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How Xi, Putin relationship has grown

It was only six weeks ago that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met shortly before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics and released a sweeping 5,000-word statement that reaffirmed their no-limits relationship.

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Putin and Xi In Statement Blast “Cold War” NATO Approach

As Moscow massed tens of thousands of soldiers on the border of Ukraine, together the pair in their 38th in-person meeting in nine years disavowed NATO, the United States-European military alliance forged in the Cold War and now grappling with a resurgent Russia.

And on February 24, Russia did what many thought was unthinkable by invading neighbouring Ukraine.

Whether Putin told Xi about the planned invasion is not known, but US officials say Russia has asked China for economic and military aid as it faces unprecedented sanctions from Western countries and their allies, a mass corporate exodus and an unexpectedly resistant Ukraine.

China is now facing its own public relations challenge to avoid being pulled into the conflict. Its ambassador to Ukraine was dispatched to perform damage control in Europe while its US ambassador wrote a lengthy op-ed in The Washington Post disavowing prior knowledge of the invasion.

Xi prepares to speak on Friday with US President Joe Biden for the first time since the war began. Biden is expected to “make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression”, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and there will be “costs” to further support.

Elizabeth Wishnick, a senior research scientist at CNA, a non-profit research and analysis organisation outside Washington, DC, notes the closer ties between Beijing and Moscow partly reflect the warm relationship between Xi and Putin, making it unlikely that China will abandon Russia.

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In 2019, the two countries upgraded their ties to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for a New Era”, complemented by deeper military cooperation and a new gas pipeline through Siberia – but Wishnick says the depth of the connection is clear from Putin and Xi’s frequent interactions over the past decade.

Personal ties that bind: How Xi-Putin relationship has evolved  Al Jazeera English

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