Live Updates: Xi Arrives in Moscow for State Visit to Highlight China’s Ties to Russia

WASHINGTON — When Xi Jinping, China’s leader, met President Vladimir V. Putin in Moscow this week, Chinese officials shaped his trip as a peace missiona place where he will seek to “play a constructive role in advancing negotiations” between Russia and Ukraine, as a government spokesman in Beijing has said.

But American and European officials are watching for something else entirely — whether Xi will add fuel to the all-out war Putin started more than a year ago.

US officials say China is still considering supplying weapons – mainly artillery shells – to Russia for use in Ukraine. And even Xi’s call for a ceasefire would be an attempt to bolster Putin’s battlefield position, they say, by leaving Russia in control of more territory than when the invasion began.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House, said on Friday that a ceasefire would now be “effective ratification of the Russian conquest”. “In fact, it will recognize Russia’s interests and attempt to conquer its neighbor’s territory by force, allowing the Russian military to continue its occupation of sovereign Ukrainian territory.”

“It will be a classic part of the Chinese play,” he added, as Chinese officials walked out of the meeting and declared, “we are the ones calling for an end to the fighting, no one else.” .”

Mr. Xi landed at around 12:59 p.m. Monday at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, a Russian state news agency reported. A military band greeted him on the tarmac before he accompanied the convoy to lunch and then afternoon talks with Putin at the Kremlin. In an article published in a Russian newspaper on Sunday, Mr. Xi wrote that China had pursued “efforts to promote reconciliation and peace negotiations”.

Skepticism about one of Xi’s stated goals pervades thoughts in Washington and several European capitals. US intelligence agencies have concluded that relations between China and Russia dug deep in the wareven as Russia was isolated from many other countries.

The two countries continue to do joint military exercises, and Beijing has joined Moscow in frequently condemning the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. China remains one of Russia’s biggest oil buyers, which helped Moscow finance its invasion.

Chinese officials did not condemn the invasion. Instead, they have speak vaguely that all states must respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They worked with Russian diplomats to blocking international declarations condemning warincluding at the Group of 20 meetings in India in February and March.

While some Chinese officials see Putin’s war as destabilizing, they recognize a larger foreign policy priority: the need to support Russia so that the two nations can come up with a front. united against their perceived enemy as the United States.

Mr. Xi made his position clear when he said earlier this month at an annual political meeting in Beijing that “Western countries led by the United States have comprehensively implemented the containment, encirclement, and suppression of China, which has brought serious challenges yet.” ever had for the development of our country.”

But China remains firmly established in the global economy, and Xi and his aides want to avoid being seen as bad actors on the world stage, especially in the eyes of Europe, a major trading partner. . Some analysts have suggested that Mr. Xi has disguised himself as a peacemaker, claiming that he is on a mission to end the war to cover up efforts to strengthen a partnership with Mr. Putin, who issued by the International Criminal Court on Friday. officially charged committed a war crime on an arrest warrant.

Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have a strong personal relationships and, as of this week’s state visit, have met 40 times since Mr. Xi became China’s leader in 2012. Mr. Putin referred to Mr. Xi as “dear old friend” in an article published in a Chinese newspaper on Sunday, said the two enjoy “the warmest relationship”.

Last month, China published a 12-point statement about broad principle Some analysts see the war as an attempt to create a neutral smokescreen during Xi’s trip planning.

“I think China is trying to smear the picture, to say that we are not there to assist,” said Yun Sun, a scholar on Chinese foreign policy at the Stimson Center in Washington. Russia, we are there to support peace.”

“China has an internal need to maintain or protect the soundness of its relationship with Russia,” she said, adding that a senior Chinese official had told her that the U.S. politics and intransigence are driving Beijing’s approach to the relationship — not love of Russia.

