THE MOST TELLING remark that President Xi Jinping made during his trip to Moscow may have been, ‘Now there are changes that haven’t happened in 100 years. When we are together, we drive these changes.’
The inevitability of the end of the American century is a recurrent theme of Xi’s, with the sometimes stated, sometimes unstated implication that China will replace the United States as the global hegemon.
Russia and China believe they share an interest in accelerating the decline of US-led Western power. Both accuse the West of responding with policies of ‘containment, encirclement and suppression’.
Xi’s state visit saw repeated assertions of his deepening friendship with his host, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. At one point, he called China and Russia ‘great neighbouring powers and comprehensive strategic partners’.
Undoubtedly, the visit strengthened formal ties between the two countries. Documents were signed on further economic cooperation and deepening the bilateral partnership.
Yet a relationship based on shared hostility to the West may be more a marriage of convenience than a deep friendship, and there are signs that the strengthening of bilateral ties is occurring in a way that makes Beijing the main beneficiary.
That is most evident in the economic relationship. China can sell Russia the goods it needs that the West has sanctioned, and as the West shuns Russian energy, China can buy it on the cheap.
Xi’s holding off on building the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline connecting the two countries, a priority for Putin, was a subtle sign of which party holds the leverage.
Any Western hopes that Xi might use his trip to broker peace in Ukraine, however slight to begin with, quickly evaporated. By the end, the message was that the West was prolonging the war by refusing to accept China’s peace plan.
Xi’s presentation of Beijing as a pragmatic peacemaker, the honest broker of world affairs, in contrast to the Washington warmonger, the flailing ideologue, will resonate with much of its intended audience, the Global South.
Yet, after Xi flew out of Moscow, leaving behind an invitation to Putin to revisit Beijing later this year, a new wave of Russian drone attacks hit Kyiv