Chinese President Xi Jinping departed Russia Wednesday, ending his visit that began on Monday.
Xi made no direct support for Putin’s war in Ukraine, reiterating China’s “impartial position” in the conflict which began when Russia invaded its sovereign neighbor on February 24, 2022. However, Xi did stress to Putin as he departed, “Now there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.”
“I agree,” Putin said.
And Xi responded, “Take care of yourself dear friend, please.”
On Tuesday, the two leaders declared an enduring economic partnership, with Xi promising to bring more Russian energy to China and more Chinese companies to Russia.
In the face of sweeping sanctions and other consequences amid the war in Ukraine, the two leaders are seeking to insulate their nations against the West.
In commenting on Xi’s meeting with Putin, the White House said China’s position on the war was not impartial and urged Beijing to pressure Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine and end Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.
Around the same time Xi was departing Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted video to Telegram of what he said was a Russian missile slamming into a civilian apartment building, hours after drones killed at least four people at a student dormitory near Kyiv.
The attack occurred shortly after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida left Kyiv, following his surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital that stole some of the attention from Xi’s trip to Moscow.
However, foreign policy analyst David Ignatius cautions in The Washington Post not to dismiss Xi’s meeting with Putin.
“A strong China is bolstering a weak Russia,” Ignatious writes. “The Chinese aren’t providing weapons (yet), but Xi certainly offered moral and psychological support in what might be described as a get-well visit to an ailing relative.”
Ignatius goes on to surmise that perhaps the biggest reason for Xi’s “fraternal visit” to Moscow is that he is “bolstering a flank against America and the West.”
Before traveling from China to Russia on Monday, Xi posted an article in China’s largest state newspaper promoting a peace plan for Ukraine, saying it “reflects the broadest common understanding of the international community on the crisis.”
Though the 12-point proposal has been dismissed by the West as too favorable to Russia, Ignatius warns, “By playing the peacemaker, Xi can position himself better to take other, harsher rescue measures if Ukraine rejects a cease-fire. He could offer ammunition for Russia, arguing he’s only leveling the playing field. He could try to mobilize nations of the Global South, such as India, South Africa and Brazil, to pressure Ukraine to end the fighting.”
In what Ignatius calls a “shameless approach, but smart diplomacy,” he asserts, “Xi wants to keep the high ground, invoking the sanctity of the United Nations charter even as he affirms his support for the Russian leader who shattered that charter’s norms.”