Analysis

Putin and Xi might have a bromance but it’s clear who holds the power

China’s president is heading to Moscow but it is Russia’s leader that is under pressure, writes Chris Stevenson

Friday 17 March 2023 16:23 GMT
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<p>Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with China President Xi Jinping in December 2022 </p>

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with China President Xi Jinping in December 2022

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have met around 40 times since China’s leader assumed the presidency in 2012. In many ways, the camaraderie between the pair has come to define the diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing across the last decade.

Xi made Moscow his first overseas visit as president in 2013 and this latest visit comes next week in the wake of him being handed an unprecedented third term as president. During that time, the greetings between Xi and Putin have evolved from “dear president” to “dear friend” and later to “my old friend”. Last year, just a few weeks before Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine the leaders met and announced a “no limits” partnership between their two nations.

Historically, relations between China and Russia have been fraught with distrust and confrontation, particularly at the height of their Cold War schism in the late 1960s, but Putin and Xi have changed the dynamic. On his last visit to Moscow, in 2019, Xi spoke of his “deep personal friendship” with his Russian counterpart. “In the past six years, we have met nearly 30 times. Russia is the country that I have visited the most times, and President Putin is my best friend and colleague,” Xi said. Both leaders share an objective of altering the world order, and they will continue to pursue that.

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