“In the face of ongoing formidable global changes that have never been seen in history, we are ready to work with our Russian colleagues to set an example of what a responsible global power is and assume leadership in order to bring the rapidly changing world onto a path of sustainable and positive development.”
With Putin’s power diminished, Xi had to tread a delicate line in Samarkand.
The Shanghai Cooperation Forum (SCO), was founded by China to foster ties with Central Asia. It is the successful embodiment of what Beijing has tried to do in the Pacific – create a network of states sympathetic to its aims through promises of economic development.
Now more than two decades old, it is a key source of diplomatic support for Beijing in wider multilateral institutions. But as former Soviet Republics its members, including Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, are also wary of Russia and its territorial ambitions.
Evan Feigenbaum, a former US assistant deputy secretary of state said Xi had made a personal investment in Putin’s ambitions but had to be careful not to drive a wedge with China’s other neighbours, particularly as Russia’s war machine sputters.
Feigenbaum said, for this reason, Xi would continue the “Beijing straddle”.
“Beijing’s goal is surely to preserve its entente with Russia at the strategic level, to counterbalance American power and growing economic pressure on China from the West,” he wrote for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“But it wants to do this without having to back Moscow at the tactical level, since it also benefits from preserving global market access, avoiding Western sanctions, and building relations with countries, like those in Central Asia, that are terrified of Russia.”
The SCO is also about to get a new member, Iran. “Tehran views joining the SCO as an important diplomatic achievement,” said Anna Jordanová, a visiting Fellow at the Bourse & Bazaar Foundation.
China can now add Iran to its list of multilateral partners dissatisfied with the West.
Beijing is forging its own alternative world order. Russia is struggling to rebuild its empire.
“It is no exaggeration to call it the new Cold War era,” said the head of the South Korean Jeju Forum, Woo Keun-min. “It is plunged into the vortex of crisis.”
For now, Xi and Putin’s uneasy quid-pro-quo continue to suit both their interests.
Russia’s long campaign destabilises global affairs, puts economic pressure on Europe and the United States and allows China to court developing countries away from the Western-led international order.
Putin, running low on supplies, equipment and military insight, can boast of the tacit support of the leader of the world’s second-largest economy.
But having failed to win the war within six months, he is now in a far weaker position than the one he was in on that freezing night at the top of the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing in February.
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