Will China and Russia team up?

The presidents of Russia and China have met face-to-face for the first time since Russia's fullscale invasion of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping held talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Uzbekistan. Putin thanked Xi for China's "balanced position" and Xi said China wanted to bring "stability to a chaotic world". Commentators analyse the deeper meaning of their words.

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La Stampa (IT) /

A binding common enemy

According to La Stampa, the two leaders get along famously:

“Both see the West, with its democratic enticements, as plagued by confusion, chaos and weakness - and above all as a mortal danger. For both, the temptation to westernise is an absolute evil. ... That is why they want to swiftly erase the identities of the Ukrainians, who want to put great mother Russia behind them, and of the restless Uighurs, Chechens, Tibetans and citizens of Hong Kong, all infected by democratic colonialism. They are to be re-educated, like in the good old days of Uncle Joe Stalin and the Great Helmsman Mao.”

The Economist (GB) /

A long game for Beijing

The Economist explains why Xi will not distance himself from Putin:

“That world-view is based on a shared hostility to American-led alliances in Asia and Europe; scorn for Western multi-party democracy; and calls for a security order that heeds the 'legitimate security interests' of sovereign states. ... Mr Putin has time to redeem himself in China's eyes. For Chinese interests to be advanced, Russia does not need to achieve all its war aims, let alone to control this or that Ukrainian oblast. China's cold-eyed priority is for the American-led West to end up divided and weakened. China views this as a long game.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

China has other interests

China won't risk officially closing ranks with Russia, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is convinced:

“In fact, the Chinese position is characterised by efforts not to be drawn into the vortex of Western sanctions. Xi is facing a difficult economic situation in his country (partly through his own fault), and he won't want to risk a breakup with his trading partners in Europe and America. For all the rhetorical solidarity, Putin's example is likely to have more of a deterrent effect in Beijing. A country putting practically its only source of income at risk for the sake of a nonsensical war can hardly be what Xi means by 'stability and positive energy in a chaotic world'.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

Good reasons for a certain distance between the two

La Vanguardia suspects that Putin asked China for help, but says that Xi is unlikely to give it, for several reasons:

“China's trade relations with the US and Europe are far more lucrative than those with Russia, and Beijing does not want to damage them. ... In addition, China and Russia are both striving to expand their influence in certain Central Asian countries, which could lead to disagreements - also regarding the real power of the two countries, which is certainly not identical. ... A relationship between Moscow and Beijing does exist, but it is not between equals and nor is it without limits.”

De Standaard (BE) /

The perfect vassal state

China can easily expand its influence in Russia, De Standaard believes:

“In Russia, China has found an ideal source of cheap energy and raw materials. It is rapidly filling the vacuum left by European companies and becoming stronger as a result. ... Desperate Russia is the perfect vassal state for China. It must beg, but can offer or demand little itself.”

Postimees (EE) /

Prevent cooperation

The West would be well advised to try to prevent deeper cooperation between China and Russia, Postimees advises:

“Although the US is China's main rival and the Chinese reject Nato's support for Ukraine, they understand that they will come out looking like the losers if they support Russia and thus isolate themselves from the Western economy. Doubts may also increasingly arise in China as to whether it makes sense to strengthen cooperation with Russia, the loser in this conflict. It is in the interest of the West, including Ukraine of course, to ensure that cooperation between Russia and China is not expanded.”