Putin and Xi: what does this partnership portend?

China's President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to Moscow came to an end on Wednesday. During the meeting, Putin and Xi discussed China's twelve-point plan for Ukraine, which Russia's president praised as the basis for a peaceful solution. Xi had previously said China would continue to work with Russia in the name of "true multilateralism". Europe's press takes stock.

Open/close all quotes
24 Chasa (BG) /

Beijing unwilling to commit to anything

China is pursuing its own interests in Russia with cold ruthlessness, 24 Chasa observes:

“The Russians expected Beijing to commit to building the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, but nothing of the sort has happened. China just wants to buy with heavy discounts without making commitments. We see China's strategy in other countries: it gives loans with rather harsh conditions, then a large number of African countries part with strategic assets because they can't repay them. Whether Russia will reach this point is difficult to predict, but it cannot be ruled out.”

Jinov Svet (SI) /

The Far East lures, the West repels

The West is pushing many countries into China's arms, Sašo Ornik criticises on his blog Jinov Svet:

“It is clear that Russia will choose China as an ally and not the collective West, where politicians and journalists are seething with hatred of everything Russian. After all, even Russian athletes are being prevented from participating in sporting events. Surely, for the average Westerner it cannot be pleasant to realise that China is a better choice than the West. But of course this is not only the case in Russia, but throughout most of the world. Only an incredible blindness prevents us from asking why this is so. Here's a hint: it's not the fault of Chinese propaganda.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Course of the war decisive for cooperation

The Beijing-Moscow axis and events on the battlefield are interdependent, Jyllands-Posten comments:

“The decisive question for now will be whether China really starts supplying Russia with weapons in the war against Ukraine or whether it maintains its neutrality in the conflict. The more the front in eastern Ukraine remains frozen and the longer the anticipated Russian offensive is delayed, the easier it will be for Beijing to reconsider its hitherto favourable attitude towards Moscow. This relationship will also be determined by the developments on the battlefield.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Two autocrats aiming to upend world order

China's peace plan is not worth the paper it is written on now, El Mundo concludes:

“Xi's backing for Putin invalidates the supposed peace plan in which Beijing defended Ukraine's territorial integrity under the pretense of equidistance, without attributing aggression to Moscow. The Chinese leader has not contacted the Ukrainian president and his brisk trade with a Russia isolated by sanctions is serving him well. ... Xi's visit also strengthened the dangerous political and economic alliance between two autocracies united by a desire to overturn the world order. ... A partnership against which the Western allies are rearming, as the symbolic surprise visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Kyiv has proven.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Peace plan has lost its credibility

De Volkskrant also sees China's diplomatic efforts as having failed:

“China's attempts to play the role of 'peacemaker' failed to gain credibility during Xi's visit to Moscow. The bigger question remains whether or not China will supply weapons to Russia. That would make Putin's war of aggression even more a part of a global showdown. And also confirm Russia's decline to the status of a vassal of China.”

24tv.ua (UA) /

China can't offset Russia's export losses

Russia will suffer under the West's sanctions even if China does buy more Russian products in the future, political analyst Alexander Kochetkov surmises on 24tv.ua:

“China and Russia want to expand their economic and strategic partnership. ... However, the [Russian] would-be empire can only supply China with energy - 30 to 50 billion cubic metres of gas a year, with a 50 to 70 percent discount. In the past, the would-be empire supplied 150 billion cubic metres to Europe at market price. In the next few years that amount will be reduced to 20 billion cubic metres. This means that true compensation for the lost European market is not in sight.”

Politiken (DK) /

West must summon all its strength again

Politiken draws parallels with Chairman Mao's visit to Moscow during the Cold War:

“The message from Moscow this week was that the world is once again divided into two ideological blocs. ... When Mao spoke in Moscow in 1957, the West was plagued by self-doubt about its own abilities and strength. The Soviet Union had just sent Sputnik into space as a first satellite, and the West's supremacy seemed fragile. So it is today, when China is booming technologically and threatening to overtake the West. But Mao was wrong. The West summoned the strength to meet the challenge posed by China and the Soviet Union. We have it this time too - even if the struggle for our values could be a long one again.”

Vladimir Fesenko (UA) /

China does not want confrontation

So far Xi's visit hasn't produced any momentous results, political scientist Volodymyr Fessenko writes on his Facebook page:

“This applies both to the Chinese appeals for peace and to the fears of some commentators (or hopes on the Russian side) that Moscow and Beijing will form a military alliance against the West and that the Russian army will receive Chinese weapons and ammunition. It is significant that the leaders of Russia and China have issued a joint statement emphasising that their relations are not a military-political alliance, do not have a bloc or confrontational character and are not directed against third countries. I am convinced that this was done at the insistence of the Chinese side.”

