ACCORDING TO RUSSIAN reports, President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, will meet for discussions during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand next week.
It will be their first in-person meeting since Putin attended the Beijing Winter Olympics in January ahead of his invasion of Ukraine.
The summit will also be the SCO’s first in-person get-together since before the pandemic. Russia’s ambassador to Beijing, Andrey Denisov, told the TASS news agency that:
I do not want to say that online summits are not full-fledged, but still, direct communication between leaders is a different quality of discussion. One way or another, there will be plenary sessions and various kinds of group meetings, and we are planning a serious, full-fledged meeting of our leaders with a detailed agenda, which we are now, in fact, working on with our Chinese partners.
By lighting on the SCO for his first official trip outside China in more than two years, Xi can avoid making it a direct visit to Russia while still making Putin the first important foreign leader he meets. He will also be able to signal the shifting geopolitical balances between East and West and offer a counterpoint in the SCO to the collation of like-minded democracies that the United States is orchestrating, with more success than Beijing might have expected.
Over the next ten days, we can expect a barrage of coordinated commentary from Chinese and Russian state media about the growing need for Moscow and Beijing to cooperate to safeguard and reform the international order against Washington’s efforts to reshape it to preserve its hegemony.
We can also expect a sub-narrative intended for domestic Chinese consumption on the ineffectiveness of Western economic sanctions. Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and China’s third most senior leader, set the tone when he spoke at the Seventh Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Wednesday. Li claimed that the harsh sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western countries had not defeated Russia’s economy and praised its ‘stability and resilence’, which he attributed to Putin’s leadership.