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The six reasons for Putin's visit to China

It is necessary for the leaders of the two countries to consult on the current state of bilateral relations, which have changed significantly since they last met in October 2023. 2023 was a year of very successful Russian-Chinese economic cooperation, with an all-time high of $240 billion in bilateral trade. However, the West remains persistent in undermining this favorable trend, and pressure on Beijing is increasing, said Andrei Koltunov Director of the Academic Committee of the Russian Council for International Affairs

In an interview with the Chinese newspaper Observer, Andrei Kortunov, Director of the Academic Committee of the Russian Council for International Affairs, said that there were at least six reasons motivating Putin's visit to Xi Jinping in China.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will fly to China on May 16 and 17 for an official state visit.

These are the reasons according to the Russian expert:

  • The first is courtesy;

  • The second is bilateral relations;

  • Third is global development;

  • Fourth, friction with the West;

  • Fifth, the emerging world order;

  • Sixth is the human factor.

Photo Xinhua


"The first is courtesy. In March 2023, President Xi Jinping made Moscow the destination of his first foreign visit after his re-election. This decision was appreciated by everyone in Russia, even those who do not pay attention to international affairs."

"Vladimir Putin, who was re-elected as the third president of the Russian Federation in March this year, naturally hopes to go to China first before organizing further trips to repay the friendship of his long-time partner and friend."

Symbolically, the decision highlights Beijing's importance to the Kremlin.", said Andrei Kortunov. "After meeting President Xi Jinping, the Russian leader may consider visiting a number of other non-Western capitals, including Ankara, Tehran and Pyongyang."

Bilateral relations

"It is necessary for the leaders of the two countries to consult each other on the current state of bilateral relations, because bilateral relations have undergone major changes since their meeting in October 2023," the Russian expert said.

"2023 is a very successful year for Russia-China economic cooperation, with bilateral trade reaching a record level of $240 billion. However, the West continues to persist in destroying this good trend and also increases its pressure on Beijing."

"It is therefore not surprising that China's private sector is increasingly concerned that Western secondary sanctions against Russia could have a negative impact on its trade prospects. After the EU launched the twelfth round of restrictive measures against Moscow, problems arose in the settlement process between China and Russia. As a result, bilateral trade decreased slightly by 2% in March this year. Chinese exports to Russia fell 14% year-on-year, from $8.9 billion to $7.6 billion, while Russian exports to China continued to grow, reaching $12 billion. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also confirmed again, during his recent visit to China in April, that the Biden administration will continue to do its best to complicate economic interactions between Russia and China. Of course, China and Russia should focus on ensuring that US efforts do not succeed and ensure that bilateral trade volume reaches $280-290 billion by the end of 2024, as expected. Summits are often a powerful catalyst for bilateral trade and investment, and we hope that the upcoming meeting between Presidents Putin and Xi Jinping will once again prove this theory correct."

Global development

According to the Director of the Academic Committee of the Russian Council for International Affairs "Those who hoped that 2024 would be a turning point in global politics, moving from conflict and confrontation to peaceful reconciliation, will be disappointed: we have entered another year dramatic, with tragic events occurring frequently around the world."

"The Russian-Ukrainian and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts have not yet stopped. The Houthi armed forces continue to attack warships and merchant ships in the Red Sea. Tensions between the Sahel countries and Sudan could lead to a conflict in any time, global defense spending and global arms trade will reach historic highs,” added Andrei Koltunov.

"On the other hand, there are many opportunities in 2024 that cannot be ignored. This year, BRICS will properly digest and absorb their recent expansion; Russia will serve as club president and host the next BRICS summit in the fall; The Shanghai Cooperation Organization could also accept Belarus as a full member of multilateral cooperation."

"It is obvious that the leaders of China and Russia have many issues to discuss to address the turbulent global situation and coordinate their responses to the rapidly changing world situation.", said Koltunov.

Friction with the West

"The disharmonious relationship between China, Russia and the West is certainly a topic that leaders on both sides will discuss. At the time, President Xi Jinping had just concluded his visit to Paris, Belgrade and Budapest from May 5 to 10. This was President Xi Jinping's first visit to Europe in five years. He could share his impressions of his visit with colleagues from Moscow."

According to the Russian expert, "the leaders of China and Russia do not have diametrically opposed views on Europe, but slightly different views: President Putin is very skeptical about the 'strategic autonomy' of European countries from the United States, while President Xi Jinping clearly still hopes that even if China-US relations continue to worsen, it is also possible to maintain Beijing's cooperation with major European powers and the EU."

"There is no conclusion yet on this key issue, but a frank exchange of views on domestic political trends in Europe and the United States (including the possible results of the US elections in November) should be an important topic on the agenda of this meeting between the leaders of China and Russia."

Emerging world order

The two leaders are also likely to discuss broader issues such as the emerging new world order, such as the priority functions of the United Nations system, future strategic stability and various aspects of global and regional governance.

"Many specific aspects of the new world order are still very unclear, such as what will happen to current non-proliferation mechanisms, how to coordinate the fight against international terrorism, how to curb the reckless arms race, how to improve the efficiency of international organizations law, etc."

"What is clear, however, is that one of the key challenges facing Moscow and Beijing is how to provide tangible global public goods in a highly volatile and unpredictable world, without a recognized new hegemon to fill the void. Russia and China have different but very similar visions on the ideal transformation of the international order, therefore it is necessary for both sides to discuss the similarities and differences in the main components of the emerging world order."

Human factor

"This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia. This is not only a good opportunity to hold a series of public forums, cultural activities, business talks and academic discussions, but also a good opportunity to promote contact between Chinese and Russian people."

It is likely, Koltunov adds, that the leaders of both countries will pay particular attention to expanding bilateral cooperation in higher education, scientific research projects and cross-border interactions.

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