The Beijing Winter Olympics isn’t just an arena for competitive sports, but it has also proven the perfect place to show off strategic alliances. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have reportedly met in a Friday meeting in Beijing after two years amidst growing tensions with the West involving Taiwan and Ukraine. This is the 38th bilateral meeting between the two world leaders as they share a common adversary— the United States.
This report comes after the United States had increased its troop deployment to the Ukrainian-Russian border to counter the 100,000 plus Russian troops in the region. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed Russian military aggression during their meeting in Kyiv, which the Russians vehemently deny.
“It’s about the whole European security architecture because be in no doubt about what I think President Putin is trying to achieve here. I think that he is trying, by holding a gun as it were to the head of Ukraine, by intimidating Ukraine, to get us to change the way we look at European security,” the United Kingdom Prime Minister said.
During their meeting, the two authoritarian leaders had released a joint statement, joining forces in what is shaping up to be another Cold War, with Russia supporting the Chinese agenda regarding Taiwan’s lack of sovereignty calling the nation an “integral part of China.” Beijing also gave support to Russian foreign policy regarding Ukraine opposing the United States, and NATO, albeit without explicitly naming the countries, stating, “attempts by external forces to undermine security and stability in their common adjacent regions,” and that it would increase their cooperation in these regions.
In a shift away from the old Cold War model of alliances in which China viewed the Soviet Union as an adversary, Putin used the occasion to ask China for help with the Ukraine crisis to counter the US’ networks of alliance around the world. At the same time, China needs Russia’s support to give credibility to its claims on Taiwan. Moscow and Beijing are now enjoying closer relations than ever before on the world stage amidst growing political and economic tensions with the United States and the West.
The two strongman leaders and their foreign ministers, namely China’s Wang Yi and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, also discussed issues relating to Afghanistan and the Korean peninsula. The Chinese and Russian economies benefit from each other as China has been Russia’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years, with bilateral trade hitting a new high of $130.43 billion in 2021.
Xi is not just meeting with the Russian President. With the Beijing Olympics underway, he can arrange meetings with over 21 world leaders attending the games. It is to be noted that the United States, Australia, Canada, and the UK staged a diplomatic boycott the games due to China’s human rights abuses.