Putin’s visit to Beijing underscores China’s economic and diplomatic support for Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands on March 21 after speaking to the media at The Grand Kremlin Palace, in Moscow, Russia. (Mikhail Tereshchenko, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo/via AP, File)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to meet this week with Chinese leaders in Beijing on a visit that underscores China’s support for Moscow during its war in Ukraine.

The two countries have forged an informal alliance against the United States and other democratic nations that is now complicated by the Israel-Hamas war. China has sought to balance its ties with Israel with its economic relations with Iran and Syria, which are strongly backed by Russia.

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Putin’s visit is also a show of support for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road initiative to build infrastructure and expand China’s overseas influence.

Putin gave an interview to Chinese state media praising the massive but loosely linked BRI projects.

“Yes, we see that some people consider it an attempt by the People’s Republic of China to put someone under its thumb, but we see otherwise, we just see desire for cooperation,” he said in the interview with state broadcaster CCTV, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin on Monday.

The Russian leader will be among the highest profile guests at a gathering marking the 10th anniversary of Xi’s announcement of the BRI policy, which has laden countries such as Zambia and Sri Lanka with heavy debt after they signed contracts with Chinese companies to build roads, airports and other public works they could not otherwise afford.

Putin’s visit has not been officially confirmed, but Chinese officials have suggested he will arrive late Monday.

Asked by reporters Friday about a visit to China, Putin said it would encompass talks on Belt and Road-related projects, which he said Moscow wants to link with efforts by an economic alliance of ex-Soviet Union nations mostly located in Central Asia to “achieve common development goals.” He also downplayed the impact of China’s economic influence in a region that Russia has long considered its backyard and where it has worked to maintain political and military clout.

“We don’t have any contradictions here, on the contrary, there is a certain synergy,” Putin said.

Putin said he and Xi will also discuss growing economic and financial ties between Moscow and Beijing.

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