At the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan Xi told Putin that “We’re ready to team up with Russia” and the two countries performed joint naval patrols and military drills in the Pacific Ocean just hours before the conference.
The two leaders agreed that the end of a unipolar world where the US dominates is just around the corner during their highly anticipated bilateral encounter on Thursday outside of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan. In his opening remarks, Putin referred to it as “ugly” and emphasised that the “vast majority” of countries have rejected American control.
The West’s “attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken on an absolutely ugly shape and are absolutely unacceptable to the vast majority of nations on the planet,” the Russian leader told Xi, according to a state media translation, were “absolutely unacceptable to the vast majority of nations on the planet.” The geopolitical flashpoints of Ukraine and Taiwan were also a major topic of discussion. However, a lot of Western pundits are already capitalising on a veiled allusion to China’s Xi voicing “concerns” on the situation in Ukraine.
Despite its relatively recent inception (founded in 2001), Putin praised the eight-nation regional security group, which includes Pakistan and India among others, as a counterpoint of “constructive and creative cooperation”. He continued by saying of the SCO, “It is now the biggest regional organisation in the world, uniting a vast geographic space and about half of our planet’s population,” continuing the theme of the majority of the populations on the earth striving to fight US unipolar control.
Given that Beijing has consistently focused its attention on highlighting Russia’s ‘legitimate’ national security concerns amid NATO expansion whenever pressed on the invasion, Putin reiterated to his Chinese counterpart that he “highly appreciates” the “balanced position” by “our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis.” Only the Chinese leader’s “concerns” about the crisis were mentioned in readouts by the Russian official media. In his opening remarks, Putin addressed Xi as his “dear and longtime friend,” saying:
We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends regarding the Ukrainian crisis, we understand your questions and concerns on this matter, and during today’s meeting we will of course clarify all of these in detail.
These as of yet unnamed “concerns” may be related to a variety of urgent issues, such as Russia’s growing isolation from the West as a result of punitive sanctions or widespread reports that Kremlin forces have been swiftly pushed back during Ukraine’s eastern and southern offensives, particularly in the Kharkiv region.
Russian and Chinese navies performed joint patrols and military drills in the Pacific Ocean just hours before the conference, which was place in the city of Samarkand, as a sign of strength and cooperation.
Putin also addressed the Taiwan issue while addressing China’s most delicate geopolitical issue, which includes Washington flexing its muscles in its own neighbourhood. He told Xi:
“We firmly adhere to the One China principle in practice. We condemn the provocations of the United States and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait.”
The two leaders made the expected pledge to strengthen economic ties after commerce already reached a new record high in 2022, as Putin emphasised, with a gain of 25% during the first seven months of this year.
As the Financial Times recently noted, “But customers in China and India, the world’s most populous countries, kept buying Russian oil and other commodities such as coal and fertilizer” in the midst of a Western declared “war” on Russian energy, China and India have crucially served to pacify Russia’s oil sanctions pain covertly. According to the research, China, which was “already an important buyer of Russian crude before the war, bought 2mn barrels a day in May, an increase of 0.2-0.4mn per day compared with January and February.”
In their meeting on Thursday, Putin said to Xi:
“I am convinced that by the end of the year we will reach new record levels of trade, and that in the near future, as agreed, annual trade turnover will increase to $200 billion or more,” Putin said.
President Xi for his part said that, “In face of the colossal changes taking place on a global scale in our time which are unprecedented in history, we are ready together with our Russian colleagues to show an example of a responsible world power and to play a leading role in bringing such a rapidly changing world onto a trajectory of sustainable and positive development,” firmly supporting Putin’s long-standing theme of the unipolar world order disintegrating.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference is being framed by Chinese state media, like Russian media, as a major show of solidarity and defiance among major economies against the US-led West.
Almost three years after the pandemic started and for the first time outside of China, Xi is travelling. The Washington Post quoted Yun Sun, director of the Stimson Center’s China programme, as summarising the significance of the Xi-Putin meeting: “It’s of course a demonstration of mutual support and solidarity, a message primarily for the U.S. and the West.”