Xi’s trip to Russia boosts ‘dear friend’ Putin as China pushes back against U.S. power
By Andrea Mitchell and Dan De Luce
21 March 2023
WASHINGTON — Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia offers a symbolic shot in the arm to his increasingly isolated Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and highlights Xi’s determination to push back against American power in the world, experts and former U.S. officials say.
Calling each other “dear friends,” the two leaders held informal talks in Moscow for almost four and a half hours Monday, the Russian state news agency Tass reported, with talks between their full delegations taking place Tuesday. In televised remarks after greeting Xi inside the Kremlin, Putin said he had “carefully studied” China’s recent proposal for ending the war in Ukraine, where Beijing has tried to portray itself as a potential peacemaker.
The three-day state visit underscores how Xi, unlike his predecessors, wants to position himself as a world-shaping leader and his country as a counterweight to America’s long-standing global dominance.
“Xi Jinping wants to show the world that he’s a statesman,” said Brian Hart, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, and that Beijing wants “to play a constructive role.”
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told NBC News that Xi’s visit, “is an important change in the world, in the global strategic situation.”
Washington has criticized Xi’s trip as giving Putin “diplomatic cover” after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant last week for the Russian leader on charges of involvement in the alleged abduction of Ukrainian children, which his government denies. Beijing says the court is using “double standards.”
The White House urged Xi to use his visit to press Putin to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and withdraw his troops. But officials said they were concerned Xi would instead reiterate calls for a cease-fire that leaves Russia’s territorial gains in place — part of a 12-point proposal from Beijing that contains few specifics and has met with skepticism from the U.S. and its allies.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any peace plan that does not involve the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory was “a stalling tactic at best.”
“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms,” he said Monday.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry countered Tuesday that “the U.S. is in no position to point fingers at China.”
China has accused the U.S. — which announced Monday an additional $350 million in ammunition and other military aid for Ukraine — of aggravating the war by arming Kyiv against Russia’s invading forces. Beijing denies U.S. allegations that it is considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance.
But Xi’s high-profile Russia trip, his first since the invasion of Ukraine last year, underscores Beijing’s deepening ties with Moscow and mounting tensions with Washington.
“They share a deep and abiding interest in undermining U.S. influence around the world,” said Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the Indo-Pacific program at the German Marshall Fund, a think tank based in Washington.
Xi and Putin, who have met about 40 times since 2010, both reject what they see as efforts by the U.S. and its allies to impose their liberal democratic model on the rest of the world, and have sought to make their case to countries outside America’s network of alliances, she said.