China’s leader Xi Jinping will visit Russia next week at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.
It will be Xi’s first visit to Russia since Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine last year. The Kremlin confirmed the visit and said the two leaders would discuss “strategic cooperation.”
Xi Jinping and Putin will be discussing the further development of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China, as well as exchanging views “in the context of deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena”, the Kremlin added.
The two leaders will also sign “important” bilateral documents.
Will China provide weapons to Russia?
Earlier, Western officials raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.
Last month Xi published a 12-point “position paper” on the crisis, which was widely dismissed as an anodyne. It implicitly blamed Nato for provoking the conflict. Both China and Russia oppose Western-led military blocs.
The BBC says the fact that the Chinese leader is going to Russia signals Beijing’s strong support for Moscow. There’s no surprise about that: Putin and Xi share a similar worldview, and both embrace the idea of a multi-polar world.
Last year the two men declared that their partnership has no limits.
Russia a junior partner in relation to China
As for the declared partnership between Moscow and Beijing, Russia – with an economy a 10th the size of China’s – finds itself increasingly in the role of junior partner.
So the Chinese government definitely has some sway over Russia, the BBC notes. Other elements driving interest in this visit are Beijing’s claim to be neutral, and the fact that it has not opposed speculation that it could act as an ‘honest broker’ between Moscow and Kyiv.
Xi is also reported to be planning a phone call next week with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, although this has not been confirmed.
On Thursday, China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, saying China hoped “Ukraine and Russia will retain hope for dialogue and negotiation and not close the door to a political solution, no matter how difficult and challenging it may be”, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.
Since the start of the invasion, trade between Russia and China has increased, and China is the biggest importer of Russian oil.
But Beijing is also trying to maintain its trade relationships with Europe, especially as it seeks to recover economically from three years of zero-Covid policy. That means Xi is treading a fine line between supporting his best friend and protecting his own interests, the Guardian says.