The Times (GB) /

Plan to isolate Russia has failed

Xi's visit to Moscow is a major blow to the West, The Times comments:

“With the cementing of their informal alliance in Moscow this week, China and Russia have set themselves in clear opposition to the western model. And there is no guarantee that the 'global south' of non-aligned states will take the West's side. ... The visit, Mr Xi's first since the invasion, is a challenge to the West, which has sought to isolate Mr Putin and paint Russia as a rogue state. Not wishing to share in this pariah status, and anxious not to engage in a sanctions war with the US and the European Union, Mr Xi has been careful to cast himself as peacemaker. But his twelve-point peace plan for Ukraine, trumpeted during the visit, was silent on a Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.”

Pravda (SK) /

An unpredictable alliance

China protects its own interests first, says Pravda:

“Although they both smile at each other today, the relationship between the Chinese emperor and the Russian tsar could still take unpredictable paths. True, fears are growing that China will send weapons to Russia. But it is not in Beijing's interest to be drawn into the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. To put it cynically: Beijing basically doesn't care whether the Russian or Ukrainian flag flies over Mariupol. From its point of view, it is crucial that the continuous supply of cheap Russian oil and other raw materials is ensured. And since trade between Moscow and Beijing is growing, Xi can be satisfied.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Putin becoming Beijing's Lukashenka

Radio Kommersant FM sees a significant decline in Moscow's global status:

“Russia finds itself increasingly tied to its most powerful partner in Asia. In many respects, it is effectively becoming a commodity appendage, and in political terms a junior partner. Of course, Chinese politicians and diplomats have enough acumen, finesse and tact not to stress this too much. ... Slowly but surely, Moscow is becoming for Beijing roughly what Alexander Lukashenka's Belarus has become for Moscow. Not a pleasant observation for a country that is used to considering itself a great power. But if we compare the economic indicators of Beijing and Moscow and consider the Kremlin's partial international isolation, it comes as no great surprise.”

Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

The art of diplomacy needed

For the Salzburger Nachrichten Xi is definitely in a position to bring Russia to the negotiating table:

“China may not be able to pull the plug on Russia's war of aggression. But a stop signal would not fail to have an impact. After all, Russia is in effect economically dependent on China. Xi can persuade Putin to negotiate, just as the West could do with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the end, it's all a question of goals. And they don't quite match up (yet). From Beijing's perspective, Putin needn't be brought down over a failure. The West wants to prevent the war from being profitable for Russia. The art of diplomacy is need to reconcile these two approaches.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Xi won't dump Putin

De Standaard explains Beijing's motives:

“China is feeling the consequences of the conflict. Commodity prices have risen, grain has become expensive and the sanctions are disrupting efforts to bring Chinese goods to the West via Russia. ... But China won't dump Putin. It would be particularly bad for Xi if Ukraine were to win this war with the help of the West. In the new world order, the dominant role of the US and its allies in Europe would be cemented. Their Western values, which China does not share, would triumph. Russia might break apart after a defeat.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

A bad sign

Eesti Päevaleht takes a sombre view of Xi's conduct:

“Xi's broader calculation includes growing confrontation with Washington over Taiwan and a desire to break the unity of the West. On the other side of the equation, however, are mutual trade relations. Regardless of how the visit is viewed by the public, the very fact that it is taking place at all is a bad sign. China is demonstratively showing that it will not hesitate to flex its muscles on the world stage. Democratic countries, however, have virtually nothing to gain from a show of force by an autocratic state.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

An attempted show of strength

Russia needs China more than China needs Russia, notes El Periódico de Catalunya:

“The arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin was followed by two events of great relevance in countering the Russian president's image of isolation: his visit to Mariupol and yesterday's meeting with Xi Jinping. Putin needed to underline his freedom of movement and at the same time highlight the dimensions of his strategic alliance with China. ... President Xi can pursue his plan of economic expansion in the Global South on his own, while Russia needs China as a crutch and international mediator willing to keep business separate from the Ukraine crisis.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Cooperation as a threat

The meeting shows just how absurd it was to think that China could mediate in the Ukraine war, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“Once again, to make it clear to everyone: ... In Moscow, a suspected war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Court and the dictator of a country that was accused of crimes against humanity in a United Nations report last summer are sitting together amicably. And the two of them are negotiating the next steps on the road to a new world order. China will 'work with Russia', Xi said after landing in Moscow, to 'protect the international system, the international order'. Anyone who thinks this sounds like a threat can be forgiven for doing so.”

Echo (RU) /

Russia is already submitting verbally

In a Telegram post republished by Echo, journalist Stanislav Kucher marvels over the thesis put forward by Russian propagandists that Russia would be better off as "a vassal of China than of the US":

“The option of an independent and autonomous Russia no longer even seems to be considered by the 'Kremlin strategists'. ... In all the years of Putinism, this is the first time that I have seen such an apologetic defence of Russia's obviously tarnished global political role. Only yesterday all these 'political scientists' were shooting their mouths off about how 'the Russian world' was dictating a new agenda to humanity and 'Ukraine is obeying the Americans'. Today they are pretty much calling for submission to China.”