As they met hours before the Winter Olympics began in Beijing, the leaders of Russia and China rebuffed US pressure, reaffirming their opposition to any NATO expansion and confirming that the island of Taiwan is a part of China.
As both presidents face criticism from Washington over their foreign and domestic policies, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping published a joint statement condemning “intervention in the internal affairs” of other countries.
“Some forces representing a minority on the global arena continue to urge unilateral ways to settling international crises and resort to military strategy,” it said, a thinly veiled allusion to the United States and its allies.
The two presidents are attempting to position themselves as a counterweight to the US-led group, as China increasingly expresses support for Moscow in its dispute with Ukraine, which threatens to devolve into a war.
Xi was cited as telling Putin that China and Russia are committed to “deepening back-to-back strategic cooperation.”
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, Xi added, “This is a strategic choice with far-reaching implications for China, Russia, and the globe.”
Faced with a “complicated and dynamic international environment,” the two countries “strongly support each other” in dealing with “regional security challenges” and “international strategic stability,” according to Xi, without mentioning the United States.
Following the decision by the United States, Britain, and others not to send officials in protest of China’s human rights violations and persecution of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, Putin is the highest-profile visitor at the Beijing Games.
In his opening remarks to Xi, Putin complimented “unprecedented” tight ties with China, which were shown on Russian television.
Putin stated that relations are “growing in a progressive manner with a spirit of friendliness and strategic collaboration.” “They’ve reached unparalleled proportions.”
Putin emphasized the need of tight economic connections, pointing to a recent arrangement with China to deliver 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year from eastern Russia.
“Our oilmen have prepared extremely good new options for the delivery of hydrocarbons to the People’s Republic of China for our meeting today, and the gas sector has gone another step ahead,” Putin added.
Russia has long been a major provider of oil, gas, and coal, as well as food and other raw resources, to China’s huge economy, which is now the world’s second biggest.
The two leaders met in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Friday afternoon, according to China’s state-run news agency, but no specifics were provided. Due to COVID-19 procedures, they did not seem to shake hands when greeting each other.
Putin also mentioned his attendance at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the Chinese delegation’s attendance at Russia’s 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, describing the interactions as “to some extent a tradition.”
The talks are their first face-to-face encounter since 2019, and they come as China and Russia coordinate their foreign policy bilaterally and in international agencies like the UN, in opposition to the Western bloc and other big nations.
Leaders of the five ex-Soviet Central Asian republics, all of which have close relations to both Russia and China, joined Putin at the opening ceremony, as did leaders of other countries with political and economic ties to Beijing.
The presence of over 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fanned Western suspicions that Moscow is planning an invasion. Russia has denied plotting an invasion, but has pushed the US and its allies to make a formal commitment that NATO would not expand or deploy weapons in Ukraine or other ex-Soviet countries, and that it will withdraw its military from Eastern Europe – requests that the West has flatly refused.
Both NATO and the United States’ Indo-Pacific strategy of strengthening military links with other Asian countries, according to Putin and Xi, is destabilizing and endangering regional security.
The parties “oppose further NATO enlargement” and “urge on the North Atlantic Alliance to reject Cold War-era ideological methods,” according to the joint statement.
In a phone discussion last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reminded US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Moscow’s security concerns must be addressed, a comment that signaled a significant strategic change for Beijing.
Some analysts believe Beijing is keeping a careful eye on how the US and its allies handle the Ukraine dispute as it considers its next course of action on Taiwan, saying that Washington’s inaction might inspire China to become more proactive.
The United States is Taiwan’s primary supplier of fighter planes and defensive weapons, and it is constitutionally obligated to see threats to the island’s democracy as “grave concerns.”
Russia maintains that Taiwan is an important part of China and rejects Taiwanese independence in any form, according to the joint statement. China claims the self-governing island as its own territory, which it may forcefully annexe.
Russia and China have staged a series of combined war exercises, including naval drills and patrols by long-range bombers over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea, in recent years, as part of their economic and political relations. For the first time in August, Russian forces moved to Chinese territory for joint exercises.
Putin also stated that Russia has been providing highly sensitive military technologies with China, which has aided China’s defense strength tremendously.