Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to soon meet face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, even as Putin continues to wage a war in Ukraine that has, at times, caught Xi off guard, according to US intelligence.
The Russian president confirmed Xi’s planned trip Wednesday.
While China has at times been disconcerted with or surprised with Putin’s approach to the war, according to a US intelligence community analysis from 2022, the upcoming meeting could be a sign that Beijing may be changing its tune on how much it is willing to support Putin’s war in Ukraine nearly one year into the invasion.
China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, paid a visit to Moscow just this week to meet with Russian Security Council chief Nikolay Patrushev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with Ukraine top of mind. Wang suggested that Chinese relations with Russia are “rock solid” right now and that he wants to strengthen the Sino-Russian relationship.
Beijing may also be considering providing lethal aid to Russia to contribute more directly to the cause, according to an assessment the US Secretary of State Tony Blinken shared publicly this week.
‘Lethal’ Chinese Gifts to Putin Could Spark ‘New Cold War’ With US
China may be considering sending “a whole gamut of things… everything from ammunition to the weapons themselves,” US Secretary of State Tony Blinken warned this week on CBS News.
Beijing has already been providing nonlethal support to Russia’s war effort, according to Blinken.
There are other signs that China is interested in becoming more involved in Ukraine. Wang and Lavrov both held an “in-depth discussion” on the issue of Ukraine this week, with Wang urging how “important it is not to give up peace efforts,” according to Xinhua news agency.
“The hope” is “that all parties could overcome difficulties, continue to create conditions for dialogue and negotiations and seek an effective way to a political settlement,” Wang expressed, according to Xinhua.
The meeting comes as Beijing has been weighing a push for peace talks about Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Beijing-Moscow relationship has been in flux in recent months. Just weeks before Putin invaded Ukraine last year, Xi and Putin entered into a so-called “no-limits” partnership. But Xi didn’t directly endorse the war and was ultimately “unsettled” by it Putin’s approach to the waraccording to a CIA analysis.
China may be watching Russia’s efforts to invade Ukraine too, and learning lessons about its potential interests in invading Taiwan, US officials and lawmakers have warned. Russia’s floundering war in Ukraine may be providing warning signals to China that its potential designs on invading Taiwan might face steep odds.
Xi may also recognize that his closest partner on the world stage needs some propping up, Jacob Stokes, a former national security aid to Biden and former acting special advisor to the vice president for Asia policy, told The Daily Beast.
If Xi does follow through with providing lethal aid to Russia, it is likely a sign that Xi is interested in working to solidify a stalemate between Russia and Ukraine and making sure that Russia doesn’t suffer a total defeat, said Stokes, now a senior fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at CNAS.
“What it says is that China wants to make sure that its most important partner in global affairs is not isolated despite the war in Ukraine,” Stokes told The Daily Beast.
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