The expected meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders, who have forged a close relationship, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
It will also be Xi’s first overseas trip since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and comes just weeks before a major political meeting in Beijing, where he is expected to break with tradition and assume a third term in power, cementing his role. As the most powerful leader of China in decades.
“This summit promises to be interesting, because it will be the first full summit since the pandemic,” Denisov said, according to TASS.
“I don’t want to say that the online summits are not complete, but the face-to-face contact between the leaders is still a different kind of discussion… We are planning to have a serious and full meeting of our leaders with a detailed agenda, which we are working on now with our Chinese partners.”
On Wednesday, China’s third leader, Li Zhanshu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, became the highest-ranking official to leave China since 2020, when he arrived in Vladivostok for the Eastern Economic Forum. Li is expected to meet Putin on Wednesday, TASS reported.
The expected meeting next week between Xi and Putin – and the choice of the destination for Xi’s first foreign trip – signals the importance of Russian relations for China, even in the face of the international blow against Moscow after its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine earlier. this year.
Moscow and Beijing have emerged as closer partners in recent years as both face tensions with the West, with Xi and Putin declaring the two countries to have a “borderless” partnership weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, Beijing has refused to condemn the aggression, instead repeatedly blaming the conflict on NATO and the United States.
When asked on Wednesday about Xi’s travel plans to Central Asia this month, China’s Foreign Ministry said it could not provide any information.
A possible visit to Central Asia as Xi’s first official visit outside China since early 2020 will be a nod to his legacy of enhancing China’s international standing during his decade in power. Xi announced the pioneering Belt and Road Initiative during his 2013 visit to Kazakhstan.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit will be held on September 15 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. The organization consists of China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Alfred Wu, assistant professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said Xi’s decision to make a rare overseas trip a few weeks before the 20th Party Congress in China could be interpreted as a sign of the leader’s confidence and strength. .
“It shows that most of the decisions about staffing arrangements for his third term have probably been made… I really don’t think he has a domestic challenge,” Wu said.
Putin is one of a handful of world leaders Xi has met face-to-face since early 2020. The Russian leader traveled to Beijing for the Winter Olympics in February this year, and was seen as the most prominent world leader to have joined the event, which was boycotted by a number of from Western countries, citing China’s human rights record.
At that meeting, the two parties drafted their “No Borders” partnership, releasing a 5,000-word document expressing their common opposition to “further expansion of NATO” and pledging to “remain extremely vigilant about the negative impact of the United States.” Indo-Pacific strategy.
While differences with the West have drawn close to Russia and China, the personal relationship between the two leaders, in which Xi called Putin his “best friend,” is also believed to reinforce the dynamics of their strengthening relationship. at the national level.
Xi said at the time that China “is ready to work with Russia to strengthen solidarity and cooperation among emerging market countries… and push for the development of the international order and global governance towards a more just and reasonable direction.”
The trip and side summit expected this month will only cement that relationship, and make an important statement in and of itself about where the current and future Chinese leader sees his country’s loyalties.
In Singapore, Wu said he expected the meeting to further the friendship between Xi and Putin — and between China and Russia. He said it was not surprising that Xi chose to meet with Putin rather than leaders from the United States or Europe on his first foreign trip since the pandemic.
“If he goes to the United States or Europe, he will probably face a lot of challenges. When he goes to Putin, he will get all kinds of compliments from his friend, who is happy for being such a strong man,” Wu said.
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