Putin set to meet ‘dear friend’ Xi as China wraps up Belt and Road summit

By Antoni Slodkowski

BEIJING (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in Beijing, as the two leaders sought to bolster their “no-limits” partnership amid a war in Ukraine and an escalating conflict in the Middle East.

Xi is hosting Putin and dozens of global leaders at the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Summit, celebrating 10 years since Xi launched the infrastructure project aimed at strengthening alliances with Asian, African and Latin American nations.

Focus will be on remarks Putin and Xi make about the Israel-Hamas war as U.S. President Joe Biden is set to land in Israel to show support for the country, push to minimise civilian casualties, and keep the conflict from spreading.

This is the second known trip abroad for the Russian leader since the Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March, accusing Putin of illegally deporting children from Ukraine. China is not a member of the court.

Xi last saw his “dear friend” in Moscow just days after the warrant was issued.

Russia and China, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, have said that the fundamental issue at the heart of the conflict is the lack of justice for the Palestinians.

Russia has condemned violence against both Jews and Palestinians, but Putin has repeatedly criticised the United States for what he said was its flawed approach, which he said ignored the need for an independent Palestinian state.

Putin last visited China for the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022, when Russia and China declared a “no-limits” partnership days before the Russian president sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

Xi is pushing to make the Belt and Road smaller and greener, moving away from big-ticket projects like dams to high-tech ones such as digital finance and e-commerce platforms. The aim is to aid a broader push for a world order that is multipolar and gives the global south more agency, rather than one dominated by Washington and its allies, analysts say.

The BRI is also more focused now on issues such as peace, climate change and artificial intelligence, as Xi seeks to use it to export Chinese ideas about governance and build consensus around Chinese norms and its development model, analysts say.

Putin has praised the initiative, saying it is a platform for international cooperation, where “no one imposes anything on others”.

(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski. Editing by Gerry Doyle)