Putin touts ‘stabilizing’ force of China-Russia ties as Xi hails ‘lasting friendship’ at security summit

By Nectar Gan, CNN

Hong Kong CNN  —  Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping on Wednesday hailed their countries’ deepening alignment as they met at a gathering of a Eurasian security bloc promoted by both leaders as a counterbalance to Western power.

In opening remarks ahead of a bilateral meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)’s annual leaders’ summit in Kazakhstan, Putin said Russia-China relations are going through “the best period in their history” and should be considered a “stabilizing” force for the world.

“Russian-Chinese cooperation in global affairs serves as a main stabilizing factor on the international stage, and we continue to further enhance it,” Putin said.

The Russian president also underscored Moscow and Beijing’s roles “at the cradle” of the SCO’s founding in 2001, as the two powers drive a transformation of the bloc from a regional security club with a focus on Central Asia to a geopolitical counterweight to Western institutions led by the United States and its allies.

Belarus, a staunch Russian ally that helped Moscow launch its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, was formally admitted by the SCO on Thursday as its 10th member, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The Eastern European country is the latest authoritarian state to join the SCO, after Iran became a full member last year. The bloc underwent its first expansion in 2017 to welcome India and Pakistan.

“As the number of participants grew…the SCO also gained a bigger role as one of the key pillars of a just multipolar world order,” Putin told Xi on Wednesday.

The meeting marks the two leaders’ second face-to-face talks in just two months following Putin’s visit to Beijing in May and comes shortly after the Russian president struck a landmark defense pact with North Korea.

Much to the consternation of the US and Europe, China and Russia have deepened their political, economic and military ties since Putin and Xi declared a “no limits” partnership in February 2022 when the Russian leader visited Beijing, weeks before his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

China has surpassed the European Union to become Russia’s top trade partner, offering a crucial lifeline to its heavily sanctioned economy. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have also continued to hold joint military exercises, including with Iran.

Meanwhile, the US has accused China of providing Russia with dual-use goods that bolster the warring nation’s military industrial complex as it attacks Ukraine, which Beijing denies.

In his opening remarks Wednesday, Xi told Putin that China and Russia should “keep upholding the original aspiration” of their “lasting friendship” in the face of “an international situation fraught with turbulence and changes.”

Xi also hailed the “unique value” in China-Russia relations, urging the two countries to make new efforts to safeguard their “legitimate rights and interests” and “the basic norms governing international relations.”

“China and Russia should continue to strengthen comprehensive strategic coordination, oppose external interference and jointly safeguard regional tranquility and stability,” Xi said, according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

The SCO’s expansion comes after another bloc led by China and Russia, the BRICS group of major emerging economies, more than doubled its membership and significantly extended its global reach last year.

Both moves are widely seen as part of a broader push by Xi and Putin to create an alternative world order that is no longer dominated by the West.

Xi said Wednesday that China backed Russia’s role as BRICS chair this year in uniting the Global South, preventing a “new Cold War” and opposing hegemonism, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

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