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Xi Jinping rolls out the red carpet for Putin amid Russian advances in Ukraine

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to deepen their strategic partnership in Beijing this Thursday (16), in a clear demonstration of their growing alignment as Moscow's troops advance into Ukraine.

Putin – whose delegation includes senior defense and security officials – was received by Xi in Beijing's Great Hall of the People in full military splendor, heralding the start of the Russian president's two-day state visit.

Xi welcomed the deepening ties between the two countries, which were formalized in a joint declaration signed by the leaders at an afternoon ceremony, saying it would “inject strong momentum” into the development of their relations.

The visit – Putin's first foray abroad since beginning a new term as Russia's president last week – is the latest sign of warming relations, as the two countries bring their countries closer together in the face of intense friction with the West.

In meetings with Putin, Xi said China-Russia relations “withstood the test of a changing international scenario” and made “positive contributions to maintaining global strategic stability,” according to a statement from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs .

Putin, whose country's economy has become increasingly dependent on China since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, welcomed the countries' “practical cooperation” in meetings with Xi, highlighting their record bilateral trade last year, while who emphasized the importance of strengthening energy, industry, and agricultural cooperation.

The meeting is the fourth time Putin and Xi have spoken face to face since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine – weeks after the two declared a “boundless” partnership on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

This week's state visit comes amid growing international concern about the direction of the war in Ukraine, amid delays in aid to Kiev, and as Russia's economy and defense complex appear undeterred by Western sanctions – a a situation that US authorities claimed was linked to Chinese support, which Beijing denies.

Putin says he and Xi will discuss the war in Ukraine in informal talks on Thursday night that are expected to include Russia's newly appointed Defense Minister Andrey Belousov and his predecessor Sergei Shoigu, now Secretary of the Security Council from Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is welcomed by Xi Jinping with a ceremonial guard and red carpet in Beijing, China.

Growing international pressure on Ukraine

Putin's welcome to Beijing comes a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced through his office that he would suspend all upcoming international travel while his troops defend themselves against a surprise Russian offensive in the northeast region of his country. , Kharkiv.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Kiev earlier this week to reaffirm the Biden administration's support for Ukraine, following months of congressional delays in approving US military aid to the embattled country.

Blinken has pledged $2 billion in foreign military funding and said much-needed ammunition and weapons are being rushed to the front lines.

Pressure has also been mounting on Xi, from both the US and Europe, to ensure that China's growing exports to Russia since the start of the war do not support the Kremlin's war effort.

In recent weeks, White House officials have confronted Beijing over what they consider to be substantial support for Russia's defense industrial base — in the form of goods such as machinery, drone and turbojet engines, and microelectronics exported from China.

Beijing criticized the US for making “unfounded accusations” about “normal trade and economic exchanges” between China and Russia.

Beijing never condemned Russia's invasion, but rather claimed neutrality in the conflict and released a vaguely articulated 12-point position on its resolution.

Ahead of the expected peace conference in Switzerland next month, Xi called for peace talks that take into account the positions of both sides.

In an interview with Chinese state media Xinhua before his arrival, Putin praised China's “approaches to resolving the crisis in Ukraine.”

Speaking alongside Putin on Thursday, the Chinese leader said that both countries “agree that the political resolution of the Ukraine issue is the right direction” and called for the construction of a “balanced, effective and sustainable security framework.” – an allusion to the shared view of Beijing and Moscow is that NATO is to blame for the war in Europe.

“China hopes for peace and stability in Europe soon and continues to play a constructive role,” Xi said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping exchange documents during a ceremony in Beijing, China, May 16, 2024.

Alignment on shared frictions

This week's visit marks the 43rd meeting of the leaders in the more than a decade that Xi has been in power.

Xi and Putin, known for their close personal chemistry, steadily expanded their countries' diplomatic coordination and economic and security cooperation during this period – as both faced increasing friction with the United States and its allies.

Even as Xi seeks to repair frayed relations with Europe and stabilize his country's ties with the United States, he is widely seen as unwilling to sacrifice his partnership with Putin, who the Chinese leader sees as an indispensable partner in reshaping a world order that they both believe is unfairly dominated by the US and that they seek to contain.

This shared worldview was also exposed on Thursday when Xi, speaking alongside Putin, denounced the persistent “Cold War mentality” and said that “unilateral hegemony, pitched confrontations and power politics threaten peace.” world and the security of all countries” – using typical Beijing language.

Putin nodded to Xi's concerns about growing engagement between NATO and like-minded countries in Asia, calling for a “reliable and adequate security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region, in which there will be no place for political-military alliances.” closed.”

“We believe that the creation of such alliances is counterproductive and harmful,” Putin said after Thursday’s meetings.

In addition to the commitments in Beijing, which should include a “gala” that will mark 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Putin is also expected to participate in trade and cooperation forums in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, in northeast China, which borders the Russian Far East.

The region is historically a site of long-standing border tensions between the two neighbors, which erupted in the conflict between China and the Soviet Union in 1969, and has seen increasing connectivity with parts of Russia's Far East in recent years.

Putin is also expected to meet with students and faculty at the Harbin Institute of Technology, a university sanctioned by the US government in 2020 for its alleged role in procuring items for China's military.

Source: CNN Brasil

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