Russia and China seal economic pacts despite Western disapproval
Russia’s prime minister signed a series of agreements with China on Wednesday during a trip to Beijing, taking bilateral ties to an unprecedented level, despite Western disapproval of their relationship as the war in Ukraine dragged on.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin – the highest ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of its troops to Ukraine in February 2022 – spoke with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and met President Xi Jinping .
As the war in Ukraine enters its second year and Russia increasingly feels the brunt of Western sanctions, Moscow is leaning on Beijing for support, far more than China on Russia, feeding off the Chinese demand for oil and gas.
Pressure from the West has shown no sign of abating, with statements at the weekend from Group of Seven nations naming the two countries on a plethora of issues, including Ukraine.
“Today, relations between Russia and China are at an unprecedented level,” Mishustin told Li during their meeting.
“They are characterized by mutual respect for each other’s interests, the desire to respond to challenges together, which is associated with increased turbulence on the international scene and the pressure of illegitimate sanctions from the collective West,” he said. he declared.
“As our Chinese friends say, unity moves mountains.”
The memorandums of understanding signed included an agreement to deepen cooperation on investment in trade services, a pact on the export of agricultural products to China and another on sports cooperation.
Energy shipments from Russia to China are expected to increase by 40% this year, and the two countries are discussing the supply of technological equipment to Russia, the Interfax news agency reported.
“With sanctions on Russia providing new opportunities for China, it’s no surprise that China is happy to actively, if not proactively, engage with Russia economically, as long as relations they will not trigger secondary sanctions against China,” Steve Tsang said. , Director of the Chinese Institute of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
“China’s policy towards the war in Ukraine is to ‘declare neutrality, support Putin and pay no price,’ and the visit reaffirms that, especially the element of support for Putin,” Tsang said.
Xi visited Russia in March and spoke with “dear friend” President Vladimir Putin, after engaging in a “limitless” partnership just before Russia’s 2022 attack on Ukraine, what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
Beijing has rejected Western attempts to link its partnership with Moscow to Ukraine, insisting that their relationship does not violate international norms, that China has the right to collaborate with whomever it chooses and that their cooperation is not aimed at any third country.
“China is willing to work with Russia to implement joint cooperation between the two countries, and promoting pragmatic cooperation in various fields can bring it to a new level,” Li told Mishustin.
Deepening ties with China is a strategic path for Moscow, said Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who spoke on Monday with Chen Wenqing, a member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo who oversees the police, the legal affairs and intelligence.
Beijing has refrained from openly denouncing the Russian invasion. But since February, Xi has promoted a peace plan, which has been met with skepticism by the West and greeted with caution by Kyiv.
Last week, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs Li Hui visited Ukraine and met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a European tour that Beijing has called an effort to promote peace talks. and a political settlement of the crisis.
Li Hui is due to travel to Russia on Friday.