Russian President Vladimir Putin has touched down in China, extending an olive branch to his “dear friend” President Xi Jinping as the two leaders gear up for a summit amid heightened global tensions. This visit marks Putin’s first trip to a major global power since the Ukraine invasion had thrown his regime into international isolation.
The occasion for this meeting is President Xi’s landmark project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which welcomes representatives from 130 countries this week, as China seeks to expand its global influence through infrastructure and economic development initiatives.
Vladimir Putin Arrives in China for BRI Summit
A Symbolic Gesture of Support
While Putin’s visit to China is a symbolic show of solidarity with his communist neighbor, experts expect few substantial agreements to be reached. Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, commented, “China holds all of the cards,” emphasizing that China is less likely to make high-profile deals with Russia at this time.
The Kremlin stated that during their talks, “special attention will be paid to international and regional issues,” without providing further details. The meeting is expected to strengthen the already solid partnership between Russia and China, even as Moscow increasingly finds itself in the junior role in this alliance.
The Kremlin mentioned that Putin and Xi would meet “on the sidelines” of the BRI forum on Wednesday, where the global headlines will be dominated by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Israel-Hamas Conflict Looms Large
Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian militant organization Hamas has escalated, with Israel declaring war after waves of Hamas fighters breached the heavily fortified border with Gaza on October 7. This conflict has claimed numerous lives and displaced over a million people. Chinese officials have faced criticism for not explicitly naming Hamas in statements regarding the conflict.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called on China to use its “influence” in the Middle East to promote peace. China’s warm relationship with Iran, which supports both Hamas and Hezbollah, makes it a potential mediator in the ongoing crisis.
China’s special envoy, Zhai Jun, is set to visit the Middle East to push for a ceasefire and peace talks. However, specific destinations and details of this mission have not been disclosed.
China and Russia: A Growing Alliance
In the lead-up to the summit, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed gratitude to China for inviting Putin as the summit’s “chief guest.” Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, discussed the ties between their two nations, emphasizing the importance of deepening strategic trust and promoting friendship.
China and Russia share a strategic partnership, with Moscow relying on Beijing’s support in trade and geopolitics, particularly in light of its isolation following the Ukraine invasion. The friendship between Xi and Putin is a linchpin in this alliance, with both leaders describing each other as “dear friends.”
As Putin’s plane touched down in China, the world watched closely, eager to see how this meeting of “dear friends” would impact global dynamics and relations between the two powerful nations.