Xi in Moscow
Moscow/Beijing/Washington: In a snub to the US and its allies, Russia and China consolidated their relationship with a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow today. His visit follows his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s surprise visits to Crimea and the city of Mariupol in Donetsk Oblast- the two Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine – over the weekend, in defiance of a warrant for his arrest in the context of the situation in Ukraine which was issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court on March 17, 2023. The Court ruled there were reasonable grounds to believe that Putin along with another suspect Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova (Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation) bear responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of the population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.
A defiant Putin accompanied by Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev and others toured an educational cluster consisting of the Korsun children’s centre, a branch of Artek centre, and a children’s arts centre opened on the park’s territory in Sevastopol – the largest city in Crimea and a major port on the Black Sea on March 18, 2023, on the day of Crimea and Sevastopol’s “Reunification” with Russia.
Prior to his departure from Beijing today, Xi stated: “Over the years, I have maintained a close working relationship with President Putin…It is important that we increase mutual trust and bring out the potential of bilateral cooperation to keep China-Russia relations at a high level.”
In Washington, United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, minced no words telling media persons, “That President Xi is travelling to Russia days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Putin suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed in Ukraine, and instead of even condemning them, it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes”.
The Chinese foreign ministry though advised the ICC to “take an objective and just position, respect the jurisdictional immunity of a head of state under international law, prudently exercise its mandate in accordance with the law, interpret and apply international law in good faith, and not engage in politicization or using double standards”.
Xi’s visit also coincides with the American allegation that rounds of Chinese ammunition were fired by Russian forces on the battlefields in Ukraine. An allegation that China retorted by stressing that “it is the US, not China, that has been sending weapons to the battlefields in Ukraine”. Beijing today asked the US to “stop fueling the fight with more weaponry and fanning the flame, stop pointing fingers at other countries or seeking to coerce and intimidate them, and play a constructive role in the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, rather than the opposite”.
Xi noted an “all-round escalation” of the Ukraine crisis since last year, and referred to the recently released report – China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis – which he said takes into account the legitimate concerns of all parties and reflects the broadest common understanding of the international community on the crisis. “There is no simple solution to a complex issue. We believe that as long as all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, and pursue equal-footed, rational and results-oriented dialogue and consultation, they will find a reasonable way to resolve the crisis as well as a broad path toward a world of lasting peace and common security,” he said.
Pointing out that Xi is meeting Putin throughout this week, Blinken said, “We expect that China may use this visit to reiterate calls for a ceasefire under its peace proposal…The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia – supported by China or any other country – to freeze the war on its own terms. Such a move would violate the UN Charter and defy the will of the 141 countries who have condemned Russia’s war in the United Nations General Assembly”. Blinken also made it clear that Ukraine had already put forward a just peace formula. “If China is committed to supporting an end to the war based on the principles of the UN Charter as called for in point one of its plan, it can engage with President [Volodymyr]Zelenskyy and Ukraine on this basis and use its influence to compel Moscow to pull back its forces,” he stressed.
Welcoming Xi in Kremlin, Putin told the Chinese President: “You personally and all of our Chinese friends devote much attention to Russian-Chinese relations, taking a fair and balanced stance on the majority of topical international issues. Overall, our interaction in the international arena is promoting the fundamental principles of international order and multipolarity. There are lots of economic cooperation issues.”
Putin also told the Chinese President that he had “carefully studied” his proposals on resolving the “acute” Ukraine crisis and that both will discuss this matter. “We know that you are guided by the principles of justice and respect for the fundamental provisions of international law and indivisible security for all countries. You are aware as well that we remain open to negotiations. We will, of course, discuss these issues, including your initiatives, which we certainly respect,” he told Xi.
Earlier, Xi said he looked forward to working with President Putin to jointly adopt a new vision, a new blueprint and new measures for the growth of a China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in the years to come. He recounted that over the years, he and Putin met 40 times on bilateral and international occasions and that over the past decade, he made eight visits to Russia. “I came each time with high expectations and returned with fruitful results, opening a new chapter for China-Russia relations together with President Putin,” he stated.
Xi left Beijing today morning by a special plane to pay a state visit to Russia at the invitation of President Putin and arrived in Moscow by around 13:00 local time, where he was greeted by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and other senior Russian officials by the ramp amidst a grand welcoming ceremony at the airport.
In his arrival statement, Xi stressed that China and Russia have consolidated and grown the bilateral relationship on the basis of no alliance, no confrontation and no targeting of any third party and set a fine example for developing a new model of major-country relations. “The growth of China-Russia relations has not only brought tangible benefits to the people of our two countries but also made important contributions to the development and progress of the world,” he said. President Xi noted that both being major countries in the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia play important roles in international affairs. He described his visit to Russia as a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace.
“In a world of volatility and transformation, China will continue to work with Russia to safeguard the international system with the UN at its core, the international order underpinned by international law, and the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China will work with Russia to uphold true multilateralism, promote a multi-polar world and greater democracy in international relations, and help make global governance more just and equitable,” he said.
Xi and Putin also noted that the China-Russia trade exceeded US$190 billion last year, up by 116 per cent from ten years ago.
Putin referred to China’s “colossal leap forward in its development in recent years. “It has been the object of sincere interest around the entire world, and we are even a bit envious of you,” he told Xi. Putin further noted that China had created quite an effective system to develop the economy and strengthen the state. “It is much more effective than what many other countries have, which is an undeniable fact. Market mechanisms go hand in hand with a quite confident policy programme and yield tangible results,” the Russian President said.
China has been Russia’s largest trading partner for 13 years running. “We have seen a steady increase in our two-way investment,” Xi said and claimed that their cooperation on major projects in such fields as energy, aviation, space and connectivity “is moving forward steadily”. He further noted that their collaboration in scientific and technological innovation, cross-border e-commerce and other emerging areas “is showing a strong momentum”.
The Chinese delegation members included: Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee Cai Qi, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.