Xi Jinping is now Vladimir Putin’s ‘big brother’: How Russia-China ties changed over the years | World News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a two-day state visit to China, underscoring the solidarity between the two allies as Russia continues its new offensive in Ukraine.
Upon his arrival at dawn, Putin was greeted by an honor guard from the People’s Liberation Army, the military branch of China’s ruling Communist Party.
His motorcade, flanked by a brigade of military police on motorcycles, proceeded into the city. Putin is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior officials.
Driving the news

  • This is Putin’s first trip abroad since his March re-election and the second in just over six months to China.
  • However, this is Putin’s 19th visit to China since he became the Russian president.
  • In February 2022, China and Russia announced a “no limits” partnership during Putin’s visit to Beijing, occurring just days before he deployed tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, sparking the most severe land conflict in Europe since World War Two.
  • Putin’s decision to choose China for his first overseas visit after being inaugurated for a new six-year term, extending his leadership until at least 2030, underscores the significance he places on his bond with Xi and his global strategic priorities.
  • In a discussion with China’s Xinhua news agency, Putin commended Chinese President Xi Jinping for fostering a “strategic partnership” between Russia and China, which he described as rooted in national interests and profound mutual trust.

Zoom in

  • This visit is not just a routine diplomatic engagement but a strategic display of defiance against Western pressures.
  • The frequency and depth of military collaborations, such as joint naval drills near strategic global areas, signal a growing military camaraderie.
  • However, these maneuvers signal more about the depth of their partnership than actual operational military alliances. The joint naval patrols near American waters and the inclusion of Russia in Chinese-led military drills are significant developments that the West views with increasing concern.
  • Moreover, the economic interdependence, highlighted by China’s role as a critical supplier to Russia’s defense sector, showcases the depth of their bilateral ties, which are becoming increasingly consequential in the global arena.

Why it matters

  • The strengthening bond between China and Russia is pivotal as both nations seek to assert their power on the global stage against a backdrop of American dominance.
  • This alliance is particularly critical for Russia as it continues to face extensive economic sanctions from the West.
  • China’s support not only bolsters Russia’s economy but also enhances its military capabilities through joint exercises and technology transfers.
  • As per a report in the Economist, the flow of Chinese technology and other valuable goods to Russian weapons manufacturers has become a significant concern for the United States. According to US secretary of state Antony Blinken China was the “top supplier” of various items considered be “dual use,” including machine tools, microelectronics, and nitrocellulose, a vital component in artillery shells. These items have both civilian and military applications.
  • “Russia would struggle to sustain its assault on Ukraine without China’s support,” Blinken said. In a later conversation with Borge Brende, the president of the World Economic Forum, Blinken said that over the past year, Chinese technology had been facilitating Russia’s production of weapons and ammunition, such as missiles and tanks, at an unprecedented rate in its modern history, surpassing even the levels seen during the Cold War era, the Economist report added.

What they are saying

  • “It was the unprecedentedly high level of the strategic partnership between our countries that determined my choice of China as the first state that I would visit after officially taking office as president of the Russian Federation,” Putin said.
  • “We will try to establish closer cooperation in the field of industry and high technology, space and peaceful nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy sources and other innovative sectors,” Putin said.
  • “This is Putin’s first trip after his inauguration, and it is therefore intended to show that Sino-Russian relations are moving up another level,” independent Russian political analyst Konstantin Kalachev told AFP.
  • “The China-Russia relationship today is hard-earned, and the two sides need to cherish and nurture it,” Xi told Putin.
  • “China is willing to … jointly achieve the development and rejuvenation of our respective countries, and work together to uphold fairness and justice in the world,” said Xi.
  • “The United States still thinks in terms of the Cold War and is guided by the logic of bloc confrontation, putting the security of ‘narrow groups’ above regional security and stability, which creates a security threat for all countries in the region,” the joint statement said. “The US must abandon this behaviour.”

The ‘big brother’ role reversal

  • The relationship between Russia and China has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with Moscow becoming increasingly dependent on Beijing as it faces Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
  • Once a partnership of equals, the Russia-China dynamic has become increasingly asymmetrical, with China holding the upper hand. While China accounts for around 33% of Russia’s overall trade, Russia makes up only 4% of China’s trade, according to data provider CEIC Data.
  • China has emerged as a critical source of essential goods for Russia, supplying everything from electronics to washing machines to tractors.
  • However, Russia’s arms exports to China have fallen precipitously in recent years, while China has become a significant provider of optics, microelectronics, drone engines, and other materials that enable Russia’s weapons production. The energy trade between the two countries has also shifted in China’s favor.
  • “It’s a strategic partnership where both sides need each other but it’s increasingly asymmetrical in China’s favor,” Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin, told the Wall Street Journal. “China is not only the more powerful partner, but also the one that has many more options than Russia and the war has exacerbated that.”
  • Russia, with its oil and gas now shunned in Europe, has had to sell at significant discounts to China.
  • China’s upper hand is evident in negotiations over new projects like the Power-of-Siberia 2 gas pipeline, where Beijing’s reluctance to finalize terms highlights its leverage over Moscow.
  • Putin, who is sometimes known for his haughty displays of making other leaders wait during their visits to the Kremlin, has adopted a noticeably deferential tone towards Xi Jinping, a LA Times report said.
  • No wonder, an Economist report described the visit as “Vladimir Putin will meet his big brother in Beijing.”

What next

  • China, once the junior partner of Moscow in the global Communist hierarchy, has emerged as by far the most powerful of Russia’s friends in the world.
  • Consequently, in the evolving personal relationship between the two “presidents for life”, Xi has emerged as the “big brother” to Putin.
  • At the same time, the strengthening ties between China and Russia represent a significant shift in global alliances and power structures. The implications of their collaboration will undoubtedly extend far beyond their own borders, challenging the current international order and testing the diplomatic resilience of the Western powers.

(With inputs from agencies)

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