“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukraine crisis. We understand your questions and concerns in this regard,” Putin said in an opening speech to the meeting. “During today’s meeting, of course, we will explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have talked about this before.”
China will “work with Russia to offer strong mutual support on issues concerning each other’s core interests” and “play a leading role in injecting stability and positive energy into a world of change and chaos,” Xi said, according to a statement from the meeting. by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Xi also expressed appreciation for “Russia’s adherence to the one-China principle, and stressed that Taiwan is part of China.”
The two authoritarian leaders have emerged as close partners in recent years, spurred by a growing conflict with the West and a strong personal relationship.
China has provided tacit support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine, while Moscow has backed Beijing and criticized Washington over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August. Beijing responded to its flight with unprecedented military maneuvers around the democratic, autonomous island, which it claims to be its territory.
The White House sought to downplay the meeting between Putin and Xi on Thursday, saying that Beijing had not yet violated Western sanctions against Moscow and had not provided direct material assistance to Russia.
“Our message to China, I think, has been consistent: This is not the time for any kind of business as usual with Mr. Putin, given what he has done inside Ukraine. This is not the time to isolate from the rest of the National Security Council’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby, said John Kirby, To CNN, the international community, which has largely condemned what it is doing in Ukraine, has not only condemned it, but stepped up to help Ukrainians defend themselves and their territorial integrity.”
Kirby said Putin was “under a lot of pressure and tension. In Ukraine, his military is not doing well, and I think it’s certainly the duty of the Kremlin to want to get close to Beijing with regards to what’s going on there.”
In their meeting on Thursday, Putin condemned the United States for what he said were “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait, and criticized what he claimed were attempts to “create a unipolar world”. Those attempts, he said, “have recently taken an ugly shape and are totally unacceptable to most countries on this planet.”
The two are holding talks on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group focused on regional security that also includes India, Pakistan and four countries in Central Asia.
In a symbolic display of strength and unity, the Russian and Chinese navies conducted joint patrols and exercises in the Pacific just hours before their leaders met, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
At the start of the meeting on Thursday, Putin stressed the deepening of economic ties between China and Russia, noting that bilateral trade exceeded $140 billion last year. “I am convinced that by the end of the year we will reach new highs, and in the near future, as agreed, we will increase our annual commercial turnover to $200 billion or more,” he said.
The last time Putin met Xi was during a visit to the Chinese capital for the Winter Olympics in February this year. At that meeting, the two leaders laid out a framework for the “No Borders” partnership, and released a 5,000-word document expressing their common opposition to “NATO expansion.”
For Xi, meanwhile, Thursday’s meeting comes as part of his first trip outside China’s borders in more than two years, and just weeks before he seeks to secure a normative third term at a major political meeting in Beijing – a move that will cement his status as China’s most powerful leader since contracts.
China has increasingly turned inward since the beginning of the epidemic, and continues to maintain a strict anti-coronavirus policy that limits overseas travel.
Xi’s trip to Central Asia is a return to the world stage and provides him with an opportunity to show that despite rising tensions with the West, China still has friends and partners and is ready to reassert its global influence.
In a meeting with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Wednesday, Xi said China is willing to enter into a partnership with Kazakhstan “to remain a leader in Belt and Road cooperation.”
Chinese state media reported that Xi also told Tokayev that “China will always support Kazakhstan in maintaining its national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Chinese leader traveled to Uzbekistan on Wednesday evening and met with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He also met with the presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on Thursday.
CNN’s Anna Chernova, Betsy Klein, and Ivana Kutsova contributed to this report.