Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow is a declaration of intent and a reminder of "the special nature of Russian-Chinese relations"

Russia-China relations enter 'new era' marked by isolationism

photo_camera PHOTO/ALEXEY MAISHEV/ KREMLIN via AP - Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on 21 March 2023.

This is the first time since St. Petersburg hosted the International Economic Forum in 2019 that Xi Jinping has landed on Russian soil. The Kremlin's top ally has returned, four years later, to Russia at a time of maximum complexity on the international scene. Barely a month has passed since the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and China, which has defended Kiev's territorial integrity - without condemning Moscow's aggression - has appeared through its leader in Soviet lands to send a clear message that the alliance with Vladimir Putin's allies has not been affected at all.
In fact, despite the complex context that exists around Russia, Beijing has been able to move with determination in situations that have ended up with outcomes that are sometimes surprising to many. Its mediating stance between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore diplomatic relations - broken since 2016 - has been key to opening a new stage in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. Above all, the hope of the actors involved is that it will bring with it the peace that the region has so sorely missed in conflicts such as the one in Yemen, which precisely involved the presence of Saudis and Iranians.


Thus, China continues to work to strengthen its presence in key points around the globe, as represented by Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow. On his arrival in the Russian capital, the Chinese leader expressed his wish that Vladimir Putin should be the one to travel to China: "It is important that his first foreign visit after his re-election should be to our country," Jinping said. He added that this "testifies to the special character of Russian-Chinese relations, which are entering a new era".
The "great neighbouring powers" and "strategic partners" plan to further strengthen their ties in the coming years. Putin is in no doubt about this, despite the ever-increasing sanctions his country is under. "We in Russia are sincerely interested in further strengthening our comprehensive partnership and strategic engagement with China," the Russian president explained. He also assures that relations with Beijing are "at the highest level in history and influence the formation of the global agenda, in the logic of multipolarity".


Xi Jinping believes that "the Russian people support him (Putin)" ahead of the next presidential elections in 2024 in what has been an exchange of praise between the leaders. The Kremlin leader, for his part, said that "China has created a very effective system for developing the economy and strengthening the state. It is much more effective than in many other countries". And in this process, Beijing has set itself up, as it has done with Riyadh and Tehran, as a possible mediator to bring Russia and Ukraine closer together, although the Chinese peace proposal has little chance of being put into practice.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, describes the Chinese leader's visit to Russia as a "trip of friendship, cooperation and peace". He argues that "China will maintain its objective and fair position on the Ukrainian crisis and play a constructive role in promoting peace talks". A move that Kiev is keeping a close eye on, with its foreign ministry assuring that it is "following closely". They have urged Xi Jinping to "use his influence on Moscow" and make possible a solution as soon as possible to the conflict that began more than a year ago with Russian aggression.


Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement that 'we are ready to engage in a closer dialogue with China to restore peace in Ukraine in line with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the latest UN General Assembly resolution on this issue'. In this way, China appears, as it did a few days ago in the Middle East, as a trump card to which, in this case, Ukraine is clinging in its quest for peace. Although rapprochement seems very complicated, after what has been achieved between Arabia and Iran, no outcome can be ruled out when Beijing is involved.