Xi welcomes Putin to China as both leaders seek to bolster ties

China’s President Xi Jinping (R) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attend the opening ceremony of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October 18, 2023. 

Pedro Pardo | Afp | Getty Images

Chinese leader Xi Jinping welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing on Thursday as both countries seek to bolster their strategic relationship.

Putin’s two-day state visit to China comes at the invitation of Xi and will be the Russian leader’s first foreign trip since he began his fifth term in office last week.

The two countries have touted their “no-limits” friendship since February 2022, as a counter to the global influence of the U.S.

China has increasingly become Russia’s lifeline to support its war chest since the invasion of Ukraine as Washington continues to tighten the screws on Moscow with more sanctions.

In an interview with state-media Xinhua published ahead of the visit, Putin said trade volume between the two countries reached $227.8 billion last year from $111 billion in 2019.

“The current bilateral trade volume is about 20 trillion rubles, or nearly 1.6 trillion yuan,” he noted.

Both the countries aim to deepen cooperation in “high-tech, outer space and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy,” among other sectors, Putin added.

China’s tight embrace of Russia has been a thorny issue for the U.S. with Washington warning Beijing to curtail its military aid for Moscow’s war against Ukraine.

On the trade front, U.S. President Joe Biden this week announced stiff new tariff rates on $18 billion worth of Chinese imports to protect American industries from what Washington has called “unfair trade practices” by China.

The mounting economic and diplomatic pressure from the U.S and its allies could force China closer to Russia, observers have said.

Putin is expected to meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and travel to the north-eastern city of Harbin for a trade and investment expo, according to Russian state media.

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