Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to meet next week in Uzbekistan, a Russian official said on Wednesday, announcing a summit that could mark a new stage in warming ties between two powers that clash from increasingly against the West.
The meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – a political, economic and security forum dominated by China and Russia – comes at a delicate time for the two leaders.
Putin faces the economic and political fallout from his war in ukraine which left Russia more isolated. Xi, meanwhile, is also facing a slowing economy as he is seeking a third five-year term as leader of the Communist Party. Although it is supposed to secure it, it would represent a break from the precedent. Both have seen their country’s relationship with the West deteriorate.
Russian Ambassador to China Andrei Denisov told reporters the two men would meet at the organization’s summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on September 15-16. “We are actively preparing for this,” Denisov was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.
The visit to Uzbekistan, if it happens, would be part of Xi’s first overseas trip in 2½ years. Xi has only left mainland China once – on a day-long visit to the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong – since the COVID-19 outbreak began in late 2019.
Asked about the trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning told a daily briefing on Wednesday: “On your question, I have nothing to offer.”
Moscow and Beijing have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose liberal democratic forces in Asia, Europe and beyond, taking a stand for an authoritarian regime with narrow borders and little regard for free speech. , minority rights or opposition politics.
The Russian military has held extensive military drills that ended Wednesday in the east of the country and involved Chinese forces, further evidence of growing ties between the two.
Each leader can also hope to strengthen their position at home with the meeting. For Putin, this is an opportunity to show that he still has powerful allies. For Xi, it could be a chance to be seen as standing up to Western opposition to the war in Ukraine and to restore his nationalist image at a time when relations with the United States have become increasingly strained over trade, technology, human rights issues and his threats to attack Taiwan.
Just ahead of the Chinese Party Congress, overseas visits would also show that Xi is confident in his position.
Putin and Xi last met in Beijing in February, weeks before the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine. The two presidents oversaw the signing of an agreement pledging that the relationship between the parties would have “no limits”. It is unclear whether Xi was aware at the time of Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine.
While offering its tacit support for Russia’s campaign there, China has sought to appear neutral and avoid the possible repercussions of supporting Russia’s economy under international sanctions.
Even though Moscow and Beijing have in the past rejected the possibility of forging a military alliance, Putin said such a prospect cannot be ruled out. He also noted that Russia shares highly sensitive military technologies with China that have helped significantly boost its defense capability.