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President Xi’s Visit to Russia

Context: The visit of Chinese President Xi to Russia has reaffirmed the close partnership between the two countries despite differences over the war in Ukraine.

Decoding the News

  • Cornerstone of the relationship: Attempts to impose a “rules-based order” is nothing but an attempt to halt the march towards an end to the “hegemony” of a single superpower.
    • The viability of multi-polar world would depend on a non-discriminatory acceptance of the interests of all countries.

Significance of the Visit

  • Morale booster: The visit of Chinese President comes after the ICC issued warrant of arrest against Putin on charges of war crimes. It is seen as a diplomatic morale booster for the Russian leader.
  • China’s stance: The visit of Chinese President was a signal to the world that China will do business with all, but on its terms.
  • Potential to boost trade: With Russia reeling under western sanctions, the Chinese President seeks to turn the economic challenges into business opportunities for China by increasing trade between the two countries.
  • Energy security: Russia has become China’s biggest supplier of oil, meeting most of China’s energy requirements. Due to sanctions, Russia is excessively dependent on China for access to critical technologies in this sector.
  • Peace broker: President Xi’s visit is seen as an effort to become a peace broker by persuading Russia to sign a peace deal and end the war in Ukraine.
    • Even though China has offered no proposals in this regard, it has identified “12 principles” to make the case for peace talks.
    • Some of these principles include “respecting sovereignty of all countries”, “abandoning Cold War mentality”, stopping hostilities, resuming peace talks and stopping unilateral sanctions.
  • Security implications: It is necessary for China to maintain cordial relations with Russia for its own internal and external security.
    • Being a close neighbour, Russia exercises significant control over countries bordering China’s troubled west. Russia’s support is necessary to maintain peace in this area.

Stakes for China in keeping the Ukraine war Running

  • Diverting Russian attention: The continuance of war weakens Russia militarily, economically, and politically. The vacuum created in Eurasia can be filled by China.
  • Diverting West’s attention: The running war will keep US and its allies’ attention on Europe, away from China. This reduces the chances of western intervention in case of a crisis over Taiwan.
  • Showcasing China’s rise: It will send a signal to the rest of the world about the relative rise in Chinese power vis-à-vis both the Russians and Americans.
    • Brokering peace between Saudi and Iran has already demonstrated Beijing’s rising influence and the decline of the US in the Middle Eastern region.
  • Military exports: In future there are chances of China’s indirect military support to Russia. China has already signed an agreement on industrial production, joint R&D and defence cooperation with Belarus, an ally of Russia.

How is China Leveraging the Current Scenario?

  • Internal stability: The ruling regime in China has been facing opposition due to economic crisis and zero-covid policy. The crisis presents an opportunity for Chinese leaders to sell the idea of ‘global crisis’, which can only be tackled by the ruling regime.
    • The ruling regime can also justify both China’s current economic difficulties as well as Xi’s continuing hold over the reins of power.

Implications for India

  • Russia-China tango: India’s position of “strategic autonomy” is based on its long-standing partnership with Russia, but Moscow’s partnership with Beijing is expected to put pressure on that relationship.
    • Russia has gone ahead and criticized the Quad grouping, of which India is a part. Russia has also refused to clarify its stand on LAC standoff between India and China.
  • G20 Presidency: The success of G20 Presidency of India will depend on the outcome document, which needs the co-operation of both Moscow and Beijing.
    • In the current circumstances, where the West and Russia-China axis are at loggerheads, it looks difficult to achieve.

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