Amidst a deterioration in relations with the United States, neighboring giants Russia and China showcased their warming relationships during the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing where he met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Following the meeting held ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Moscow and Beijing signed a joint statement, calling on the West to “abandon the ideologized approaches of the cold war.”
“The sides believe that certain States, military and political alliances and coalitions seek to obtain, directly or indirectly, unilateral military advantages to the detriment of the security of others, including by employing unfair competition practices, intensify geopolitical rivalry, fuel antagonism and confrontation, and seriously undermine the international security order and global strategic stability,” read a statement released by the Kremlin on Friday.
The Putin - Xi meeting — the 38th of its kind since 2013 — comes at a pivotal moment, as Russia masses over 100,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, raising fears among Western officials that Russia could be planning an invasion of the former Soviet country. Russia has repeatedly denied such claims, saying that it is free to move its troops within its borders and has no plans to attack Ukraine. Yet, NATO continued its expansion eastward and deployment of its weapon systems in close vicinity to Russian territory.
In the joint statement, Putin and Xi called on NATO to rule out expansion in eastern Europe. In this context, China made clear that it backs Moscow’s ongoing efforts to engage the West in establishing legally binding security guarantees regarding NATO eastward expansion.
Russia, in turn, took a strong stance on key issues now stoking US-China tensions, precisely Taiwan.
"The sides stand against the formation of closed bloc structures and opposing camps in the Asia-Pacific region and remain highly vigilant about the negative impact of the United States' Indo-Pacific strategy on peace and stability in the region," the joint statement continued.
The statement reaffirmed Russia’s support for Beijing’s One China policy, which asserts that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and opposes any forms of independence of Taiwan.
Following the meeting, the two countries also signed a package of 16 agreements aimed at enhancing and maintaining bilateral cooperation in various areas ranging from agriculture, navigation and energy to the digital economy.
It was the first time the leaders have met face-to-face since the start of the pandemic. Putin was guest number one at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which was repeatedly confirmed by China’s authorities.
Russia-China ties cover several fields such as energy, arms production, trade in national currencies and strategic projects in transport and supporting infrastructure. Russia shares a 4,209 km (2,615 mi) border with China.
A deepening of Russian-Chinese relations was fostered by Western policies and actions, particularly after the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
In addition, when Europe was diversifying its energy supplies away from Russia, following western sanctions being imposed on Russia, the Kremlin moved forward with its pivot towards Asia in order to diversify its economic activities. Currently, China is Russia's most important partner in Asia.
In turn, expanding Chinese-Russian energy ties is a part of Beijing’s clean air policy that helps China switch from reliance on coal and other carbon-emitting sources, which provide about 60 percent of the country's total energy needs, to more eco-friendly resources like natural gas.