Strength of ‘Unlimited’ China-Russia Ties to be Tested at Summit | Porcelain

Major setbacks for the Moscow forces in Ukraine It will further test the “unlimited partnership” between China and Russia when their leaders meet this week for the first time since the invasion, analysts said.

Xi Jinping’s meeting and Vladimir Putinscheduled for Thursday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, is likely to involve a struggle for influence in Central Asia, where the two world powers have long waged a “quiet rivalry.”

The SCO summit, an annual gathering of Eurasian leaders on regional politics, economics and security, comes at a crucial time when a rising China and a weakening Russia could shift the balance of power in Central Asia in favor of Beijing.

Both leaders have also scheduled stops in Kazakhstan, where Xi first launched his foreign investment initiative marks “belt and road” in 2013. Underscoring the importance of the region, Xi’s visit will be his first international trip since the pandemic began and comes just a month before a crucial Communist Party meeting expected to cement his third term as leader.

Central Asia was “at the center of Xi’s strategies,” said Therese Fallon, director of the Center for Russia, Europe and Asia Studies. “If we think about China’s grand strategy … it’s pretty clear that they’ve been pushing west.”

Xi and Putin last met on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics, where they announced their partnership, just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian officials have said the two leaders have a “full and detailed agenda” for the talks, and some analysts said they expect Putin to seek more help from China after Russia experienced one of its worst setbacks in the war.

Beijing has struggled to balance his support for Moscow with the desire to avoid the indirect impact on its economy of the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. He has refused to condemn the invasion, instead blaming the West for ratcheting up tensions. He stopped short of providing weapons support, but reportedly provided drone parts and last week participated in joint military exercises in the Sea of ​​Japan.

On Friday, Russia claimed that Beijing’s third-highest figure had offered unprecedented endorsement of its actions in Ukraine. According to Moscow, Li Zhanshu told Russian lawmakers that China “understands and supports Russia”, particularly “in the situation in Ukraine”. The Chinese reading simply said that Beijing “will continue to work with Russia to firmly support each other” in core interests.

The strength of the global response to the invasion and Russia’s recent losses have raised difficult questions for Xi about his foreign policy acumen in aligning himself with Putin, but he will likely continue to support him, said Professor Elizabeth Wishnick, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analysis, on leave from Montclair State University.

“With Russia under pressure on the battlefield, Xi might feel compelled to express more rhetorical support for Russia, or at least provide some additional criticism of NATO and the United States,” Wishnick said.

Analysts have suggested that as Russia’s strength fades, Beijing may gain ground on key issues of trade routes and the defense of its Xinjiang regime.

Niva Yau, a senior researcher at the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, said China had a long-term goal of shifting global trade from sea-based to land-based, especially for energy trade routes “that they can cushion sanctions on China if it never comes down to a military takeover of Taiwan.” She said the summit could announce trade and transportation deals, or rebranded “belt and road” investments.

Russia had similar goals to China, Yau said, but with power waning, Putin would likely focus on ensuring that Russia was not excluded from its regional interests by China’s plans.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has disrupted Chinese overland trade routes, complicated Chinese investment in Central Asia and damaged Russia’s ability to be the dominant security presence in the region, Wishnick said. He left open the question of whether China was prepared to take on a larger security role and whether Russia and the region would accept it.

Before meeting, it was reported that Xi and Putin planned to sit down with Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a key figure in the region, particularly for China’s interests.

“What we expect from this trip is that Xi Jinping he is really trying to see what Tokayev is like as president and in terms of the fundamental principles of China,” Yau said.

Tokayev, a former diplomat who speaks Chinese and Russian, came to power in 2019 after nearly three decades of rule. by his predecessor. Analysts said that although Kazakhstan traditionally leaned towards Russia, in January asked Moscow for help stifle more protests – was also interested in China and its “deep pockets”.

Another key factor for China will be securing regional support for its rejection of global condemnation of its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan and is a Muslim-majority country. “Kazakhstan is possibly the most important country to participate in,” Yau said.

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