The Chinese leader leaves Moscow after a two-day state visit, strengthening relations with Russia and cementing new power dynamics

Xi Jinping returns from Russia with gas deal and peace proposal for Ukraine

photo_camera KREMLIN/MIKHAIL TERESHCHENKO via REUTERS - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony after their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 21, 2023

Unity in the face of NATO and unity on economic issues. The long meetings in the Kremlin during Xi Jinping's visit to Russia have demonstrated the harmony and friendship between the two leaders in the new movements on the geopolitical chessboard. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping approved a joint declaration on strengthening cooperation at a key moment for the two powers. 

Russia's isolationism since its invasion of Ukraine reached its peak with the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court for the alleged violation of the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. Three days before Xi Jinping landed in Moscow. But neither China nor Russia recognises the legitimacy of this court, and the summit they were to hold was a clear response of unity vis-à-vis the West. "Relations between Russia and China are at the best moment in history", Putin boasted of the meeting. For Xi, Moscow-Beijing ties are "vital for the destiny of humanity".


However, relations are not as smooth as they have tried to portray. China's unveiled peace plan for Ukraine has drawn several criticisms from Putin. Of Beijing's proposed 12-point policy document - which includes a ceasefire and talks - the Russian leader disagrees with almost all of them, but breaking Russia's isolationism comes at a price, and Xi Jinping has made this clear.  

Xi's position of power as a major international mediator has put pressure on Putin to reassess his response: "We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan presented by China are in line with Russian approaches and can be taken as a basis for a peace agreement when the West and Kiev are ready for it", Putin concluded the summit. A point for China, adding to its triumph as an international mediator with the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.  

In any case, peace is a two-way street. Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenski has already rejected the Chinese peace plan in the context of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's visit to Kiev. Of the same 12 points, he does not agree that Russian troops should be allowed on sovereign Ukrainian territory. In the case of Ukraine, Xi Jinping's peace plan has had little traction in state talks, and Zelenski has invited China to support his country's proposed peace plan.


So far, there is no sign of a similar meeting between the Chinese president and his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss his peace plan, and this is of particular concern to NATO. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Beijing to contact Zelenski "if he is serious about the peace plan", because it is up to Ukraine to decide what conditions are "acceptable" for a peaceful solution to the aggression. 

China's peace plan has also generated rejection from the US, which has been watching the summit between Putin and Xi Jinping in great detail. For US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the peace plan "does not give hope for an early end to this war". If anything, Washington has more to fear from what was agreed at the Moscow summit. 

The great Siberian gas pipeline to China 

Siberia Force 2 can be considered the highlight of Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow. The gas pipeline that will connect Russia and China via Mongolia has been cooking in secrecy for two years, but with this trip it has been announced with great fanfare. With a route of more than 2,600 kilometres, the new pipeline circumvents Western sanctions on Moscow by seeking to provide an outlet for more than 50 billion cubic metres of gas that could previously have been supplied to Europe via Nord Stream 2. 

In addition to the advantage of obtaining a larger energy supply at a more competitive price, China could also gain from Russia's dependence on its power. A subjugated position that looks increasingly real, especially after Putin's intention to make China his main economic partner. "Trade and economic cooperation is a priority in Russia-China relations," Putin said, noting that he hoped that by 2023 exchanges would "surpass the threshold" of $200 billion, a new record. 


Moreover, Russia has already agreed to do all these transactions in yuan, the Chinese currency, rather than the US dollar. On Xi Jinping's visit to Russia, Putin reiterated his commitment to the de-dollarisation of the economy by demonstrating the "use of the yuan in exchanges between Russia and countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America". 

Putin also stressed the importance of building more rail infrastructure between Russia and China and even invited Chinese multinationals to bid for the market abandoned by 120 Western companies after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Succulent arrangements that accelerate Russia's dependence on Beijing, which has only just begun. Putin is expected to visit China later this year following a formal invitation from Xi Jinping. 

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