• | 5:30 pm

How Biden’s policy is bringing China and Russia closer

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have been getting closer, marked by the Russian president’s first official visit to China last week, days after he started his fifth term in office

How Biden’s policy is bringing China and Russia closer
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, 71, made his first official visit to China last week, just nine days after starting his fifth term, to meet President Xi Jinping, 70.  That the two are roughly of the same age might have made it easier for them to get along. 

The summit, easily one of the most important in recent times, marks a significant moment in fortifying the China-Russia axis. It came at a time when the US, under President Joe Biden, has followed a set of policies making it inevitable for Moscow and Beijing to get closer. The summit reflected their joint determination to work out a long-term plan to replace the US-dominated world order by what they refer to as a ‘multipolar’ system.

Putin received a red-carpet welcome at the Great Hall of the People, highlighted by a 21-gun salute and the music of “Moscow Nights.” This meeting commemorated 75 years of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), of which Russia is the legal successor.

The Russian delegation included foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, newly appointed defense minister Andrei Belousov, his predecessor Sergei Shoigu, several deputy prime ministers, and the head of Russia’s central bank. The composition of the delegation emphasized military and economic cooperation between the two nations. 

U S, China, and Russia are the top powers among the 5 permanent members of the U N Security Council. Russia and China meet each other at the summit level  more often than with U S . Xi Jinping, who began his third term in March 2023, made Moscow his first port of call, with Putin returning the visit in October. 

In February 2022, just before invading Ukraine, Putin met Xi in Beijing, where a ‘no-limits partnership’ was proclaimed. Obviously, Russia’s planned military operation in Ukraine would have topped the agenda. 

In this context, we need to note Washington’s views on China-Russia trade. The US believes that without China’s supply of machine tools and semiconductors, the Russian war machine would have eventually come to a halt, compelling Putin to agree to a ceasefire on terms advantageous to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Western supporters led by Biden.

We do not know whether Washinton’s assessment is correct. However, we know that efforts by the US to compel China to change its policies have not succeeded.

Let us look at what Washington did in the weeks before the Putin-Xi summit. 

In late April, US secretary of state Antony Blinken visited China, raising the issue of “Chinese support for Russia’s defense base” during his five-and-a-half-hours’ talk with his counterpart, Wang Yi. 

Failing to make any impact, Blinken, while he was still in China, said if Beijing would not act, Washington would be compelled to act. 

We may note that  Biden signed a bill providing $8 billion to “counter China’s military might”, hours before Blinken landed in China. 

On 14 May, two days before the Putin-Xi meeting, Biden raised tariffs on imports from China to “protect American workers and businesses from China’s unfair trade practices.” 

Biden’s initiatives might have given Putin and Xi even more incentive to work together against US interests.

The 7,000-word (Russian version) joint communiqué from the summit highlights a “new era” of partnership to confront the US, characterized as an “aggressive Cold War hegemon.” 

Let us note the formulations on a few key issues:

Ukraine War

China’s support, diplomatic and otherwise, for Russia is expressed with exemplary subtlety, with Russia appreciating China’s unbiased stance and support for its sovereignty and stability.

Note these two paragraphs:

China “supports the efforts of the Russian side to ensure security and stability, national development and prosperity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and opposes outside interference in Russia’s internal affairs.”

“The Russian side positively assesses China’s objective and unbiased position on the Ukrainian issue.”

Strategic Military Balance 

The two sides hold that Washington is attempting to change the military strategic balance. They condemn US’s four steps:

1- US global missile defense and deploying parts of it in regions around the world and in space.

2- Developing high-precision non-nuclear weapons for potential “decapitation” strikes.

3- “Extended nuclear deterrence” with allies, including Australia, such as AUKUS.

4- Plans to deploy ground-based intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles (INF) in the Asia-Pacific and European regions, including their transfer to its allies.

North Korea 

“The parties oppose the actions of intimidation in the military sphere carried out by the US and its allies, which provoke further confrontation with the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), fraught with armed incidents and escalation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the joint statement said. 


Russia “reaffirms its commitment to the principle of ‘one China’, recognizes that Taiwan is an integral part of China, opposes the independence of Taiwan in any form, and firmly supports the actions of the Chinese side to protect its own sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as to unify the country.”

Western assessments, like that from White House national security spokesman John Kirby, downplayed the summit’s significance, citing a lack of trust and history of cooperation between the two leaders. 

Kirby said, “although the two countries are acting in ways that are contrary to US interests, they don’t have a long history of trusting each other.”

“They’re also two leaders”, Kirby added, “that don’t have a long history of working together, and officials in both governments that aren’t necessarily all that trustful of the other.” (Italics added.)

However, Putin and Xi’s personal rapport contradicts this view. Putin celebrated his birthday with Xi in 2013, establishing a unique bond.

Putin recalled to Chinese media in 2018:

“I won’t hide it; we had a shot of vodka and sliced some sausage. We finished the day’s work, and he celebrated my birthday with me … I’ve never established such relations or made such arrangements with any other foreign colleague, but I did it with President Xi.”

Besides the personal relationship of Putin and Jinping, there are geopolitical reasons for Moscow and Beijing to get closer. When the West imposed sanctions on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square  massacre, China turned to Russia for strategic weapons and became the largest importer thereof. In 2014, when the US imposed sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea, Russia turned to China for a stronger economic relationship.

Biden has done his best to bring Russia and China even closer. He publicly called Putin “a killer” and Xi Jinping “an autocrat”. Biden’s brand of diplomacy, marked by public criticism and sanctions, is a study in scoring self-goal.


KP Fabian is a diplomat who served in the Indian Foreign Service between 1964 and 2000. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Symbiosis Law School in Pune. More

More Top Stories: