China and Russia are reaffirming their close ties as Moscow continues its offensive in Ukraine

BEIJING — Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday reaffirmed their “no-limits” partnership, which has deepened as both countries face rising tensions with the West, and criticized US military alliances in Asia and the Pacific.

At their summit in Beijing, Putin thanked Xi for Chinese proposals to end the war in Ukraine, which have been rejected by Ukraine and its Western supporters as largely following the Kremlin's line.

Putin's two-day state visit to one of his strongest allies and trading partners comes as Russian forces carry out an offensive in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region, the largest border incursion since the full-scale invasion began on February 24, 2022.

China claims to take a neutral position in the conflict, but backs the Kremlin's claims that Russia was provoked by the West to attack Ukraine, and continues to supply key components that Moscow needs for weapons production.

China, which has not criticized the invasion, proposed a broadly worded peace plan in 2023 calling for a ceasefire and direct talks between Moscow and Kiev. The plan was rejected by both Ukraine and the West because it failed to call on Russia to leave the occupied parts of Ukraine.

China also gave a rhetorical nod to Russia's narrative on Nazism in Ukraine, with a joint statement Thursday saying Moscow and Beijing must defend the post-World War II order and “avoid the glorification of or even attempts to promote Nazism and militarism.” to revive” should be seriously condemned.

Putin has cited the “denazification” of Ukraine as the main goal of the military action, wrongly describing the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost family members in the Holocaust, as neo-Nazis.

The largely symbolic and ceremonial visit highlighted the partnership between two countries that both face challenges in their relationships with the US and Europe.

“Both sides want to show that despite what is happening globally, despite the pressure both sides face from the US, both sides have no intention of turning their backs on each other anytime soon,” said Hoo Tiang Boon, who researches China foreign policy at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Although Putin and Xi said they were seeking an end to the war, they made no new proposals in their public comments.

“China hopes for Europe's early return to peace and stability and will continue to play a constructive role,” Xi said in prepared remarks to the media at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. His words echoed what China said when it offered a broad peace plan.

Earlier in the day, Putin was welcomed to Tiananmen Square with military pomp and cannons.

On the eve of his visit, Putin said China's proposal “could lay the foundation for a political and diplomatic process that would take into account Russia's security concerns and contribute to achieving long-term, lasting peace.”

Zelenskiy has said any negotiations must include a restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression and security guarantees for Ukraine.

Putin said he would inform Xi about the situation in Ukraine, adding: “We appreciate the initiative of our Chinese colleagues and friends to regulate the situation.”

Following Russia's latest offensive in Ukraine last week, the war has entered a critical phase as Ukraine's exhausted military awaits new deliveries of anti-aircraft missiles and artillery shells from the United States after months of delays.

The joint statement by China and Russia also extensively criticized US foreign policy, attacking the alliances formed by the US, which the statement called a “Cold War mentality.”

“Both sides have expressed serious concerns about the impact AUKUS has on the strategic stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” the statement said, referring to the acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

China and Russia also accused the US of deploying medium-range land-based missile systems in the Asia-Pacific under the pretext of joint exercises with allies. They said US actions in Asia “changed the balance of power” and “endangered the security of all countries in the region.”

The joint statement showed China's support for Russia.

“There are so many Chinese who are tripping over themselves to give Russia face and respect without saying anything specific, and without committing to anything,” said Susan Thornton, a former diplomat and senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School.

The meeting was yet another confirmation of the friendly “no borders” relationship that China and Russia signed in 2022, just before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Since then, Russia has become increasingly economically dependent on China as Western sanctions cut off access to much of the international trading system. China's increased trade with Russia, which totaled $240 billion last year, has helped the country mitigate some of the worst effects of the sanctions.

Moscow has shifted most of its energy exports to China and relied on Chinese companies to import high-tech components for Russian military industries to evade Western sanctions.

“I and President Putin agree that we should actively seek points of convergence of the interests of both countries, develop everyone's benefits and deepen the integration of interests, realizing each other's achievements,” Xi said.

Xi congratulated Putin on the start of his fifth term in office and celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the former Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, which were established after a civil war in 1949. Putin has eliminated all major political opponents and has no only encountered a problem. real challenge in the March elections. Like Xi, he has no plans for a potential successor.

“In a famous song from that time, 75 years ago – it is still performed – there is a phrase that has become a slogan: 'Russians and Chinese are brothers forever,'” Putin said.

Military ties between Russia and China strengthened during the war. They have held a series of joint war games in recent years, including naval exercises and long-range bomber patrols over the Sea of ​​Japan and the East China Sea. Russian and Chinese ground troops have also been sent to the other country's territory for joint exercises.

China remains an important market for the Russian military, while it is also vastly expanding its domestic defense industry, including the construction of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

Putin has previously said that Russia has shared highly sensitive military technologies with China, significantly strengthening its defense capabilities.

___

Wu reported from Bangkok. Yu Bing and Wanqing Chen in Beijing, Christopher Bodeen in Taipei, and Jim Heintz and Dasha Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed.

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