Xi is touting China as a peacemaker in his first visit to Russia since the Ukraine invasion

HONG KONG — Frustrated by what it sees as the United States’ determination to thwart its rise as a global superpower, China is pressing ahead with efforts to foster a new international order with Beijing at its center.

In recent weeks, China has spoken more forcefully of the potential for conflict unless the United States changes course and scores a major diplomatic victory in the Middle East. Now its leader, Xi Jinping, is in Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, signaling Beijing’s growing embrace of its rising power on the world stage and the possibility of further deepening conflict with the United States and its allies.

Xi’s visit to Russia, his first since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last February, could be a greater show of solidarity after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on Friday, accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine. Russia, China and the United States are not members of the Court.

“I am glad to set foot on the land of our friendly neighbor Russia,” Xi said in a statement after arriving in Moscow on Monday for a three-day state visit.

Russia’s state news agency TASS, citing a Putin aide, reported that the two leaders would hold talks on Monday, followed by meetings with larger delegations on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin on Monday.Sergey Karvukhin/Sputnik via AFP – Getty Images

TASS later quoted Putin as saying that Moscow carefully reviewed Beijing’s proposals to resolve the war in Ukraine and respected China’s overtures for a peaceful settlement.

Earlier, in an article published on Sunday in the People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the ruling Communist Party of China, Putin said he had high hopes for the visit of his “good old friend” Xi, with whom he announced a “borderless” partnership weeks ago. Ukraine invasion last year. The Russian leader, who paid a defiant visit to occupied eastern Ukraine over the weekend, also welcomed China’s willingness to make a “meaningful contribution” to resolving the dispute.

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Xi followed up with an article on Monday promoting China’s peace plan for Ukraine, saying it “reflects the international community’s broadest common understanding on the crisis.” The 12-point proposal, part of China’s effort to project itself as an international peacemaker, has been rejected by the West as too pro-Russian.

Xi said his trip to Russia was aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries in a world facing “destructive acts of hegemony, domination and bullying.”

“The international community has realized that no country is superior to others, no model of governance is universal, and no single country should dictate the international system,” he said in an article for the Russian government’s daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta. According to an English translation released by Chinese state media.

Xi arrives in Moscow on Monday.Ilya Petalev/Sputnik via AP

With relations between the United States and China seemingly bogged down in a downward spiral, Xi and his top officials are sharpening their rhetoric. In a speech this month to delegates at China’s ceremonial legislature’s annual meeting, where he formally secured an unprecedented third term as president, Xi said the US was leading a campaign of “containment, encirclement and suppression” that had created “grave challenges”. For China.

China’s new foreign minister, Chen Gang, later echoed Xi’s remarks, warning that “confrontation and conflict” between the world’s two largest economies was inevitable unless Washington loosened its policies.

Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a New York-based consulting firm, said Xi’s comments were the strongest and most direct anti-American comment from any Chinese leader in decades. In making the comments himself, he said, Xi was expressing his dissatisfaction with Washington in a “very public way.”

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While President Joe Biden has a personal relationship with Xi and has emphasized the possibility of bilateral cooperation, the way US politicians talk about China issues — from trade to Taiwan to TikTok — gives Beijing the impression that “everything is hostile,” Bremer said.

“They think this is deeper than anything that can be fixed once the two leaders talk,” he said.

The Biden administration says that while it views China as a strategic competitor, it does not seek conflict. Biden, who spoke with Xi several times on the phone and met with him in November, said last week that he expected to have a phone call with the Chinese leader “soon.”

Meanwhile, Xi continues to increase diplomatic activity aimed at offering a Chinese alternative to the US-led world order — one that emphasizes “mutual respect” and “non-interference” and eschews the Western framework of democracies versus authoritarian regimes. His ambitions for China as a responsible superpower were advanced this month with the surprise announcement of a deal it brokered to restore relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran for the first time in seven years.

“It’s a low-risk, high-reward move that enhances Chinese legitimacy and prestige and Xi Jinping in particular as someone who, according to Chinese sources, personally facilitated this détente,” said Tuvia Gering, researcher at Diane and Guilford Glazer Israel. Center for China Policy at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Fan Hongda, a professor at the Institute of Middle East Studies at Shanghai University of International Studies, said he did not believe the deal itself would upend the world order.

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“But to some extent, this is actually a testament to China’s growing influence,” he said. “Therefore, the United States is likely to take China more seriously.”

Xi’s frequent contacts with Putin, confirmed by his state visit this week, contrast with his relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom he has not spoken since before the war began. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has not confirmed reports that Xi may hold a virtual meeting with Zelensky after his visit to Moscow.

Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing earlier this month. Xie Huanchi/Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

China has tried to portray itself as neutral in the conflict, refraining from condemning Russian aggression while advocating negotiations and being careful to avoid violating international sanctions. It denies Washington’s allegations that it is considering providing lethal military aid to Moscow, arguing that the United States and its allies are fueling the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine.

said Keir Giles, senior advisory fellow in the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House, a London think tank.

He said Xi’s trip to Russia could have a variety of outcomes, including eventual moves in either direction such as deciding to directly support Putin in the conflict or explicitly calling for him to end it.

Giles said that both would be “an indication that China has come to a decision about how the war will affect the balance of power between Russia and the West in the long term”. “Neither of those things may happen, and we’ll continue to hear words of partnership not backed by visible action.”

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