China and Russia, which had reached an agreement before the invasion of Ukraine underlining their “boundless friendship”, began a three-day bilateral summit on Monday to publicly reaffirm their ideological and economic closeness.
Chinese President Xi Jinping chatted for more than four hours with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in an “informal” one-on-one to be followed on Tuesday by formal talks aimed at “deepen” cooperation between the two countries.
The arrival of the Chinese leader comes days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against his counterpart for his alleged role in the forcible transfer of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russian territory.
Maria Popova, a political scientist at McGill University, notes that the Russian president hopes to use the current summit to show that he is not “totally isolated” on the international scene and to obtain military support from Beijing.
“The goal is to support the Russian regime, but not too openly. It’s a question of balance,” said Ms. Popova, who disregards Beijing’s stated willingness to mediate in the Ukrainian conflict.
The Chinese regime presented a 12-point peace plan a few weeks ago which was poorly received by Western countries supporting Kyiv, led by the United States.
In particular, he advocates the adoption of a ceasefire and the lifting of unilateral economic sanctions, two measures that play into Moscow’s hands, notes Ms. Popova.
Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, thinks Beijing is a “very self-interested mediator” who wants first and foremost to ensure that the Russian regime is not defeated in Ukraine.
The announcement of a unilateral ceasefire by Moscow with the support of Beijing could increase, he said, the pressure on Kyiv, which refuses to consider peace talks as long as Russian troops remain present on his territory.
Saint-Jacques noted that the plan defended by Beijing evokes the need to respect the sovereignty of countries, but blames NATO for the crisis in Ukraine by echoing the claims of the Kremlin.
Yann Breault, a Russia specialist attached to the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, notes that the two countries are united in their opposition to the United States and want to act together to ensure the emergence of a multipolar world.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Beijing has, he says, significantly increased its purchases of Russian oil and gas, amplifying Moscow’s dependence on it while allowing it to offset the sanctions put in place by Western countries. .
However, the Xi Jinping regime has so far refused to officially supply arms to Russia, which is insistently demanding them.
Michael Allen, a political science professor attached to Boise State University in Idaho, notes that the Chinese regime has not formally ruled out this possibility and may be tempted to proceed if it feels that “Moscow does not no longer has the ability to continue the war in Ukraine or risk losing it.”
The United States sounded the alarm a few weeks ago about the possibility of the Chinese government sending arms to Russia, prompting denials from Beijing, which publicly insists on the need for a negotiated settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may have a phone conversation with Xi Jinping following the current summit.
Kyiv hopes the Chinese regime will use its influence to convince Moscow to withdraw its troops, but there is no indication that the Kremlin is considering such a scenario, Ms Popova notes.
“Russia has not reassessed its targets. She shows no will to end the war,” she said.