Russia and China showcase their partnership to the world

Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded his official visit to the Asian country on Friday
En esta fotografía de grupo distribuida por la agencia estatal rusa Sputnik, el presidente de Rusia, Vladímir Putin, recorre una exposición comercial Rusia-China en la ciudad nororiental de Harbin el 17 de mayo de 2024 – PHOTO/Mikhail METZEL/POOL/AFP
In this group photo distributed by Russia's state-run Sputnik agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin tours a Russia-China trade exhibition in the northeastern city of Harbin on May 17, 2024 - PHOTO/Mikhail METZEL/POOL/AFP
  1. Meeting with Xi Jinping

Vladimir Putin has completed his official visit to China, with a second stage focusing on commercial and cultural aspects. 

During his two-day trip to China, Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday in which he reaffirmed political ties with the Asian giant, and Friday's programme focused on economic, commercial and cultural relations between the two countries. 

Vladimir Putin's aim is to further strengthen trade and economic ties between Russia and China, as the Russian country is heavily dependent on income from agreements and trade with the Asian giant due to Western sanctions imposed because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

During his second day in China, Vladimir Putin visited Harbin. Harbin is the capital of China's northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which shares a border with Russia.

During a China-Russia exhibition and forum, Putin focused on economic and trade issues and praised the growth of bilateral trade. The Russian president stressed that the "inseparable" partnership between the two countries serves to ensure energy security, as reported by the BBC. 

The Russian president also laid flowers at a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died during the liberation of Japanese-held northeast China in the 1940s. 

Vladimir Putin's second stop in China was also cultural in nature. The Russian President visited the Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Theotokos in Harbin and met with students and professors from Harbin University. It is worth noting that Harbin also served as a home to many Russian expatriates and retains some of these historical links in its architecture, such as the central cathedral of St Sophia, a former Russian Orthodox church.

But there were also political references on the second day of Vladimir Putin's visit to China. The Russian president has indicated that the offensive in northeastern Ukraine is a response to Ukrainian attacks in Russia and that Russia has no plans to conquer the Ukrainian city of Kharkov, which is the target of the latest invasion attacks, as reported by the AFP news agency.

El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin y al presidente chino Xi Jinping dándose la mano durante una reunión en Pekín el 18 de octubre de 2023 -AFP/SERGEI GUNEYEV
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping - PHOTO/AFP/SERGEI GUNEYEV

Meeting with Xi Jinping

Vladimir Putin on Thursday held his fourth meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The Russian leader has been regularly briefing the Chinese leader on developments in the conflict on Ukrainian territory. 

The Chinese president noted that Beijing and Moscow agreed that there should be a 'political solution' to the war between Russia and Ukraine, but did not elaborate further. The peace options presented by China were criticised at the time by both Kiev and its Western allies.

The Chinese president said on Thursday that his relationship with Russia is "conducive to world peace" and called for strengthening their cooperation as he welcomed his "old friend" Vladimir Putin to Beijing.

This is Vladimir Putin's first foreign trip since his presidential re-election in March, and it is also the Russian president's second visit to China in less than a year, following his trip in October 2023 for the 3rd New Silk Roads Forum, which several experts see as a sign of the growing alignment between the two countries to continue their business dealings and promote a new "multipolar" order in opposition to the United States and the West. 

Although Putin's visit was rather symbolic and no concrete proposals were offered, the two leaders sent a clear message of alliance between the two countries. It is worth noting that the Asian giant is economically vital for Russia after the sanctions imposed by Western countries for the invasion of Ukraine. 

Un hombre pasa en bicicleta por delante de una pantalla gigante en un centro comercial mientras muestra un reportaje sobre la visita de Estado del presidente ruso Vladimir Putin a Pekín el 16 de mayo de 2024 – PHOTO/Héctor RETAMAL/AFP
A man rides his bicycle past a giant screen in a shopping mall while showing a report on Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit to Beijing on 16 May 2024 - PHOTO/Hector RETAMAL/AFP

The Chinese president said on Thursday that the China-Russia relationship "is not only in the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples, but also conducive to peace".

"The current China-Russia relationship is hard-won, and the two sides should cherish and cultivate it," Xi Jinping insisted, China's Foreign Department said. 

Meanwhile, the Russian president said relations between the two countries "are neither opportunistic nor directed against anyone". "Our cooperation in international affairs is one of the factors of stability on the international scene," Putin said, according to Russian media, as reported by the AFP news agency.

Vladimir Putin's two-day tour of China comes at a time of turmoil over Russia's continuing invasion of Ukraine and US warnings to China over its support for Russia's military effort.