Xi to meet pariah Putin at Uzbek summit

Xi to meet pariah Putin at Uzbek summit

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet Vladimir Putin at a summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on his first foreign trip since Covid spread in early 2020.

Xi is seeking a third presidential term and Putin is keen to bolster bilateral relations with China to ease his pariah status since his second invasion of Ukraine in February.

Xi begins his three-day trip in Kazakhstan today (Wednesday) and then on Thursday is set to meet Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Silk Road city of Samarkand. The September 15-16 event is due to be attended by representatives from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Iran, India and Pakistan.

More lockdowns are being enforced in China under Xi’s strict zero-Covid strategy with entire towns and cities shut down every time coronavirus cases are reported.

China has not publicly backed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nor condemned it. Beijing accused Nato of provoking Russia by expanding eastwards into the Baltic states and has strengthened economic and strategic ties with Russia since the invasion. Chinese troops joined massive military exercises in eastern Russia and the Sea of Japan this month.

China and Russia both challenge a supposed US bid for global dominance but Beijing is unwilling to defy Washington’s demand that no weapons be sent to Russia for its war in Ukraine. The US said there is no evidence of any systematic Chinese attempt to help Putin evade western sanctions and China has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Xi has little to gain from helping Putin’s disastrous war. Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank said: “China wants to buy time. It wants to avoid provoking the west into introducing secondary sanctions or retaliatory measures for something that could be viewed as direct support for Putin. China wants to tread very carefully.”

Western sanctions have allowed China to buy up cheap Russian oil and gas. It is now the largest importer of Russian oil and Russia’s state-run gas giant Gazprom said last week that it would increase deliveries of gas to China through the new 3,000km Power of Siberia pipeline (pictured). Russia is planning another pipeline, called the Power of Siberia 2, to send gas to China through Mongolia to open in 2030.


Construction of the 3,000km Power of Siberia pipeline. Picture credit: YouTube

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