Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to travel to Russia next week for a three-day trip to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Both Moscow and Beijing announced the visit on March 17, specifying that the trip would take place from March 20 to 22, per The Washington Post.
A statement from the Kremlin said that the meeting — Xi’s first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — would result in “a number of important bilateral documents” being agreed upon as the two leaders discuss ways of “deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation in the international arena,” per PBS.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Xi’s purpose “can be summed up in one sentence, which is to persuade peace and promote talks,” per the WP.
A virtual meeting will be set up with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after Xi’s visit to Moscow, per The Wall Street Journal. It will be the first conversation between the two leaders since Russia’s invasion.
While China has remained publicly neutral about the war in Ukraine, it has provided diplomatic backing and has increased trade with Russia. Together with Iran, both countries are currently running naval drills in the Gulf of Oman that are said to last until March 19, per Reuters.
As The Dallas Express reported, these ties have bred concern among Ukraine’s allies that Chinese support might soon extend to the selling of arms.
The United States, whose own relations with China have hit a new low amid rising tensions over spy balloons and Taiwan, has been most vocal about this concern. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has even claimed to have information that China is considering selling weapons to Russia.
At the same time, China has been adamant about brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine. It has already proposed a 12-point plan for peace between Russia and Ukraine, which calls for talks, a cease-fire, increased humanitarian assistance, and an end to unilateral sanctions. However, China neglected to mention the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory as part of the plan, which is a crucial demand of Kyiv.
China also proved itself capable of playing a diplomatic role just last week, when it successfully brokered talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, per The Dallas Express. The two nations restored diplomatic relations, which had been severed in 2016, as a result.
Nonetheless, China’s animosity toward the U.S. might lead to China’s neutral stance on the Ukraine conflict being undermined during Xi’s visit to Russia.
Late last month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry waged complaints against the U.S. for its bold interference “in the internal affairs of other countries” and “abuse of hegemony” that helped spur a proxy war in Ukraine in the form of a five-page document.
For both China and Russia, Xi’s upcoming visit to Russia is significant.
For China, it shows Beijing’s willingness to support Moscow amid tensions with the West and to deepen the strategic partnership between the two countries.
For Russia, it highlights the country’s growing reliance on China, one of its major remaining friends and trading partners. In fact, Russia has become increasingly reliant on the sale of oil to China as well as the import of technology, including semiconductors for military purposes.
Alexander Gabuev, an expert on Russia-China relations at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the WP, “Russia increasingly has fewer and fewer options, and is increasingly a junior partner to China.”