Xi Jinping pledges Chinese support for Russia as pressure mounts on Vladimir Putin over Ukraine

Amber Wang, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 16 2021 12:37 PM

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to support Russian efforts to protect its long-term security amid rising international pressure over Moscow’s attitude to Ukraine.

In a video call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Xi also said China and Russia opposed attempts to divide the two nations and called for more joint actions to safeguard their security interests.

Calling Putin an “old friend”, Xi said he appreciated Putin’s“firm support” for China defending its core interests, and in opposing attempts to separate China and Russia. Meanwhile, Putin expressed support for Beijing’s stance on Taiwan.

“China and Russia are both major nations with global influence,” Xi said, according to state news agency Xinhua. “China will, as always, firmly support Russia’s efforts to maintain the country’s long-term stability”.

The meeting comes as both countries face mounting diplomatic pressure from the West, with the United States and other Nato members warning Russia not to invade Ukraine.

The US has said it might send more troops to Eastern Europe, which Russia has described as an act of aggression, and Putin told his US counterpart Joe Biden in a recent video call that Moscow needed legally binding security guarantees from the West.

China and Russia were also excluded from the recent democracy summit hosted by Washington.

Without naming the US and its allies, Xi said, “At present, under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’, certain international forces are arbitrarily interfering in the internal affairs of China and Russia, violently trampling on international law and the recognised norms of international relations.”

Xi said China is willing to work with Russia to guide the international community to establish “a correct view of democracy”.

Xi called on the two sides to strengthen coordination and cooperation in international affairs, speak with “a louder voice in global governance”, come up with practical solutions to problems such as epidemics and climate change and resolutely oppose hegemonic behaviour and Cold War mentality.”

“The world has entered a period of turbulent changes,” Xi said, adding that “Sino-Russian relations have withstood the test of various storms and demonstrated new vitality.”

The meeting, which lasted for around 70 minutes, was the second virtual discussion between the two leaders this year. In June, the two agreed to extend a 20-year friendship and cooperation treaty.

“We firmly supported each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests, safeguarding the dignity of each country and the common interests of the two countries,” Xi said.

The meeting also took place after a number of Western countries followed Washington’s lead and announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

But Putin was the first world leader to say he would attend the Olympic opening ceremony and Xi said he was looking forward to welcoming Putin to Beijing.

Russia has been cultivating closer ties with China as its relations with the West have worsened, and the two sides have strengthened cooperation in sectors such as energy and space this year.

Xi told Putin that the volume of trade between the two countries passed the US$100 billion mark for the first time in the first three quarters of this year.

The Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik reported that Xi and Putin also criticised the recently announced Aukus pact between the US, Britain and Australia.

The two leaders said that the deal “undermines the foundations of the nuclear non-proliferation regime” and escalates tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said.

“And in this regard, both from our side and from the Chinese side, a negative assessment was expressed about the creation of new alliances such as the Indo-Pacific Quad and the American-Anglo-Australian union Aukus,” Ushakov said.

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