(Moscow) Russia on Friday promised a “new era” in its relations with China during a visit next week by Xi Jinping, who will notably meet with Vladimir Putin on the conflict in Ukraine and the military cooperation.
Announced by Beijing and Moscow, Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia will take place from March 20 to 22, just over a year after the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine which led the Kremlin to reorient itself towards China, amid tensions with the West.
MM. Xi and Putin, who will have a first tete-a-tete on Monday before more formal negotiations on Tuesday, will sign a joint statement to deepen their “strategic relationship entering a new era”, Kremlin diplomatic adviser Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.
Quoted by Russian news agencies, Mr. Ushakov also praised Mr. Xi’s “restraint” on the conflict in Ukraine, a file on which Beijing is presenting itself as a mediator despite its proximity to Moscow.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in a telephone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kouleba, urged Kyiv and Moscow on Thursday to resume peace talks “as soon as possible”, according to Beijing.
A call for a ceasefire immediately sanctioned by the United States, according to which it amounts to consolidating Russian advances and giving the Kremlin a chance to prepare a new offensive. “We do not support calls for a ceasefire at this time,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Last month, China had already released a document urging Moscow and Kyiv to hold peace talks.
Chinese diplomacy said Friday that MM. Xi and Putin would have “an in-depth exchange of views […] on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common interest”.
“Changes not seen in a century are happening right now, and the world has entered a new period of turbulence,” she added.
According to the Kremlin, MM. Putin and Xi will sign during this visit “more than ten documents”, one of which will focus on economic cooperation between the two countries until 2030.
While Washington suspects China of considering arms deliveries to Russia, which Beijing and Moscow deny, the two leaders will also speak of “military-technical” cooperation, again according to the Kremlin.
But it is indeed “the economic agenda” which will be “the most important for Russia, which must reorient its economy towards China in the face of Western economic sanctions” in connection with Ukraine, underlines Vassili Kashin, expert in geopolitics at Moscow High School of Economics.
China, for its part, “claims itself as a major political force on the international scene” and wants to have “the greatest number of supporters possible”, he told AFP.
Beijing-Moscow relations were tumultuous during the Cold War, but the two neighbors have grown significantly closer in recent decades to stand together in the face of US influence.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in September on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan.
During this first meeting since the start of the offensive in Ukraine in February 2022, they showed their desire to support each other and strengthen their ties in the midst of a crisis with Westerners.
The Russian president had visited Beijing a few months earlier for the Winter Olympics. The two leaders then proclaimed their “unlimited” friendship. A few days later, Vladimir Putin launched his troops against Ukraine.
The announcement of Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia comes the day after a telephone conversation between Chinese and Ukrainian foreign ministers.
“China fears that the crisis will worsen and get out of control,” Chinese Minister Qin Gang told his interlocutor, according to a statement from his ministry, calling on Moscow and Kyiv to resume talks.
A wish that seems pious for the moment. On Friday, Moscow raised its voice after Slovakia and Poland announced the upcoming delivery to Kyiv of MiG-29 fighter jets. These devices “will be destroyed”, launched the Kremlin.
“The question of whether [la Chine] is really stepping up its efforts to play a peacemaking role […] will depend on the content of what it will propose during meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders”, analysis with AFP Ja-Ian Chong, an expert in Chinese foreign policy at the National University of Singapore.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the Chinese president has never met with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
But, according to the American daily The Wall Street Journala conversation could take place after Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow.