Amid the prolonged conflict in Ukraine and mounting Western sanctions, Russia’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, embarked on a visit to Beijing where he signed a series of agreements, further solidifying the bilateral ties between Russia and China. Mishustin’s visit holds significant importance, being the highest-ranking Russian official to travel to Beijing since the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine in February 2022. During his stay, he engaged in talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and had a scheduled meeting with President Xi Jinping.
Russia, grappling with the protracted war in Ukraine and increasing Western sanctions, is turning to China for support, leveraging the robust Chinese demand for oil and gas. The pressure from the West remains unrelenting, as highlighted by the recent declarations of the Group of Seven nations that singled out both Russia and China on various issues, including Ukraine.
Mishustin expressed the unprecedented high level of relations between Russia and China, emphasizing mutual respect for each other’s interests and the joint response to challenges arising from turbulence in the international arena and illegitimate sanctions from the collective West. These sentiments reflect the unity that both countries believe is instrumental in overcoming obstacles, as encapsulated by the Chinese saying, “unity makes it possible to move mountains.”
The signed memorandums of understanding encompass agreements to deepen investment cooperation in trade services, facilitate the export of agricultural products to China, and promote sports collaboration. Furthermore, Russia’s energy shipments to China are projected to increase by 40% this year, while discussions are underway regarding the supply of technological equipment to Russia.
Steve Tsang, the director of The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) China Institute in London, commented on China’s approach, stating that with sanctions against Russia presenting new opportunities, China actively engages with Russia economically, provided that such relationships do not trigger secondary sanctions against China. Tsang added that China’s policy toward the war in Ukraine revolves around neutrality, support for Putin, and avoiding any consequences, as evidenced by the recent visit reaffirming China’s backing of Putin.
China firmly rejects attempts by the West to link its partnership with Russia to the Ukraine conflict, maintaining that their cooperation adheres to international norms and China has the right to collaborate with whomever it chooses, without targeting any third countries. Chinese Premier Li affirmed China’s commitment to work with Russia in implementing joint cooperation, aiming to elevate pragmatic collaboration in various fields to new heights.
For Moscow, deepening ties with China represents a strategic course, as highlighted by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council. During talks with Chen Wenqing, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo overseeing police, legal affairs, and intelligence, both sides recognized the significance of the bilateral relationship.
While Beijing refrains from openly denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Xi has put forward a peace plan since February, which has received skepticism from the West and cautious welcome from Kyiv. In a European tour promoting peace talks and a political settlement of the crisis, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, visited Ukraine and held discussions with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Following the visit to Ukraine, Li Hui is scheduled to visit Russia, further underscoring China’s involvement in the region’s affairs.
- Russia’s Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, signs agreements with China, emphasizing the strong bilateral relationship despite Western disapproval during the ongoing Ukraine conflict.
- Russia seeks support from China as Western sanctions intensify, relying on Chinese demand for oil and gas and exploring avenues for deeper economic cooperation.
- The signed agreements encompass investment cooperation, agricultural product exports, sports collaboration, and discussions on energy shipments and technological equipment supplies.