China's head of state Xi Jinping is on his way to Moscow on Monday.
Observers fear that he could agree military aid there with Vladimir Putin.
The need for weapons in Russia is great.
Moscow/Munich – Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin shaking hands in Moscow or having a conversation at Putin's large table: these are images that should send chills down the spine of many in the West.
A few weeks ago, cautious hopes surfaced that China's head of state Xi could cautiously distance himself from Russia's president.
During meetings with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden, he condemned the use of nuclear weapons.
But now Xi is traveling to Moscow himself.
Nobody could give Putin a much greater appreciation at the moment.
The symbolism is enormous.
Xi is the first head of state from a major power to visit Moscow since Vladimir Putin ordered an attack on Ukraine just over a year ago.
Only a few had strayed to Moscow since February 2022, mostly global midgets and pariahs, like global pariahs like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad just last week.
Syria is one of the handful of countries that always coordinate with Russia at the United Nations.
Last summer, Syria recognized the Russian-held regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine as independent and sovereign entities.
China's "pro-Russian neutrality"
So far, China has not gone that far.
Beijing's UN representative voted twice with Russia at the start of the Ukraine war;
since then the People's Republic has abstained.
Beijing has also not recognized Russia's annexations and insists on the inviolability of the borders of sovereign states.
But Beijing is not considered a neutral actor in Kiev or in the West.
China verbally supports Russia, spreads Moscow propaganda and blames the US and NATO for the escalation of the conflict.
China does not support Western sanctions - even if it has not yet directly circumvented them.
The keyword is "so far".
At the Munich Security Conference in February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suspected that China was considering supplying arms to Russia after all.
Chinese drones have appeared in the war zone, although they are being used by both sides.
A company is also said to deliver a small tranche of assault rifles.
Some assume that Putin will directly ask Xi for arms deliveries at the summit.
The West is alert and will scan the meeting for any sign of potential arms deals.
In any case, arms deliveries would destroy any semblance of honest mediation on the part of Beijing.
Even the twelve-point plan for peace in Ukraine presented by Beijing reads more like a pro-Russian position paper.
What Xi can discuss with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the planned video link after his trip to Moscow will also depend on what impression Xi's summit with Putin makes.
Article Xi and Putin
To celebrate their friendship, both heads of state published articles in the partner country's state press on Monday.
In his text published in the Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta,
Xi Jinping called
for an “equal, rational and pragmatic” dialogue in order to end the war in Ukraine.
"There are no simple solutions to complex problems."
Xi hailed the increasingly deepening China-Russia relationship as "non-conformist, non-confrontational and non-third-party."
His flight to Moscow was "a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace."
Without naming either the US or the West, Xi wrote that global development was “deeply damaged by hegemony and tyranny.”
Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, in his text published in China's Communist Party newspaper, the
's Daily, directly launched an attack on the West: 'Gambling' for the fate of some countries and peoples,” Putin railed in it.
He accused the US of wanting to contain both China and Russia.
"The architecture of international security and cooperation is being dismantled."
China-Russia Relations: Together Against the West
It is easy to dismiss such pamphlets as the madness of someone obsessed with imperialist urges.
But the axis between Beijing and Moscow seems to be holding up.
Because even if Xi expresses himself more cautiously: Both rulers equally reject the "rules-based world order" dominated by the USA and the West.
At least for Xi, this is the main driving force behind the close ties with Putin.
So far, it is completely uncertain whether China's head of state will actually let Russia deliver weapons.
The USA has not yet been able to provide any evidence of this either.
The upcoming trip marks Xi's ninth visit to Russia as Chinese leader and his first trip abroad since the start of his historic third term.
Xi had placed great emphasis on better relations with Moscow early in his career.
Immediately after taking office in March 2013, his first trip abroad as head of state took him to Moscow to meet with Putin.
Since then, bilateral trade has more than doubled, reaching a total of $190 billion in 2022, 116 percent larger than ten years ago.
Relations with the West, on the other hand, deteriorated during the Xi era.
Little is likely to change about that for the time being.