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3 takeaways from the latest Putin-Xi meeting

·Contributor
·3 min read

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met earlier this week in Uzbekistan to discuss their budding geopolitical alliance.

The conversation, held on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, marked the first in-person meeting between the leaders since Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine seven months ago.

Although Xi and Putin said the countries' friendship had "no limits" in February, remarks from the leaders on Thursday suggested Putin hasn't been able to garner as much military support from Beijing as he had hoped.

Here are three notable developments that came from the meeting:

Putin conceded that China has concerns about Russia's war with Ukraine

On Thursday, Putin stated publicly that Xi has "questions and concerns" about Russia's war with Ukraine, the New York Times reported. For his part, Xi didn't even utter the word 'Ukraine' in his public remarks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. (Sergei Bobylev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. (Sergei Bobylev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Putin's acknowledgment comes as Russia has struggled to find global backing for its war and as Ukraine's armed forces have gained momentum in recent weeks.

Putin placated Xi by backing Beijing's military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, which have upended the long-standing international status quo for Taiwan.

At the same time, the U.S. has accused Russia of seeking drones from Iran and rockets from North Korea to use in the war against Ukraine. Iran is currently taking steps to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian security pact dominated by Russia and China.

Russia, China vow to strengthen alliance

Despite the Chinese leader's purported concerns over the war, Russian state media outlet TASS Russian News Agency reported that Xi told Putin he was ready to work with Russia in a more concrete way to lead the world in sustainable development.

According to TASS, the Chinese leader told Putin: "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."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, flanked by General Staff chief, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, right, and Defense Minister Sergei Shogu, left, attend the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) military exercise in fareastern Russia, outside Vladivostok, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. The weeklong exercise that began Thursday is intended to showcase growing defense ties between Russia and China and also demonstrate that Moscow has enough troops and equipment to conduct the massive drills even as its troops are engaged in military action in Ukraine. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, flanked by General Staff chief, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, right, and Defense Minister Sergei Shogu, left, attend the Vostok 2022 (East 2022) military exercise in fareastern Russia, outside Vladivostok, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

China is profiting from Russia's war with Ukraine

Chinese goods and oil have flooded the Russian market ever since Russia began its invasion.

After American and European sanctions sought to isolate Russia, Beijing stepped in to fill the gap in the Russian market. In August, Chinese shipments to Russia rose by 25.6% year over year, up from 22.2% in July, Reuters reported.

China has particularly had Russia's back in the energy sector. According to Reuters, Russia was China's top oil supplier all summer, with China importing 17% more Russian crude oil between April and July this year compared to the same time period a year ago.

Kevin Cirilli is a visiting media at the Atlantic Council's Global China Hub and the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

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