There was no real progress made toward ending the conflict in Ukraine during Xi Jinping's three-day visit to Russia, despite China characterizing the trip as one "of friendship, cooperation, and peace," the AP reports. "What China has done boils down to one word, that is, to promote peace talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Wednesday, claiming China remains neutral in the conflict and, unlike the US, has not "taken the opportunity to profit itself." Yet peace looks as far off as ever. More:
- Peace proposal: The US is "fanning the flames" of conflict in providing defensive weapons to Ukraine to its own benefit, Wang said, per the AP. Meanwhile, China has put forth a 12-point peace proposal calling for a ceasefire, though it makes no mention of a Russian withdrawal or the return of Ukrainian territory seized by Russia.
- Not yet: Russian President Vladimir Putin said it could become the "basis" of an agreement when the West and Kyiv are ready, per NPR. As the AP notes, the document has been "dismissed by the West" because China is "widely seen as providing economic backing for Putin’s regime," ruining any impression of impartiality.
- Close ties: Russia is China's top oil supplier, while China accounts for almost a third of all Russian exports, per NPR. But the relationship is more than economic. According to the New York Times, Russia has purchased more than $12 million in drones and drone parts from China since the conflict in Ukraine began.
- Mutually beneficial: Experts say it's a mutually beneficial partnership. With Russia increasingly isolated and facing sanctions from the West, Putin sees China as a lifeline, per the Times. And China sees Russia as an ally in confronting US power and influence.
- Dear friends: The leaders, who've met 40 times, greeted each other as "dear friend," per NPR. Xi praised Putin's "strong leadership" and urged Russians to support another term for the president, though Putin hasn't announced he'll seek reelection in 2024. Xi also told Putin that, together, they were driving "changes the likes of which we haven't seen for 100 years."
- Not all roses: Yet the Russia-China friendship may "be less substantive" than it appears, writes Stephen Collinson at CNN, noting Xi doesn't appear to have backed arming Russian forces in Ukraine, nor "persuaded the Russian leader away from his ruthless path in a way that might legitimize his status as a peacemaker."
- West stands firm: The West is showing it's "not flinching in its support for Ukraine," writes Collinson. Amid the Xi-Putin meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit to Kyiv and the White House announced the early deployment of missile defense systems to Ukraine.
- Putin arrest warrant: Interestingly, "Wang said Russia and China agreed that the UN Charter must be observed and international law be respected," per the AP. However, the representative made no mention of the warrant for Putin's arrest, just issued by the International Criminal Court.
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