established a “no-limits” alliance in February.
Since then, China has professed neutrality while supporting Kremlin propaganda blaming NATO for the crisis, refusing to condemn the invasion and continuing to financially assist Moscow by considerably boosting imports of Russian petroleum.
China has recently attempted to improve its image by portraying itself as a proponent of peace and justifying its ties with Russia as beneficial to world stability. Last month, China issued a loosely worded position paper on the “political solution” to Ukraine’s crisis.
After the news of Xi’s travel to Moscow on Friday, the White House expressed worry about prospective Chinese offers that would be “one-sided and reflect just the Russian perspective.”
According to John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, a suggestion for a ceasefire, which China has consistently asked for, would only allow an opportunity for Russia to recover before unleashing retaliation.
Kyiv is also likely to keep a careful eye on the situation, and emphasised on Monday that any peace proposal must begin with a Russian pullout.
Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov tweeted on Monday, “The formula for the effective execution of China’s “Peace Plan.” The first and most important point is Russian occupation forces surrendering or withdrawing from Ukrainian land in line with international law and the UN Charter…in order to restore sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has already stated publicly his desire to speak with Xi about the situation, yet communication between the two nations has not progressed beyond the ministerial level since the war began.
After a Wall Street Journal story that the two were set to talk for the first time after Xi’s then-possible Moscow trip, Ukrainian, Chinese, and American officials all denied last week to confirm a planned virtual encounter between Zelensky and Xi.
In comparison, this week’s state visit marks Putin and Xi’s forty-first encounter since the Chinese leader took office in 2012.
The personal chemistry between the two authoritarian leaders is largely seen as a key driver of the nations’ recent tightening ties – and will be keenly analyzed during the visit.
Previous encounters between the leaders have highlighted that connection, with picture opportunities including Putin giving Xi with ice cream on his 66th birthday during a 2019 summit in Tajikistan, and the two preparing Russian pancakes together on the margins of a forum in Vladivostok in 2018.
The two last met in person in September at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference, as part of Xi’s first abroad journey since the epidemic, which prevented him from travelling for over three years.
Putin, who referred to Xi as his “good old buddy” in a letter released in Chinese state media on Monday, is expected to use the encounter to demonstrate to Russian audiences that Russia is not isolated on the global arena.
Nevertheless, with the Ukrainian crisis hovering over the visit, it’s unclear how much Xi will try to play up the optics. Nonetheless, both presidents have already set the scene for the meeting in order to strengthen bilateral cooperation.
They will “jointly embrace a new vision, a new plan, and new measures for the evolution of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in the years to come” during the visit, Xi said in a letter released Monday in Russian official media.
According to a Kremlin spokeswoman, the meeting would begin with a one-on-one discussion on Monday, followed by a “informal lunch,” with negotiations scheduled for Tuesday.