BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping is using his first foreign trip since the start of the pandemic to promote China’s strategic ambitions at a summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and other leaders of a Central Asian security group.
The Chinese leader is pushing a “Global Security Initiative” announced in April following the formation of the Quad by Washington, Japan, Australia and India in response to Beijing’s more assertive attitude foreign policy. Xi has provided few details, but US officials complain that she is echoing Russian arguments in support of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
Xi, 69, is due to meet Putin in Uzbekistan this week at a summit of the eight-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
“China and Russia share the same stance in opposing the Western practice of imposing sanctions and toppling regimes in other countries,” said Li Xin, director of the Institute of European and Asian Studies at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
Putin and Xi will hold a one-on-one meeting on Thursday and discuss Ukraine ahead of the security summit the following day, the Russian president’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow.
“The issue will be thoroughly discussed during the meeting,” Ushakov said.
Xi’s trip at a time when his government is urging the Chinese public to avoid foreign travel under its “zero COVID” strategy underscores the importance to the ruling Communist Party of affirm China’s role as a regional leader.
The summit takes Xi abroad as the party prepares for a congress in October at which he is expected to break with political tradition and seek a third five-year term as leader.
That suggests Xi, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s, is confident he doesn’t need to stay home to make political deals. He could also help promote his standing among nationalists in the ruling party.
Beijing-Moscow relations were cool during the Soviet era, but the two sides have developed political and trade ties since the late 1990s. They have few common interests but are motivated by shared frustration with American dominance in global affairs. and Chinese demand for Russian oil and gas.
the xi government refused to criticize Putin’s attack about Ukraine. He accuses the United States of provoking the conflict.
“China has taken a well-balanced approach to the Ukraine crisis, clearly expressing its understanding of the reasons that led Russia to launch the special military operation,” said Ushakov, Putin’s adviser.
Xi declared that the two governments had a “boundless” friendship when the Russian leader attended the Winter Olympics in Beijing ahead of the February 24 attack on Ukraine.
The two governments have no alliance and have different interests in Europe, said Wang Yiwei, an international relations expert at Renmin University in Beijing. He said the “unlimited” language is intended to give them leverage in dealing with the West on Taiwan and other issues.
“This is a deterrent,” Wang said. He said China wants an independent foreign policy: “If we put China and Russia too close, it’s not necessarily good for China.”
Russia voiced support for Beijing amid tension with the United States after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, the autonomous democratic island claimed by the Communist Party as part of its territory.
China sent 2,000 soldiers and three warships to take part in a military exercise this month in the Russian Far East, Vostok 2022.
En route to Uzbekistan, Xi was due to pay a one-day visit to Kazakhstan, another Chinese oil and gas supplier, on Wednesday to meet with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
The two sides are likely to discuss “turbulence in the global economy” and “the future of energy markets,” Kazakhstan Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko said.
Pope Francis will be in Kazakhstan at the same time as Xi, but there was no indication that they might meet. On board his flight, the Pope was asked about a possible meeting and replied: “I have no news about this. But I am always ready to go to China.”
Xi has participated in other global meetings by video link. Her only trip outside mainland China since the beginning of 2020 was a one day visit to hong kong to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the end of British colonial rule.
Other SCO governments are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Iran and Afghanistan are observers.
“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is attracting more countries with a new principle that is completely different from that of the West in handling relations between nations,” Li said.
China sees the group, founded under Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao, as a counterweight to US alliances throughout East Asia to the Indian Ocean. Beijing has participated in multi-government military exercises, showing off its rapidly developing forces.
Relations with Washington, Europe, Japan and India are increasingly strained over complaints about trade, technology, security, Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights and territorial conflicts at sea and in the Himalayas.
In April, Xi said that the “Global Security Initiative” was aimed at “upholding the principle of indivisibility of security” and “opposing the construction of national security on the basis of insecurity in other countries.”
Despite the bland language, US officials and Asian security analysts see Xi’s move as a justification for China, with the world’s second-largest military after the United States, to dominate the region.
A State Department spokesman, Ned Price, said in April that it appeared to be “repeating something we’ve heard from the Kremlin” as justification for the attack on Ukraine.
“This is a blatant effort at China’s pursuit of Asian hegemony,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan of the Observer Research Foundation, an Indian think tank, wrote in The Diplomat. It is “designed to advance China’s interests in its great power competition with the United States.”
In a July meeting, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that China would “strengthen strategic communication” with Moscow on international security, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.
That will “show the basic thrust of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership” and “practice true multilateralism,” the ministry said.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow. AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing and AP writers Ken Moritsugu in Beijing and Kostya Manenkov in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, contributed to this report.