The Kremlin confirmed on Friday that Chinese dictator Xi Jinping’s long-rumored visit to Moscow for a meeting with Vladimir Putin will take place next week, beginning with a one-on-one meeting and “informal dinner” on Monday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Xi and Putin, along with a number of their underlings, would hold talks on a broad range of subjects on Tuesday. Yuri Ushakov, a foreign policy adviser to Putin, said Russia’s war in Ukraine would be one of those subjects.
“I’m sure that our leader and the Chinese leader will exchange their assessments of the situation. We shall see what ideas will emerge after that,” Ushakov said.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Xi would present “an objective and fair position on the Ukraine crisis and play a constructive role in promoting talks for peace.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin scoffed at the notion Xi and Putin are working to build an “alliance of evil” or “alliance of autocracy.”
“The China-Russia relationship is built on the basis of no-alliance, no-confrontation and no-targeting of any third party,” said Wang, apparently forgetting that one half of that partnership is currently waging a brutal war of conquest against a sovereign nation with massive civilian casualties.
“The two countries always follow the path of partnership over alliance and dialogue over confrontation, and grow a new type of major-country relations featuring mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” Wang insisted.
Wang grew evasive when asked about reports that China is supplying military equipment and “dual-use” items to Russia, maintaining that “China-Russia cooperation is completely above board” without addressing the specific allegations.
China has been promoting itself as the only possible peacemaker in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to somewhat muted applause from Russia, whose representatives seem to be fighting the urge to roll their eyes whenever Chinese officials tout their nebulous “peace plan.”
The BBC on Friday was skeptical about whether Xi Jinping really wants the Ukraine war to end:
Crucially, China is coming off the back of a major diplomatic coup, having facilitated a deal for Middle East rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations.
However some argue that its stated neutrality is a sham and it is in Beijing’s geopolitical interests for the war to continue because Russia is doing its dirty work – taking on the West and eating up Western resources and money.
China’s proposals called for peace negotiations and respect for national sovereignty. But the 12-point document did not specifically say that Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
The Financial Times (FT) suggested Xi could prove he is serious about negotiating peace by speaking with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, something he has not done since the Russian invasion began.
A source told FT that Xi might “conduct a video conference with the Ukrainian president in the coming days,” and China has been increasing contacts with Ukraine at the ministerial level, including a talk between foreign ministers Qin Gang and Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday.
Paul Haenle of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told FT that Xi would be sending a strong and unpleasant message if he does not push hard for peace in Ukraine coming off China brokering a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“I think it’s getting harder and harder for China to convince the world that it’s somehow this neutral player in Ukraine. So a trip by Xi Jinping to Moscow to see Putin at this time just on its own would again not be a great look for China,” Haenle said.
Kuleba was not optimistic about Xi’s visit to Moscow, telling the BBC that he suspected its purpose was primarily to reinforce the China-Russia partnership and send a message that Putin still has powerful friends.
Kuleba said he discussed the “significance of the principle of territorial integrity” during his call with Gang, which sounds like a polite way of saying that Xi won’t get far as a peacemaker unless he can convince Putin to pull his troops off Ukrainian soil.
The Biden administration, forced to the sidelines by Xi’s impending visit to Russia, could do little but carp about the things Xi and Putin should not say to each other.
White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby on Friday advised Xi to speak with Zelensky, told him to avoid “one-sided” proposals that do not consider the Ukrainian point of view, and complained that a ceasefire without conditions would be “effectively the ratification of Russian conquest.”
Kirby hoped Xi would avoid ceasefire proposals that would “in effect recognize Russia’s gains and its attempt to conquer neighboring territory by force, allowing Russian troops to continue to occupy sovereign Ukrainian territory.”
The NSC spokesman also warned that a ceasefire might give Russia a chance to regroup, reload, and “restart attacks on Ukraine at a time of their choosing.”
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