In a highly anticipated meeting, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are set to reunite, two years after outlining their vision for a new international order during the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
This meeting takes place against the backdrop of escalating global conflicts, with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and Israel’s war against Hamas. Both Moscow and Beijing have criticized Israel’s actions, showcasing their joint efforts to challenge the leadership of the United States.
Putin’s visit to Beijing for the Belt and Road Forum is a rare foreign trip for the isolated Russian leader. The event, marking the tenth anniversary of Xi’s global infrastructure funding initiative, gathers representatives from over 140 countries. It offers Putin a chance to gain international exposure and demonstrate Russia’s enduring friendship with China.
The two leaders, who have met 40 times in the past decade, have increasingly aligned their worldviews against the West, as they aim to reshape the global balance of power. During their previous meeting in Beijing, they released a joint statement emphasizing their deep alignment against the West.
While China has backed Putin’s actions in Ukraine, it remains cautious in providing material support, with Russia’s military campaign surprising and potentially irritating Chinese leaders. India and Turkey have stepped in with increased imports of Russian oil, demonstrating more substantial support than China.
The upcoming meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan is seen as a political signal of China’s support for Russia. Still, analysts do not expect the leaders to reaffirm their “no limits” partnership, given recent developments highlighting the limits to Beijing’s backing of Moscow.
The SCO meeting underscores the West’s challenge in fully isolating Russia, due to ambivalent attitudes among poorer countries in the “Global South.” China, as a vital part of global supply chains, remains challenging to exclude.
However, with China’s economic concerns, Xi may be wary of further escalating his relationship with Putin, preferring to prioritize sovereignty and international norms.
The meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping will be closely watched by the global community, as it unfolds amidst a complex geopolitical landscape.