Ms. Sun said China’s recent mediation on an initial diplomatic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran has promoted the notion of China as a peacemaker. But that situation is radically different from the Ukraine war – the two Middle Eastern nations have been negotiating for years to try to restart formal diplomacy, and China has entered the picture as both sides reach an agreement. agreed upon. China is not a close partner of either country and has a very specific economic interest in preventing an escalation of hostilities — China buys large amounts of oil from both.

When Putin visited Xi in Beijing shortly before the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022, their government proclaimed the partnership “unlimited” in a 5,000-word statement. The two met again last September at a security conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Mr. Xi has not spoken to Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, since the war began, with little question asked about his views on the peace talks.

Mr. Zelensky has said that he will only participate in peace talks if Putin withdraws troops from Ukrainian territory. That includes the Crimean Peninsula, which Russian troops seized in 2014, and the Donbas region, where that same year Russian troops instigated a pro-Russian separatist insurgency.

Zelensky has said he welcomes the opportunity to speak with Xi, and some Ukrainian officials hope that China will eventually use its leverage over Russia to get Putin to withdraw. But China has not indicated it will make any such move.

On Thursday, Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, spoke by phone with Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, and stressed that the warring parties should “resume peace talks” and “return to a return.” political settlement path,” according to One Chinese summary of the conversation.

In an interview with the BBC before Xi’s visit was announced, Mr Kuleba said he believed China was not ready to arm Russia nor bring peace. “The visit to Moscow is a message in itself, but I don’t think it will have any immediate consequences,” he said.

Analysts in Washington concurred. Ryan Hass, a former US diplomat in China and a White House official, said: “I don’t think China can serve as the fulcrum that any Ukrainian peace process can advance. . a scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Hass added that China would act as part of the signing or guarantor group for any eventual peace deal and would be crucial to Ukraine’s reconstruction. “I believe Zelensky understands this, which is why he is willing to be patient with China and with Xi personally,” he said.

European officials have different attitudes toward China, and some prioritize maintaining trade relations with Beijing. But China’s alignment with Russia during the war was foster growing suspicion and hostility in many parts of Europe. On Friday, some officials reacted cautiously to the announcement of Mr. Xi’s trip to Moscow – they saw it as another sign of China’s friendship if not its alliance with Russia. , as well as China’s attempt to present itself as a mediator in the war. .

Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, stressed the need for peace talks at the Munich Security Conference late last month before stopping in Moscow. He uses language that seems aimed at separating the countries of Europe from the United States.

“We need to think calmly, especially among our friends in Europe, about the efforts that need to be made to prevent war; what framework should be in place to bring lasting peace to Europe; What role should Europe play to demonstrate its strategic autonomy,” he said.

He said that Washington wants the war to continue to weaken Russia. “Some forces may not want to see peace talks come to fruition,” he said. “They don’t care about the life or death of Ukrainians or the harm to Europe. They may have larger strategic goals than Ukraine itself. This war must not continue.”

But China’s 12-point claim has not been approved in Europe. And many European officials, like their Ukrainian and American counterparts, are convinced that early negotiations on a peaceful solution will come at the expense of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said China’s position was neutral.

“It’s not a peace plan, it’s the principles they shared,” she said of the Chinese statement. “You have to see them in a specific context. And that’s the context in which China took a side, for example by signing an unlimited friendship right before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.”

China’s frequent accusations of NATO angered European officials. In its position document, China said “the security of a region should not be achieved by consolidating or expanding military blocs” – a statement that backs Putin’s claim that he must invade. Ukraine because of threats including NATO expansion.

Spokesperson Nabila Massrali said China’s position “is built on a misplaced focus on the so-called ‘legitimate security concerns and interests’ of the parties, implying justification for illegal Russian aggression and overshadowing the role of aggressor and aggressor.” foreign affairs and security policy in the European Union.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, put it more simply: “China doesn’t have much credibility,” especially because “it failed to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Edward King reports from Washington, and Steven Erlanger from Brussels. Julian E. Barnes Contribution report from Washington.


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