Tight Buddies – Putin meets Xi for first time since Ukraine war

The Russian president’s encounters with the Chinese leader cannot be considered a meeting of equals, analysts say.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand [Alexandr Demyanchuk/ Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

tions with the West continued to unravel over his war on Ukraine and as China’s military harassment of Taiwan seemed set to put Xi on a collision course with Taipei’s United States and European allies – sanctions being hinted as the first point of impact.

The pair had last met in February, promising that the Russia-China relationship would be “without limits”.

On Thursday, Xi called Putin his “old friend”, but the mutually endorsing speeches of the two authoritarian heavyweights were muted.

Putin sat at some distance from Xi, on the opposite sides of two long rounded tables where they were flanked by their delegations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits opposite Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 15, 2022 [Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via Reuters]
Russian President Vladimir Putin sits opposite Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on September 15, 2022 [Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via Reuters]

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The Russian leader began by blasting those who had attempted to “create a unipolar world”, and expressed appreciation to Xi for “the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis”.

“We understand your questions and concern about this,” Putin added, without explanation, before moving on to condemn Western “provocation” in the Taiwan Strait.

Xi’s surprising response focused on bringing stability and positivity to a world in disarray.

“China is willing to work with Russia to play a leading role in demonstrating the responsibility of major powers, and to instil stability and positive energy into a world in turmoil,” Xi told Putin.

Putin’s encounter with Xi in Samarkand appeared to underscore what analysts said was an increasingly unequal relationship between the two leaders.

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