Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Russia on 20-23 March. This was the Communist Party of China Chairman’s first visit to Moscow since his re-election as China’s head of state. On March 10, Xi Jinping was re-elected as the President of the People’s Republic of China at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC, China’s highest legislative body) held in the Chinese capital.
The visit to Moscow is a sign of the special attention the PRC is paying to the Russian dimension of its policy. Russia is seen as a key partner and ally in the struggle for a multipolar world. On the eve of the visit Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin published articles in Chinese and Russian state newspapers. Their main message is to view Sino-Russian relations as exemplary for a multipolar world order: There is no master or slave, no restrictive or taboo topics, and they are characterized by mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation.
The geo-political meaning of the visit
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have met more than 40 times at various international venues. However, this visit has special significance. It takes place in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. It is, in turn, part of the global geopolitical confrontation between supporters of a multipolar world and the unipolar world of Western hegemony led by the United States. It is telling that Fumio Kishida, prime minister of Japan, arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kiev at the same time. Japan is a key ally of the US in the Pacific region and an adversary of China. Global geopolitical blocs are emerging with different visions of the future.
During Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would take a closer look at the Chinese concept of community with a shared future for mankind. Chinese President Xi Jinping first put forward the concept during his another visit to Russia in March 2013 when speaking at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Since then, China has remained committed to this principle – stable and progressive development of all countries of the world, respect for national sovereignty and the cultural specificities of all world civilizations.
The West pursues the opposite course, seeking to maintain its leadership position in the world at the expense of the chaos in the processes of the world. That is why it is massively involved in the conflict in Ukraine. The purpose of this involvement is to defeat Russia. The West is well aware that only an alliance between China and Russia can undermine its hegemony. And so it seeks to take both states out of the game.
Both on the eve of and during Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, the Chinese and Russian leaders emphasized the positive value of Beijing’s plan to resolve the Ukrainian conflict. Xi Jinping reiterated the need for peace, while Putin acknowledged the Chinese proposals as sensible and rational. However, the US opposes the peace settlement, because if Ukraine accepts the Chinese plan, China’s global credibility will become undeniable. However, by rejecting a Chinese settlement, the U.S. is making a Sino-Russian military-political bloc virtually inevitable.
The documents signed in Moscow state that Russia and China will “strongly support each other in defending each other’s core interests, above all sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development”, “oppose the imposition of their values by one state on another, the drawing of ideological lines, the creation of a false narrative about the so-called confrontation between democracies and autocracies and the use of democracy and freedom as a pretext and political tool“.
It is essentially about forming a full-fledged politico-military alliance on an anti-American basis. It is underpinned both by the objective interests of the two countries and the dynamics of world politics, and by the strong personal relationship between Xi Jinping and Putin. It is no coincidence that the Chinese president during a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow wished Putin to win the Russian presidential election in 2024.
The geo-economic meaning of the visit
Many economic projects were discussed during Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. In particular, China and Russia signed the Joint Statement on Deepening the Russian-Chinese Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation for a New Era, as well as the Joint Statement by the President of Russia and the President of China on the Plan to Promote the Key Elements of Russian-Chinese Economic Cooperation until 2030.
In particular, Beijing and Moscow will cooperate in nuclear energy and nuclear research as well as in other realms: agriculture, industry, gas and oil energy. According to Vladimir Putin, Russian gas supplies to China are to reach at least 98 billion cubic meters by 2030, plus 100 million tons of liquefied natural gas. Xi Jinping and Putin discussed the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline project across Mongolia and reached agreement on most of the deal’s parameters. Russia will export an additional 50 billion cubic meters of gas to China under the project.
At talks between the Chinese president and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, transport cooperation projects were discussed. According to Mikhail Mishustin, Russia and China are preparing new projects that will significantly increase traffic along the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Asian routes.
Russia has also agreed to use the Chinese Yuan not only to settle accounts with China, but also in its trade operations with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This is a challenge to the hegemony of the U.S. dollar. Russia is ready to provide all opportunities to develop Chinese business on its territories. Also, China and Russia discussed the possibilities of scientific and technological cooperation – combining the scientific and industrial potential of the two countries in order for China and Russia together to become world leaders in information technology, cyber security, and artificial intelligence.
Geo-strategic implications of the visit
In the US and NATO, Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow was deeply troubling. US officials have repeatedly claimed that Moscow would allegedly agree with Beijing on the supply of arms and ammunition. However, neither Beijing nor Moscow has confirmed this information.
Simultaneously with Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, the British government announced deliveries of depleted uranium core munitions to Ukraine. The US, for its part, said US Patriot missile defense systems and Abram tanks are set to be deployed to Ukraine faster than originally planned.
It is the West that goes for escalation in Ukraine. Under these conditions and against the background of Ukraine’s unfriendly stance, it would make sense for China to support Russia, including by supplying arms, ammunition and equipment that can be used to offset the effect of Western arms supplies to Ukraine. It is possible that if such a decision is made in the future, the blame will lie solely with Western countries.
The Chinese leader’s trip to Moscow demonstrated China’s global image as a peacemaker, revealing its role and responsibility as a major power, said Qin Gang, a member of China’s State Council and Foreign Minister. He added that the visit would bring more stability to the complex international environment and help build a multipolar world and democratize international relations.
Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Xi’s visit shows that apart from guiding the development of bilateral ties, China is also taking on the responsibility of a major country to coordinate with another major country on an issue of global concern.
For his part, American analyst Scott Ritter told the Russian media, “It is clear that President Xi Jinping’s visit was a major victory for Russian diplomacy and a major setback for US diplomacy. The US has been trying for some time to put a wedge in the relations between Russia and China. There was an understanding that if Russia and China could unite into a strategic alliance that would be aimed against the US, it would become a serious political problem for America. It is a complete transformation of the balance of power around the world. It’s stronger than an alliance, it’s a friendship, this team is virtually invincible.”