China-Russia Summit: Putin, Xi Imperil Global Stability with Their Close Bilateral Embrace

The latest China-Russia summit once again highlighted how deeply Russia, which has continued draining its national strength through a barren war of aggression, is dependent on China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have met in Beijing and agreed to deepen cooperation in a wide range of areas, including the economy and security. It was Putin’s first visit to China since last October and his first foreign visit since the Russian president started his fifth term in office on May 7.

In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders praised China-Russia ties, saying that the relationship has reached the “highest level in history.” The statement noted that China and Russia will oppose any attempts to interfere in their internal affairs or to restrict their economic, technological and international activities.

The two leaders must have been aiming to push back against the United States, Europe and others who have been at odds with China and Russia over Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine and the Taiwan issue, by emphasizing the unity of the two countries.

The joint statement also contained a series of expressions aimed at strengthening economic ties, including the expansion of bilateral trade and the use of each others’ currencies in economic transactions.

Following the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the United States, Europe and Japan imposed sanctions removing Russian financial institutions from international settlement networks and banning imports of Russian coal and crude oil in principle.

On his China visit, Putin was accompanied by a number of ministers in charge of energy and finance as well as heads of major corporations. His aim might have been to further expand trade with China, which has not joined the sanctions, to stabilize the nation’s economy during wartime and raise funds for the war effort at the same time.

This appears to demonstrate the reality that Russia is becoming unable to continue its aggression without China’s support.

At the same time, Xi also expressed his hope at the meeting for stronger relations between the two countries, saying, “The steady development of China-Russia relations is … conducive to peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world at large.”

As the U.S.-China confrontation is becoming more serious, Xi may be hoping to strengthen his footing against the United States by supporting Russia.

There is a widespread view that China is exporting semiconductors and other dual-use items to Russia to help it continue fighting in Ukraine. China’s credibility in the international community will only decline if it continues to behave in a manner that effectively encourages Russia’s aggression.

The United States, Europe and Japan must continue to persistently persuade China that reviewing its relations with Russia is the proper course for a country that touts itself as a “responsible superpower.”

The Chinese and Russian leaders also reaffirmed the importance of a “political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” It is too blatantly selfish for the side that started the aggression to insist on a “political settlement” to earn achievements from its aggression, instead of withdrawing from Ukraine.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 18, 2024)