Xi Tells Putin China-Russia Ties Should Last ‘Generations’

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping signaled to Vladimir Putin that ties between the two nations remain strong, as the Russian leader embarks on a new term with the war in Ukraine dragging into its third year.

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Xi said his nation was “ready to work with Russia as a good neighbor, friend and partner with mutual trust,” state broadcaster China Central Television reported Thursday after the pair met in Beijing. He added that he was prepared “to consolidate the friendship between the two peoples for generations to come.”

Putin said the cooperation “is one of the main stabilizing factors in the international arena,” according to a video posted on a Kremlin social media account. “Together we uphold the principles of justice and a democratic world order reflecting multi-polar realities and an order in the world based on international law.”

The two leaders’ comments underscore the close relationship that has developed between their nations in recent years. The pair declared a “no-limits friendship” just weeks before Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and have met more than 40 times since Xi came to power in 2012.

Putin wants the visit to ensure that the economic and trade support that China has provided since he attacked Ukraine in early 2022 remains intact. The US has warned China over its trade with Russia, threatening to sanction banks that cross red lines.

The world’s second-largest economy has become an indispensable ally for Russia, which relies on China as a market for its energy and supplier of its wartime needs. That’s put Putin in a sometimes awkward position, with Beijing wary of his nuclear saber-rattling and mindful of the need to keep unfettered access to the US-led global economic system.

Driven by Russian oil and gas sales and purchases of electronics, industrial equipment and cars, Moscow’s trade with China hit a record $240 billion in 2023, more than double the 2020 number.

Read More: GLOBAL INSIGHT: The Limits on Xi-Putin No-Limits Partnership

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The visit comes just days after Putin appointed Andrey Belousov, an economist and technocrat, as his new defense minister, replacing the long-serving Sergei Shoigu in a sign the Russian leader sees an extended conflict ahead.

In recent weeks, the US has stepped up warnings to Chinese banks and exporters about consequences if they help to bolster Russia’s military capacity.

In December, the Treasury Department announced it would impose secondary sanctions on banks that facilitate deals in which Russia procures semiconductors, ball bearings and other equipment necessary for its military — even if they’re unaware they’re doing so.

Despite the growing economic ties, China’s exports to Russia were down 13% in April from a year earlier, the second month in a row of an annual decrease, according to Chinese customs data. Russian media reported that Chinese banks in late March began blocking payments from companies in Russia buying components for electronic assembly.

(Updates with comments from Putin and more context from second paragraph.)

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