Chinese President Xi Jinping described Beijing and Moscow’s relationship as better than an alliance in a video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday
Driving the news: The video call, the second between the two leaders in 2021, came a week after Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden also met virtually to discuss mounting tensions in the Russia-Ukraine border. During the U.S.-Russia call, Biden warned that Russia would face painful sanctions if it invaded Ukraine again, while Putin demanded legally binding guarantees that Ukraine would not be permitted to join NATO, as the move would directly threaten its border.
- Biden said the U.S. would not accept Russia’s demand, according to CNBC. Ahead of Wednesday’s call, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said discussions between “allies” Russia and China are necessary amid the U.S. and NATO’s “very aggressive” rhetoric, reported Reuters.
- China, on the other hand, is facing Western backlash for its aggressions in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and its own Xinjiang region, among other areas of concern. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the goal of Xi and Putin’s meeting was to “further enhance the high-level mutual trust between the two sides,” according to Al Jazeera.
What the leaders said: Putin and Xi reaffirmed the countries’ mutual support during Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted a little over an hour. Both leaders referred to each other as a “friend.”
- Xi said that although China and Russia are not officially allied, “Their effectiveness even exceeds this level,” Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told Bloomberg. “Such a figurative expression very accurately reflects the essence of what is happening now in relations between our two countries.”
- Xi also told Putin of his concerns about U.S. activities in the Asia-Pacific region, including the formation of AUKUS, the trilateral security pact between the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. The Chinese president reportedly lauded his counterpart for firmly supporting Beijing in “defending its core interests and opposed attempts to divide China and Russia.”
- For his part, Putin described Russia and China’s relationship as “a true model of interstate cooperation for the 21st century.” He also vowed to attend the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which the U.S. and other Western leaders have boycotted, according to The Guardian.