March 23, 2023

Putin and Xi

Vladimir Putin hosted his ‘dear friend’ Xi Jinping for dinner at the Kremlin on Monday, showing off his relationship with his most powerful ally just days after an international court called for the Russian president's arrest for war crimes in Ukraine… Xi, for his part, praised Putin and predicted Russians would re-elect him next year.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left is encouraged that Xi did not promise to provide weapons, and focuses on the limits of their relationship.

“The two-day summit between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping seemed to be, from start to finish, an escapade of pomp and circumstance, sound and fury, signifying … well, not quite nothing, but much less than many had hoped or feared…

“The [joint statement after the summit did] trace the [Ukraine] war to NATO’s expansion and the United States’ proclivity for containing and ‘encircling’ all its enemies, including Russia and China—and that is where Xi’s interests seem to lie in all this. He has tied a knot of sorts with Putin as a way of keeping the Americans focused on Europe, and thus distracted from China’s activities in East Asia… This is hardly the most solid foundation for a strategic partnership.”

Fred Kaplan, Slate

“The question of whether China would provide arms to Russia is a complex one… Such a move would tend to cut against a reputation for avoiding bold foreign policy maneuvers outside its region, and would irrevocably line it up alongside a pariah power in Moscow. The Chinese economy would likely face stiff international sanctions, at a time when it has been struggling to recreate its roaring growth rates…

“History also suggests that Beijing usually conditions its strategies purely on a ruthless calculation of its national self-interest. Its global image therefore – and an ultimate goal of creating an alternative political and diplomatic system to the Western-led global order – might be better served by posing as a peacemaker in Ukraine, rather than as Putin’s armorer in a proxy war that Russia may lose.”

Stephen Collinson, CNN

“By flirting with Putin, Xi is hoping to induce the west to cut back on its military excursions into China’s back yard… [But] Xi is not negotiating with the west from a position of strength. China’s economy is still reeling from three years of the zero-Covid policy and a real-estate crisis. It is vastly dependent on US and European trade, with the US dollar and the euro making up substantial parts of Chinese monetary reserves. Xi is not fool enough to believe Putin’s assurances of the resilience of the Russian economy…

“Having closely watched the devastating effects of sanctions on his northern neighbour over the past year, Xi is well aware that his country is not ready to pay the economic price of openly challenging the west. In the absence of a popular mandate, economic growth is the only sure political survival strategy for non-democratic leaders, and Xi is not about to jeopardise his own security to help out Putin.”

Olga Chyzh, The Guardian

From the Right

The right argues that the visit highlights the close relationship between Putin and Xi, and urges the US to push back against both.

The right argues that the visit highlights the close relationship between Putin and Xi, and urges the US to push back against both.

“Beijing’s Western sympathizers, during the nearly 13 months of Moscow’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, have repeatedly contorted themselves to explain that China was embarrassed by Russia’s conduct, China wanted to ‘separate’ itself from Russia and China was not significantly aiding Russia’s war effort. These assertions were palpably untrue…

“In reality, China is the Ukraine war’s biggest winner no matter how it ends. If Russia prevails in whole or in part, it is China’s ally that is victorious, over bitter Ukrainian resistance and substantial US and NATO assistance, thereby increasing the threat to other former constituent parts of the Soviet Union and to Western Europe generally. And if Moscow is defeated, Beijing’s ally will be even more heavily reliant on China and thus even more in its thrall. It is hard to describe a range of scenarios more to Xi’s liking.”

John Bolton, New York Post

“Sitting beside Putin, Xi observed that Russia's ‘development and prosperity have made rapid progress. I am confident that the Russian people will definitely continue to support [Putin].’…

“This is another indication of Xi's broad support for Putin's war on Ukraine and foreign policy. Were Xi to have any serious doubts about that war, he would have avoided making these remarks. Xi is not an idiot, after all. He knew his words would make heavy play in Russian state media coverage, something which now is occurring.”

Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“Beijing has set its sights on overtaking the U.S. militarily, economically and culturally. Mr. Xi is in Moscow because supporting Mr. Putin advances his dark vision. He wants Russia to conquer Ukraine so it’s easier for China to invade Taiwan. He wants Russia to threaten the rest of Europe because it draws America’s attention from Asia…

“There are many things we must do to counter China on technology, trade and intelligence. But it’s naive to think we can counter China by ignoring Russia. It’s a dangerous world, and backing away from support for Ukraine would embolden those looking to harm U.S. interests… .

“Beyond China, Iran and North Korea would see a Ukrainian loss as an invitation to evil. Israel, South Korea and Japan would be at much greater risk—and so would the American people… We need to stand strong with our friends in Kyiv, not least because their victory over Russia would have effects extending far beyond Ukraine.”

Nikki Haley, Wall Street Journal

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