Home News Putin’s China visit highlights military ties, worrying West

Putin’s China visit highlights military ties, worrying West


President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday attended a trade fair in the northeastern Chinese city and visited a state-owned university known for its cutting-edge defense research, underscoring the economic and military ties between the two countries. How it developed under or possibly because of the influence of Western countries. pressure.

Putin’s visit to Harbin, a Chinese city with Russian history, is part of a trip to show he has powerful friends even as his escalating war against Ukraine isolates him from the West. The visit follows a day of talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping that appeared to be carefully planned to convey not only the two powerful authoritarian leaders’ strategic alliance against the West but also personal ties.

After formal talks on Thursday, Putin and Xi strolled under willow trees in Zhongnanhai and drank tea in a traditional pavilion, state media showed. Zhongnanhai is the leadership compound in Beijing, surrounded only by their translators. When bidding farewell to Putin in the evening, Xi Jinping even took the initiative to hug Putin – a rare expression of affection for the Chinese leader.

“Xi Jinping embraced Putin very intentionally on camera, not just to emphasize the closeness of the political relationship between the two countries and their leaders,” said Richard McGregor, senior fellow for East Asia at Sydney’s Lowy Institute. ” There is also a defiance directed at Washington, which has been pressuring Beijing to withdraw its support for Moscow, which is clearly not going to happen in any substantive way.”

The show of camaraderie was the final touch of the talks, which culminated in a joint statement targeting the United States, which Putin and Xi accused of trying to suppress their country. The statement pledged that Russia and China would cooperate more closely in key areas such as energy, space and military.

Strengthening security ties between the two nuclear-armed states are a focus of Putin’s trip to Harbin.

Although China and Russia are not formal allies committed to defending each other through military support, their armed forces have cooperated more closely in recent years. The two countries’ air forces and navies have held joint military exercises, including in Alaska and near Taiwan, a de facto independent island claimed by Beijing. On Thursday, the two leaders issued statements supporting their respective claims to Taiwan and Ukraine.

Although China has vowed not to supply lethal weapons to Russia, it has been the largest supplier of components such as semiconductors and machine tools for civilian and military use.

While this is helpful, Mr. Putin is still looking to use more sophisticated tools. Harbin Institute of Technology is known for its rocket, missile and space technology research, and Russia stands to benefit greatly from this expertise as the war in Ukraine reignites demand for a more powerful military-industrial complex. The institute also trains North Korean scientists working on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, according to the Wall Street Journal and South Korean media.

Mr Putin’s visit to the school was full of symbolism. The 103-year-old university recently opened a joint campus with St. Petersburg State University, Mr. Putin’s alma mater. What’s more, the school is on the U.S.’s so-called Entity List, which is barred from accessing U.S. technology and participating in educational exchanges because of its ties to the People’s Liberation Army of China, something of a snub to Washington.

“We shouldn’t be concerned about what specific technologies China might share with Russia from Harbin or elsewhere, but about the larger pattern and signal that this visit represents,” said Marcus Galauskas, a security expert at the Atlantic Council. “

“China does not need to host Putin in Harbin in order to transfer technology from there to Russia,” he added. “This visit, conducted so publicly, is a clear and symbolic sign of Beijing’s willingness to provide directly militarily applicable technology in support of Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

Song Zhongping, a Beijing commentator and former military officer, defended Putin’s visit to the academy, pointing to its educational cooperation with Russia.

“Exchanges at the university level between China and Russia are in line with the academic exchanges and national interests of both countries,” Mr. Song said.

Galauskas said the trip to Harbin Institute of Technology echoed the occasion when Putin hosted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at a Russian spaceport last year before Pyongyang began supplying Moscow with ballistic missiles and other munitions for use by Russia. Ukraine.

“What China shares with Russia, Russia can easily turn around and share with North Korea,” Galauskas said.

Not long ago, China gained greater benefits from Russian military technology. Beginning in the 1990s and reaching its peak in the early 2000s, Beijing was a major buyer of Russian arms. Elizabeth Wishnik, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses in Virginia, said sales began to slow after Moscow became concerned about China’s reverse engineering of Russian weapons.

It was not until about a decade ago that cooperation between the two countries resumed, resulting in China acquiring more Russian jet engine technology and surface-to-air missile systems. Wishnik said Russia’s insistence on sharing its silent submarine technology, a feature that makes the submarines particularly difficult to detect, points to limited cooperation with China.

Putin also used his visit to Harbin and participation in a trade fair to promote the flow of goods between the two countries.

China has provided Russia with an economic lifeline by buying large amounts of Russian oil to circumvent the effects of its financial isolation from the Western world.Not only that, as many foreign consumer brands have also left Russia, Chinese companies have stepped in to fill the gap, such as car, smartphones and televisions. This will increase the two-way trade volume between China and Russia from US$190 billion in 2022 to a record US$240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs data.

Analysts say keeping trade growing is a key focus for both countries as Western pressure on China’s banks to reduce deals with Russian companies is believed to have led to the first year-on-year fall in trade volumes in more than two years. March of the year.

One solution is to increase the volume of transactions settled in local currencies rather than dollars to avoid sanctions risk. Putin said on Thursday that more than 90% of commercial transactions between Russia and China are now settled in rubles or yuan.

“Protecting the financial assets of China’s big banks is China’s most important interest,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. He said China was trying to reduce its exposure to the dollar, not just in Russia, but had “limited” room to do so.

Wang Aoli Contributed reporting.

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