By Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan (Reuters) -Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin meet on Thursday in an ancient Uzbek Silk Road city to discuss the Ukraine war, tensions over Taiwan and the deepening partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resources titan of Russia. On his first trip outside China since the start […]
Xi and Putin to meet in Silk Road city to discuss Ukraine, Taiwan
By Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov
SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan (Reuters) -Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin meet on Thursday in an ancient Uzbek Silk Road city to discuss the Ukraine war, tensions over Taiwan and the deepening partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resources titan of Russia.
On his first trip outside China since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Xi arrived in Central Asia on Wednesday, just a month before the Communist Party is set to cement his place as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.
Xi and Putin are due to meet in Samarkand on Thursday afternoon, according to a schedule distributed by the Russian delegation to media.
“The presidents will discuss both the bilateral agenda and the main regional and international topics,” Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday.
Ushakov said the leaders would discuss Ukraine and Taiwan at the meeting which he said would hold “special significance” given the geopolitical situation.
The last time Xi and Putin met in person, just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, they declared a “no limits” partnership and inked a promise to collaborate more against the West.
Putin, though, goes into the meeting after nearly seven months of war in Ukraine that has strained Russia’s economic and military power in the biggest confrontation with the West since the height of the Cold War.
Russia’s paramount leader has yet to comment publicly on lightning rout of his forces in north-eastern Ukraine.
XI AND PUTIN
The deepening Xi-Putin partnership is considered one of the most significant developments in geopolitics after China’s own spectacular rise over the past 40 years.
Once the leader in the global Communist hierarchy, Russia after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union is now a junior partner to a resurgent China which is forecast to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest economy in the next decade.
Xi, the son of Communist revolutionary whose has praised the jewels of Russian literature in public, and Putin, who grew up in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and came of age in the Soviet-era KGB, say their relations have never been better.
Though Russia and China have in the past been rivals and have fought wars, Putin and Xi share a view of the world which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges the United States’ supremacy.
The visit “shows that China is willing to not only continue ‘business as usual’ with Russia but even show explicit support and accelerate the formation of a stronger China-Russia alignment,” said Alexander Korolev, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
While Xi has met Putin in person 38 times since becoming China’s president in 2013, he has yet to meet Joe Biden in person since the latter became U.S. President in 2021.
After the West imposed on Moscow the most severe sanctions in modern history in response to the war in Ukraine, Putin says Russia is turning towards Asia after centuries of looking to the West as the crucible of economic growth, technology and war.
As Europe seeks to turn away from Russian oil and gas, Putin will seek to boost energy exports to China and Asia, possibly with a pipeline through Mongolia. Putin, Xi and Mongolian President Ukhnaa Khurelsukh are due to hold a three-way meeting in Samarkand.
Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom has for years been studying the possibility for a major new gas pipeline – the Power of Siberia 2 – to travel through Mongolia taking Russian gas to China.
It will carry 50 billion cubic metres of gas per year, around a third of what Russia usually sells Europe – or equivalent to the Nord Stream 1 annual volumes.
Putin will also meet Iranian, Kyrgyz, Pakistani, Turkmen and Uzbek leaders. On Friday, Putin is set to meet the leaders of Azerbaijan, India and Turkey, the Kremlin said.
Iran on Thursday signed a memorandum on joining the Shanghai Cooperation organisation, a security bloc comprising Russia, China, India, Pakistan and a number of Central Asian states.
(Writing by Olzhas Auyezov and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Raissa Kasolowsky and Tomasz Janowski)