By Victoria Kelly-Clark
Beijing will continue deepening ties with Moscow—despite assurances the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would remain neutral over Ukraine—following a meeting between Chinese Defence Minister Gen. Li Shangfu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Li, recently appointed defence minister, said his visit to Russia was specifically designed to “emphasise the special character and strategic importance” of bilateral ties, according to a Kremlin transcript of the opening meeting.
He said the Chinese regime stood shoulder to shoulder with Russia and said their alliance was superior to all others.
Putin, who attended the talks with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, said cooperation between the two countries was increasing across all areas and that military cooperation was developing rapidly.
“We are also working actively through the military departments, regularly exchanging information that is useful to us, cooperating in the field of military-technical cooperation, conducting joint exercises, moreover, in different theatres: in the Far East region, and in Europe, and at sea, and on land and in the air,” Putin said.
“I think that this is, of course, another important area that strengthens the exclusively trusting, strategic nature of our relations—relations between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.”
The visit comes less than a month after Chinese leader Xi Jinping travelled to Moscow for three days of talks.
Leaked Papers Allege China Secretly Delivering Weapons to Russia
The diplomatic overtures have occurred amid U.S. intelligence leaks revealing that Beijing has been propping up the Russian military with weapons shipments.
Alleged Pentagon papers dated Feb. 23 that were leaked online revealed information compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) which disclosed the CCP had approved the “provision of lethal aid” to Russia earlier in 2023.
It also reported that the two countries planned to conceal the military equipment as civilian items.
The Epoch Times could not verify the authenticity of the images circulating online. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defence and ODNI have yet to respond to a request for comment.
The Biden Administration has previously said it does not believe Beijing is an impartial actor “in any way” in the Russian–Ukraine conflict.
“I don’t think you can reasonably look at China as impartial in any way,” said John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council.
“They haven’t condemned this invasion. They haven’t stopped buying Russian oil and Russian energy.”
The comments from Kirby came after Putin endorsed Beijing’s proposal for a ceasefire in Ukraine, which was launched during the three-day summit with Chinese leader Xi.
Beijing’s “12-point” proposal, which has no concrete strategies, has been disregarded by Western government as a ploy to buy Moscow time.
Kirby also rubbished Beijing’s actual desire for the war to end, arguing that while Xi was willing to fly to Moscow he “hasn’t talked once to President Zelenskyy, hasn’t visited Ukraine, hasn’t bothered to avail himself for the Ukrainian objective.”
“He and his regime keep parroting the Russian propaganda that this is somehow a war of the West on Russia that is some sort of existential threat to Mr. Putin,” Kirby said.
“That’s just a bunch of malarkey. Ukraine poses no threats to anybody, let alone Russia.”
Beijing Now in the Driver’s Seat
According to China expert Philip Cunningham, Russia is in a historically weak position vis-vis China, with the Russian government behaving like a vassal state.
Cunningham wrote in an article in China-U.S. Focus that the statements were “full of language in which Russia demonstrates its fealty not just to standard foreign policy positions, on the Taiwan question, for example, but to new and innovative and yet-untested visions advocated by Xi.”
“It’s one thing to see a foreign head of state paying general lip service to shared goals, but this summit took it to a new level in which the host repeated the precise phraseology of his guest,” he said.
This, he believes, indicates that Putin and the Russian government must work hard to please the CCP.
“The balance of power in the Xi-Putin relationship now clearly favours Xi, with the summit highlighting him from start to finish, with Putin, who is not in robust health, often nursing his grievances and sulking on the sidelines,” Cunningham said. “Russia is in a historically weak position vis-a-vis China, and it shows.”