China reaffirms support for Putin after Xi’s record 3rd term victory at congress
Beijing, Oct 28: China has reaffirmed its firm support to Russian President Vladimir Putin, playing down reports that it may recalibrate its strategy towards Moscow after the key Communist Party Congress which endorsed President Xi Jinping for a record third five-year term.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a telephonic conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Thursday. Wang, who was elected to the 24-member Politburo, a high-power body of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), is emerging as Xi’s top official on foreign policy issues. He will take over his new position in March next year. Wang chose to make his first phone call to Lavrov after the party congress to highlight the continued importance Beijing attached to Moscow.
“China is willing to deepen exchanges with Russia at all levels and promote bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields to a higher level,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
In his interaction with Lavrov, Wang said, "China will be resolutely supporting Russia in the future so that under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, the Russian people overcome difficulties, remove all obstacles and put into practice their development strategy goals, as well as make further progress in strengthening Russia's status as a power in the international arena."
The 20th Congress of the CPC, which concluded on Monday, re-elected Xi, 69, as its General Secretary for a record third term, the only leader after party founder Mao Zedong to continue in power after a 10-year term. So far, all Chinese leaders have retired after two five-year terms.
Xi, who is equated with Mao as the core leader, is widely expected to continue in power for life. Speculation was rife that Xi may reorient his full support to Putin after the Congress in the light of reverses suffered by the Russian leader in his war in Ukraine, especially after Putin said in his meeting with the Chinese leader last month at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit at Samarkand that he understands Beijing’s “questions and concerns”.
A number of China experts, including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, said Xi may ramp down his support to Putin in the light of new realities. “Xi gave a rather blank check to Putin,” Kissinger said at the Asia Society in New York recently. “He must have thought the invasion would succeed. He must need to recalibrate,” he said, weeks after his meeting with Wang in September during which the Chinese foreign minister interacted with him on foreign policy perspectives, especially on the deteriorating ties between the US and China.
In his Asia Society lecture, Kissinger said Xi almost certainly expected Putin to be successful after Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and wants to avoid seeing a wall of Western opposition against China develop in the way it has against Russia, potentially raising questions at home.
Yang Shu, former dean of Central Asian studies at Lanzhou University in northwest China, said the Wang-Lavrov phone call was in line with the tradition for China to first call its most important strategic partner after the congress.
“[Beijing] is telling the outside world, despite various speculation of a policy change after the 20th congress, we don’t have any change but will adhere to past policy and strategy,” Yang told the South China Morning Post on Friday. Xi is widely expected to attend the next month’s G20 summit at Bali in Indonesia where he may meet Putin if he attends the meeting.