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    Putin Arrives in China: Strengthening Ties with Xi Jinping

    Old friend

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China for a two-day state visit aimed at further strengthening the relationship between the two countries, which has grown closer since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over two years ago.

    The visit coincides with Russia’s recent offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region and its claims of progress along the extensive 1,000km (600-mile) front line, where Ukrainian forces have faced delays in receiving weapons and ammunition from the United States.

    Upon arrival, Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands outside the Great Hall of the People, with a backdrop of steps and smiles from both leaders. China hosted a lavish welcoming ceremony, including anthems, a gun salute, and a review of troops as children cheered and jumped, marking a half-hour event in the vast square.

    During their meeting, Xi referred to Putin as an “old friend” and highlighted the endurance and strategic nature of their relationship, built over more than 40 meetings in the past decade. According to state news agency Xinhua, Xi expressed China’s readiness to work with Russia as a good neighbor, friend, and partner. Discussions were expected to continue informally over tea and a walk in the park, as reported by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

    Just before Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the two leaders had declared a “no limits” partnership. In March 2023, Xi’s visit to Moscow heralded a “new era” in their bilateral relations, while in Putin’s last visit to Beijing in October, Xi spoke of the “deep friendship” between them.

    Putin arrived in Beijing early Thursday morning, his first foreign trip since starting his fifth term as president. He emphasized that his choice of China for his initial visit underscored the “unprecedentedly high level of the strategic partnership” and his close friendship with Xi. Putin stated intentions to boost cooperation in industries such as high technology, space, peaceful nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and other innovative sectors, as reported to Xinhua.

    The two leaders will participate in a gala celebrating 75 years since the Soviet Union recognized the People’s Republic of China. Putin is also scheduled to visit Harbin, a city in northeastern China with strong Russian ties.

    In an interview with Xinhua, Putin endorsed a 12-point peace plan for Ukraine proposed by Beijing, suggesting it could serve as a basis for discussions. He reiterated Russia’s position that any negotiations must consider the interests of all involved countries, including Russia’s.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has maintained that any negotiations must involve restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of prisoners, accountability for aggression, and security guarantees for Ukraine. A peace summit in Switzerland is planned for next June, based on Kyiv’s framework, with over 50 delegations expected, though Russia is not invited.

    While China claims neutrality in the conflict, it has not condemned Russia’s invasion. The Kremlin announced that during this visit, Putin and Xi would extensively discuss the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between their countries and outline new directions for future development.

    Russia and China are determined to reshape the international order according to their vision. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized the “major balancing role” both countries play in global affairs, stating that Putin’s visit would enhance joint efforts.

    Russia and China, both veto-holding members of the United Nations Security Council, have deepened their ties, especially in energy and military cooperation, amid Western sanctions. Their military collaboration includes joint exercises and training in each other’s territories.

    China has also increased military activities around Taiwan, anticipating the inauguration of President-elect William Lai Ching-te on May 20. China regards Taiwan as a part of its territory and has not ruled out using force to achieve reunification.

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