Xi and Putin hail 'new era'
Two leaders harden anti-West rhetoric, push Beijing peace plan for Ukraine
published : 22 Mar 2023 at 11:26
writer: AFP and Bloomberg
MOSCOW: After two days of talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin has pledged even closer ties with Russia’s most powerful backer and hailed Beijing’s proposals for ending his war in Ukraine.
“Many of the provisions of the peace plan proposed by China are in line with Russian approaches and could be used as the basis for a resolution when Kyiv and the West are ready for it,” the Russian president said on Tuesday in his most detailed comments yet on the blueprint.
“However, so far we have not seen such readiness on their part.”
Ukraine has also reacted cautiously to the proposal but the US and its allies have rejected the Chinese initiative as biased toward Russia. But the proposals are Beijing’s most ambitious effort yet to seek an end to the year-old war. Xi discussed them in detail in one-on-one talks Monday, Putin said.
The two leaders later hailed a “new era” in their relationship, putting on a united front as Putin accused the West of rejecting Beijing’s proposals to end the Ukraine conflict.
Eager to curb Western power, they also expressed concerns about NATO expansion in Asia and agreed to deepen a partnership that has grown closer since Putin launched an offensive in Ukraine.
Beijing’s 12-point position paper on Ukraine includes a call for dialogue and respect for all countries’ territorial sovereignty.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv had invited China to talks, and is waiting for an answer from Beijing.
Moscow and Beijing have over the past years ramped up cooperation, both driven by a desire to counterbalance US global dominance.
The Chinese leader’s Moscow visit has been viewed as a boost for Putin, who is subject to an International Criminal Court warrant over accusations of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.
“I am sure that Russian-Chinese cooperation has truly unlimited possibilities and prospects,” Putin said at a state dinner following the talks, where he toasted the “prosperity” of Russian and Chinese people.
He earlier emphasised the “special nature” of the relationship between the two countries in remarks broadcast on state television.
On the second day of his visit to Moscow, Xi said ties with Russia were “entering a new era”.
Putin called the talks “meaningful and frank” and said that Russia, which has been largely cut out of European markets because of sanctions, would be able to meet China’s “growing demand” for energy.
Energy is a key focus of Xi’s visit, and Putin announced the two countries had reached an agreement on the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, which will connect Siberia to northwest China.
US ‘undermining’ global security
In a joint statement, the two leaders took aim at the West, accusing the United States of undermining global security.
“The parties call on the United States to stop undermining international and regional security and global strategic stability in order to secure its unilateral military advantage,” the statement said.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has also deepened fears among Western powers that China could one day try to take control of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing sees as part of its territory.
China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but Washington has said Beijing’s moves could be a “stalling tactic” to help Moscow.
The United States has also accused Beijing of considering arms exports to Moscow, claims China has vociferously denied.
Japan PM in Kyiv
Xi’s trip coincided with a surprise visit to Kyiv by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who visited Bucha, a town where Russian forces were accused of committing atrocities during their occupation last year.
“Our talks with Mr Kishida were quite productive,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address.
“I also heard a very concrete willingness of Japan to work together with us to even more actively mobilise the world for international order, to protect against aggression, to protect against Russian terror,” he said.
Kishida, the last Group of Seven leader to visit the country, had come under increasing pressure to make the trip, as Japan hosts the grouping’s summit this May.
Zelensky confirmed on Tuesday he would participate in the G7 summit via video link.
Evan Feigenbaum, a former US official now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an essay that China has already won support for its efforts in parts of the world less invested in the Ukraine war, such as Brazil.
China’s diplomacy can only help, if not by much, in Europe — and there is no thought of winning over the United States, he said.
“Beijing will have already concluded that Washington will dismiss any Chinese diplomatic activity as performative — a kind of Peking opera,” he wrote.
“But the Americans are not China’s audience, so Beijing likely does not much care what Washington thinks.”
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