Putin and Xi discuss how 2022 has panned out for Russia and China

President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will hold bilateral talks later this month, Russian business daily Vedomosti reported on Tuesday.

The meeting is set to reflect a turbulent 2022 for Putin, whose protracted war in Ukraine, now in its 10th month, has isolated Russia from half the world economy and eroded Moscow’s standing in multilateral fora such as the United Nations .

For Xi, the year was no less transformative. China’s president secured a norm-breaking third term as leader of the long-ruling Communist Party in October, and earlier this month abruptly rolled back his zero-tolerance public health policy three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their talks, which the newspaper said were unlikely to take place in person, would follow a similar summary discussion a year ago. Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, said at a briefing later that day that an announcement would be made “in a reasonable time”.

Putin and Xi meet for year-end talks
President Xi Jinping of China (L) and President Vladimir Putin of Russia pose on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit September 15, 2022 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The two will meet again this month, although likely not in person.
ALEXANDR DEMYANCHUK/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Xi may be Putin’s last high-profile ally on the international stage. The two have met in person twice this year – once in Beijing three weeks before the invasion of Ukraine and again during the summit of leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan in September.

Meanwhile, the two men have held a series of phone calls to reaffirm their mutual geopolitical interests, including their grievances against the West in general and the United States in particular.

Xi’s re-election means Putin can expect a degree of predictability from his Beijing counterpart, which experts believe is driving the deepening rapprochement with Moscow.

In only his second overseas trip in nearly three years, Xi sought to reassert China’s global leadership credentials when he rubbed elbows with Western leaders like Joe Biden at last month’s G20 summit in Bali. Putin skipped the event as attendees, including Xi, distanced themselves from his nuclear saber-rattling.

But if this year’s bilateral agendas are to be believed, Putin and Xi are expected to signal unequivocally that their geostrategic partnership is irreversible, despite any perceived differences in their respective diplomatic positions.

Further coordination on trade, energy and UN Security Council voting are likely issues, as is support for each other’s core interests – Ukraine and Taiwan.

“Both countries are keen to prevent the US from becoming the dominant power in Europe and Asia, respectively,” said Rana Mitter, a professor of Chinese politics at Oxford University news week. “Although China and Russia are at odds on key areas, including the use of nuclear weapons, they are likely to remain close.”

Putin and Xi meet for year-end talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend an event at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, April 26, 2019. China is one of Russia’s most prominent allies.
Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Pool/Getty Images

Despite significant pressure from the West, Beijing successfully navigated the year without openly condemning Moscow for its military campaign against Kyiv.

“China is very careful not to do anything to criticize Russia, although as far as we know, they do not supply arms to Russia and comply with Western sanctions, because obviously their economic interests are very better with Europe, the United States and Asia than with Russia,” said Angela Stent, professor emeritus at Georgetown University and senior advisor to the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and Eastern European Studies.

“The determination to fight Western attempts to democratize the world – which they see as imposing a system they oppose – is a very strong motivator for them to stick together,” she said news week.

“There is an ideological affinity to make the world safe for authoritarianism and to resist what they see as Western attempts to meddle in their domestic systems and hold on to power,” Stent said.

The neighbors are not without their past differences, but the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s, an event that paved the way for the normalization of Cold War relations between China and the West, is unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

But uncertainties in the relationship remain. The increasing dependence of the Russian economy on the Chinese market could have unpredictable effects on Moscow’s political clout in Beijing, further undermining any authority it has left in its historical sphere of influence in Central Asia.

“Moscow has little to offer Beijing other than energy and geopolitical support. However, unless Moscow ends its war in Ukraine and rebuilds its international standing, it is not in a good position to exert influence independently of Beijing,” Mitter said.

According to Stent, Putin’s longevity in the Kremlin is also benefiting Beijing for the time being.

“In the long term, Russia may have goals that are not necessarily compatible with those of China,” she said. “But I see this relationship very much defined by the relationship between Xi and Putin. I don’t think the Chinese leadership wants Russia to lose the war in Ukraine, for example, or at least they don’t want Putin to be ousted from power.”

Do you have a tip on a world news story that news week should cover? Do you have a question about Sino-Russian relations? Let us know at worldnews@newsweek.com.

https://www.newsweek.com/vladimir-putin-xi-jinping-meeting-russia-china-1767033 Putin and Xi discuss how 2022 has panned out for Russia and China

Rick Schindler

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