Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Beijing on Tuesday to meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in a first major international trip since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant and accused him of committing a war crime over Ukraine.
China rolled out the red carpet and arranged a military honor guard as Mr. Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday morning, footage provided by China’s state media shows. China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao, greeted the Russian leader at the airport.
The Russian leader will attend a high-level forum marking the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a China-led multi-billion ambitious infrastructure project that is aimed at extending the regime’s global influence.
China’s state media hailed the summit as this year’s “most important diplomatic event,” which gathers heads of state and representatives from more than 140 countries and 30 global organizations. Most of them are from developing countries, such as Argentina, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia.
Mr. Putin, one of the highest-profile guests at the summit, will deliver a speech on Wednesday in a show of support for Mr. Xi’s flagship initiative.
China has poured $1 trillion into poor nations since Mr. Xi launched the BRI a decade ago, according to an estimation by the Green Finance & Development Center, a think tank at Fudan University in Shanghai. However, by contracting with China to build railways, airports, and other public projects, Sri Lanka, Zambia, and other developing countries are saddled with heavy debts they can’t afford.
The forum also takes place against the backdrop of s downturn in the world’s second-largest economy.
Yeh Yao-Yuan, who teaches international relations at the University of St Thomas in Houston, doubted whether the Chinese regime could continue such a large-scale lending practice amid economic woe, combined with an ongoing trade war with the United States.
“That will be a big challenge for Beijing,” Mr. Yeh told The Epoch Times.
Mr. Ye suggested the Russian leader is not unaware of Mr. Xi’s difficulties.
”But Putin must show that he stands with China,” Mr. Ye said.
Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin declared a partnership that had “no limits” during his last trip to China for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. The two leaders issued a lengthy joint document in which Russia endorsed the regime’s territorial claims on self-ruled Taiwan, and Beijing backed Russia in opposing the further enlargement of NATO, a key justification for the invasion.
Less than three weeks after the trip, Russia launched the invasion against Ukraine.
The Chinese regime has refused to characterize Moscow’s actions as an invasion and has blamed Washington for instigating the conflict. It has also asked Western countries to respect Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.” Further, Beijing has refused to join the United States, Europe, and others that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Instead, the regime said it would continue normal trade with Moscow thus providing a vital lifeline for its neighbor.
Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have repeatedly reaffirmed the two countries’ close ties during the Russia–Ukraine war. When Mr. Xi traveled to Moscow in March, he told Mr. Putin that the two countries are driving a change that “hasn’t happened in 100 years.”
But Mr. Yeh suggested the dynamic has changed.
“Their attitudes toward each other are very different,” he said. “Russia needs China. But what China needs from Russia is not about the economy. To some extent, China wants the Russian–Ukrainian war to continue.”
Before departure, Mr. Putin discussed his friendship with Mr. Xi during an interview with China’s state media.
“President Xi Jinping calls me his friend, and I call him my friend, too,” he told China’s broadcaster CCTV, according to the English transcript provided by the Kremlin. He said he had had “plenty” of meetings with Mr. Xi, which he described as “good.”
Mr. Putin will have a one-on-one meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday, his aid Yury Ushakov said before heading to Beijing. Topics included in such a format are typically very sensitive, Mr. Ushakov added.
But outside observers didn’t expect any surprises from their talks.
“Putin wants to get support from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) amid the war with Ukraine,” Chinese current affair Li Linyi told The Epoch Times before the Russian leader landed in Beijing. “Without the CCP’s support, Putin may lose his war in the future.”
“But the problem is that the Chinese Communist Party is having a difficult time,” Mr. Li said, noting that the trade between China and the West is shrinking due to Beijing’s close ties with Moscow.
Amid tensions with the United States, Mr. Li said the CCP wants to stabilize the relationship with the European Union, which viewed China’s stance on the Ukraine war as a critical factor in bilateral ties.
Therefore, “Xi may not give too much support to Putin, and the two sides will make some political announcements at most.”
Mr. Ye agreed. “What Putin wants most is the CCP’s military support, but Beijing can’t afford it,” he said, adding that the Putin–Xi meeting may yield some business contracts, such as purchasing Russian natural gas, to help Moscow’s economy.
Li Yuanming and Xu Jian contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times