Putin's gushing praise for 'good old friend' Xi ahead of Moscow summit

Mr Xi is set to arrive on Monday for a three-day visit to Moscow - AFP
Mr Xi is set to arrive on Monday for a three-day visit to Moscow - AFP

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are gushing praise for each other ahead of a major summit in Moscow.

Mr Putin extended a warm welcome to his “good old friend,” while Mr Xi responded in kind, saying he looked forward to “forging ahead to open a new chapter of China-Russia friendship, cooperation and common development.”

The separate pieces published in Chinese and Russian state media outlets echo each other in both tone and language, making jabs at the West and hailing closer bilateral ties.

“Unlike some countries that claim hegemony and bring discord into world harmony, Russia and China are literally and figuratively building bridges,” writes Mr Putin in Chinese state media.

“China and Russia are committed to no-alliance, no-confrontation and not targeting any third party in developing our ties,” wrote Mr Xi in Russian state media.

“We firmly support each other in following a development path suited to our respective national realities and support each other’s development and rejuvenation.”

Sino-Russia ties are “brimming with new dynamism and vitality, setting a fine example for developing a new model of major-country relations.”

Mr Xi is expected to touch down on Monday for a three-day visit to Moscow, his first trip to Russia since Mr Putin began his invasion of Ukraine.

China has insisted it remains neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine - AFP
China has insisted it remains neutral in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine - AFP

While China has insisted it remains neutral over the war in Ukraine, Mr Xi and Mr Putin have met and spoken several times since the war began, continuing to hail their “no-limits” friendship. Mr Xi has also refrained from denouncing Russia for invading Ukraine.

Experts say such close ties mean China has no credibility in playing a role in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, despite Beijing repeatedly suggesting the idea.

China has also called for a ceasefire, including in a 12-point statement released last month, but has never offered a concrete proposal as to how to reach a resolution – something Mr Xi reiterated ahead of his trip.

“There is no simple solution to a complex issue,” he wrote, saying there was “a reasonable way to resolve the crisis,” though stopped short of suggesting a framework.

Zhang Hanhui, China’s ambassador to Russia, told state media that “the more turbulent and unstable the world becomes, the more it is necessary for Sino-Russia relations to steadily move forward.”

Mr Xi is reportedly due to speak with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky by phone after his trip to Moscow, their first interaction since war broke out.

A recent diplomatic surprise – China overseeing the reinstatement of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran – has injected a glimmer of hope that perhaps Beijing could have a hand in installing peace between Russia and Ukraine.

But Beijing’s close ties with Moscow has still prompted concern over whether China could play an effective role.