From the bilateral perspective, President Xi Jinping’s meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was quite the most critical curtain-raiser to the winter Olympics in China. The Chinese President-for-life has offered firm support to the Kremlin over the latter’s raging showdown with the West. This has beefed up an equation that presents a challenge to the dominance of the United States of America on the world stage.
Friday’s meeting in Beijing has been described as a “highly choreographed display” of solidarity. The interaction, held prior to the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics, is the first meeting that President Xi has held with a foreign counterpart in nearly two years, specifically since the pandemic reached its peak.
Chiefly, China has sided with Russia on one of its key geostrategic demands ~ an end to Nato expansion to the east and closer to Russia’s borders. Beijing’s acceptance of Moscow’s demand is intrinsically a diplomatic triumph for Mr Putin. “The two sides oppose further enlargement of Nato and call on the North Atlantic alliance to abandon its ideologised Cold War approaches,” the joint statement said.
Furthermore, China has accused the United States of stoking protests in Hong Kong and encouraging the independence of Taiwan. From the geopolitical perspective, Russia has asserted that the United States was displaying a similarly destabilizing role in Ukraine. The joint statement released by the Kremlin made it clear that “both nations intend to counter interference by outside forces in the internal affairs of sovereign countries under any pretext, oppose colour revolutions and will extend cooperation”.
Through a translator, Mr Xi told his counterpart ~ “Hello, I’m very glad to see you.” Beyond such exchanges of diplomatic courtesies, Mr Putin told Mr Xi that the China-Russia relationship had “taken on a truly unprecedented character”. The equation had been clouded by Beijing’s treatment of minorities and human rights generally and Russia’s expansionist designs. “It is an example of a dignified relationship that helps each of us develop while supporting each other’s development,” Mr Putin said.
At the opening ceremony, Mr Putin was the most prominent of nearly two dozen world leaders whose attendance has blunted the impact of a “diplomatic boycott” by President Biden and leaders of democratic nations. In the run-up to Friday’s meeting, Beijing articulated its support to try and block action on Ukraine at the UN Security Council. Any fresh Chinese promise of economic and political support for Mr Putin could arguably undermine Mr Biden’s strategy to “ostracise”, so to speak, the Russian leader for the military build-up.
On Friday, China and Russia signaled that they would work to establish closer ties on trade, diplomacy and security. “Friendship between the two states has no limits,” they said in their joint statement. That somewhat euphoric articulation assumes importance in the context of the ferment over Ukraine. It also sends a clear signal to New Delhi.