Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Uzbekistan where they reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their relationship and putting their mark on the “global scale.”
The two authoritarian leaders met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Thursday, in Xi’s first trip outside his country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the face of the colossal changes of our time on a global scale, unprecedented in recent history, we are ready to team up with our Russian colleagues to set an example of a responsible world power and to play a leading role in putting a rapidly changing world on the track of sustainable and positive development,” Xi told Putin, according to TASS, Russian state media.
The Chinese leader addressed Putin as his “dear and long-time friend,” and noted that, “under conditions of a global pandemic we continue to maintain effective strategic contacts, particularly through phone calls.”
Putin, in an opening speech, said that China has some “concerns” with the Russians’ war in Ukraine, a surprising acknowledgment signaling at least a small divide between the two leaders.
“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. We understand your questions and concerns in this regard,” he explained, according to CNN. “During today’s meeting, of course, we will explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have spoken about this before.”
“President Putin noted that the world is undergoing multiple changes, yet the only thing that remains unchanged is the friendship and mutual trust between Russia and China,” the readout from the Chinese Foreign Ministry reads in part. “The Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is as stable as mountains. Both Russia and China stand for a more equitable and reasonable international order, setting a fine example in international relations.”
Their meeting comes as Ukraine has launched a successful counteroperation in the eastern part of Ukraine that has resulted in the withdrawal of Russian troops from much of the Kharkiv region. The Ukrainians, since the beginning of this offensive this month, have recaptured more land from Russian forces, more than 1,800 square miles, than the Russians had conquered since the beginning of April, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
Earlier this month, the two countries were among a group involved in the Vostok 2022 military exercise that involved more than 50,000 troops and over 5,000 weapons, according to the Associated Press.
“In regards to China and Russia, certainly as evidenced by Russia’s most recent exercises and other activities, there is a relationship between China and Russia,” Pentagon spokesman Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters last week, though he couldn’t say whether Russia had sought to purchase military equipment from China the way it has from Iran and North Korea.
“In terms of what Russia may be asking of China or not, I don’t have any information to provide from the podium on that, other than to say that in an era of strategic competition, we’ll continue to keep a very close eye on Russia and China and the threats that they pose to international stability and the international rules and norms that have largely kept the world safe for the last 70-plus years, since World War II,” he added.
China and Russia released a communique prior to the war that outlined a wide range of plans for economic and diplomatic cooperation. In the time since the war began, the Chinese government has claimed to promote “peace” between Russia and Ukraine, but it has also been amplifying Russian disinformation claims of justification for the invasion.
The two leaders had most recently met in person when Putin went to China for the opening ceremony of the 2020 Winter Olympics.