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Smart Take | Putin Arrives in Beijing as Russia Seeks to Deepen Its Strategic Partnership with China

May 16, 20242:18

Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting China to discuss mutual strategic interests with his counterpart President Xi Jinping. In an official joint statement, the two leaders described themselves as "prioroity partners." It was only a week ago that Xi was in France, where President Macron and other EU leaders pressed him to exert influence on Putin to end the war in Ukraine. Robert Daly, Director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, provides an overview of the significance of this meeting. He provides insights into how China and Russia will seek to protect themselves from Western sanctions, strengthen their partnership, and why it’s important to look for cracks in the evolving alliance between China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    For Putin and XI, they're going to be looking to sanction proof their cooperation on Russia's war fighting capacity, from the West. Secretary Blinken, Secretary Yellen, have been very clear that we are concerned about China providing large amounts of non-lethal aid to Russia, some of which is borderline lethal, engines for missiles, machine tools, semiconductors that go into weapons. We've told the Chinese very clearly that the safety of Europe, the security of Europe is a key, a core interest for us as Taiwan is a core interest for them, and that we are prepared to impose further sanctions on the Chinese banks. 

    China would like to avoid that, but they'd also like to sanction proof this, through greater use of, the R&B Chinese currency, as the medium of exchange. They would like to strengthen China's CIPs system, which is an alternative to the swift system of, interbank transfers that the United States can dominate. So this will be about sanction proofing and for Putin, about making a run to the end. 

    It is also, to some degree, about trying to present China and Russia as partners in building a new global order that is an option to that which they see is dominated by the domestic, developed democracies. Think that precisely because we are increasingly viewing China and Russia, North Korea and Iran as an axis or a bloc, we need to be very careful to listen for any signs of daylight between China and Russia. We, I think, are maybe rushing toward this axis language a little bit too quickly. There are reasons for it. Of course, North Korea, Iran and China are all supporting, Russia's war effort. They are involved, in things like the SCO, the BRICs, so that we do see more and more block like behavior. But we need to understand better how these countries act jointly and when they act severally. because that has an impact on the we on our security, but on our opportunities for diplomacy.


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Robert Daly

Director, Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

Robert Daly, the Director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, has compiled an unusually diverse portfolio of high-level work: He has served as a US diplomat in Beijing; as an interpreter for Chinese and US leaders, including President Carter and Secretary of State Kissinger; as head of China programs at Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, and the University of Maryland; and as a producer of Chinese-language versions of Sesame Street. Recognized East and West as a leading authority on Sino-US relations, he has testified before Congress, lectured widely in both countries, and regularly offers analysis for top media outlets.

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Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more