Xi Jinping, the president of China, is striving extra hard to establish himself as a statesman on the international scene. As soon as he took one not fully wise move (discussing his peace plan with the President of Russia), the very next day, President Putin leveled all the efforts of his Chinese colleague, publicly declaring that he intended to deploy his nuclear weapons abroad. Recall that such a statement is unprecedented in the history of modern Russia.
After supporting an agreement to restore diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Xi has shifted his attention to other geopolitical issues, including Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and the necessity to reestablish China-US relations to allow his economy room to expand.
Xi spent three days in Moscow visiting Putin, where they had in-depth conversations and raised glasses to their “no limits relationship.”
“All nuclear weapons states should refrain from deploying nuclear weapons abroad,” they proclaimed in a unified declaration.
But only a few days later, Putin defied Xi by declaring intentions to provide tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, a neighboring country that borders Ukraine. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has never stored such weapons outside of its borders.
Whether or not Putin is playing a bluff with his armament, it puts Xi in an untenable position in his efforts to establish China as a trustworthy mediator in resolving disputes — he recently spoke with the Saudi crown prince about Iran.
In regard to Ukraine, Xi has neither openly backed nor harshly denounced Putin. Yet he has been making one point very plain for months: Moscow shouldn’t use nuclear weapons in the conflict.
Even taking into account Russia’s economic dependence on China and the Russian president’s desire for diplomatic allies, Putin’s posturing may cast doubt on the extent of Xi’s power over him.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he has sent an invitation to China President Xi Jinping to visit Ukraine in an interview with the Associated Press that was published on March 29.
“We are ready to see him here, I want to speak with him.”
The Ukrainian president noted that he had spoken with Xi before Russia’s full-scale invasion, but the two leaders have not spoken in more than a year of the all-out war.
Image: Ukrainian artist A.Yermolenko