In Thursday’s much anticipated bilateral meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Uzbekistan, the two leaders agreed that the end of a unipolar world where the US dominates is at hand.
Putin called it “ugly” and pointed to the rejection of American hegemony by the “vast majority” of countries in his introductory remarks.
The geopolitical flashpoints of Ukraine and Taiwan were high on the discussion list, with the Russian leader telling Xi the West’s “attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken on an absolutely ugly shape and are absolutely unacceptable to the vast majority of nations on the planet,” according to a state media translation.
However, many Western pundits are now seizing upon a cryptic reference to China’s Xi raising “concerns” over the Ukraine situation.
Putin held up the eight-nation regional security grouping that includes India and Pakistan among others as a counterbalance of “constructive and creative cooperation” – despite its relatively recent establishment (founded in 2001).
Continuing on the theme of much of the planet’s populations seeking to resist US unipolar order, he said of the SCO, “It is now the biggest regional organization in the world, uniting a vast geographic space and about half of our planet’s population.”
Putin reiterated to his Chinese counterpart that he “highly appreciates” the “balanced position” by “our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis” – given that Beijing has consistently focused its attention on highlighting Russia’s ‘legitimate’ national security concerns amid NATO expansion whenever pressed on the invasion.
In Russian state media readouts, it was only noted that “concerns” over the conflict were raised by the Chinese leader. In his introductory remarks, Putin told his “dear and longtime friend” Xi:
“We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends regarding the Ukrainian crisis, we understand your questions and concerns on this matter, and during today’s meeting we will of course clarify all of these in detail.”
NOW – China's Xi and Russia's Putin meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.pic.twitter.com/IiicfSS3rO
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Addressing China’s most sensitive geopolitical issue, which involves Washington muscle-flexing in its own backyard, Putin also addressed the Taiwan matter, telling Xi:
“We firmly adhere to the One China principle in practice. We condemn the provocations of the United States and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait.”
As was expected, the two presidents pledged to deepen economic ties between the two countries after already trade has hit a new record high in 2022, as Putin stressed, at an increase of 25% within the first seven months of this year.
The trip marks Xi’s first outside of China in almost three years, since the pandemic began.
Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Stimson Center, summarized the significance of the Xi-Putin meeting in The Washington Post, saying, “It’s of course a demonstration of mutual support and solidarity, a message primarily for the U.S. and the West.”