Despite Western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated his country’s determination to trade with Russia.
“Today our cooperation between Russia and China [is] rising,” Xi said, according to an official English translation carried by Russian state broadcaster RT. He cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February visit to Beijing.
“Trade over the first half of this year has been [in the tens of billions of U.S. dollars] and we can expect new records in upcoming months, which is a testament to the great cooperation between our two nations,” Xi said.
The Chinese leader was appearing via video during the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which Putin started with an hour-long speech.
The official Chinese state media summary of Xi’s statements made no mention of “new records” in China-Russia trade. The summary did call for trade barriers to be removed and more collaboration with other countries, particularly Russia.
In both the Chinese readout and the RT translation, Xi stressed China’s economic potential and spoke of the Belt and Road Initiative’s future development.
According to China customs figures, trade between China and Russia totaled $65.81 billion in the first five months of this year, up 28.9 percent from the same period last year.
The majority of the expansion was driven by Chinese imports from Russia.
Beijing has refused to label Russia’s aggression against Ukraine as an invasion. Following a high-profile meeting between Xi and Putin in early February, a readout stated that collaboration had “no bounds” or “forbidden areas,” without mentioning Ukraine.
According to a Chinese readout of Xi’s phone chat with Putin earlier this week, Kyiv and Moscow “should push for a proper settlement” in Ukraine’s ongoing war.
“China, they have their national interest in mind,” Putin said Friday following Xi’s remarks, according to RT’s English translation. “But we do not contradict each other.”
He defined Russia’s relations with China as “friendly,” but added, “That doesn’t mean China has to agree with us on everything.” We don’t require that.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Xi has not spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Many countries, from Germany to Japan, have joined the United States in freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs, limiting Russia’s top banks’ access to the global financial system, and cutting Russia off from key technologies.
This year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum takes place from Wednesday to Saturday. The forum is sometimes referred to as a “Russian Davos.”
In April, during the Boao Forum for Asia, dubbed the “Asian Davos,” Xi proposed a “Global Security Initiative” and appealed for Asian unification.
In a January virtual address to the World Economic Forum’s “The Davos Agenda,” Xi stated that China was still dedicated to opening up its home market and that “all forms of capital are welcome to operate in China in accordance with laws and regulations.”
In May, the Chinese leader did not go or speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As Beijing retains strict control over its national boundaries, overall attendance by Chinese business leaders was low.
Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, the World Economic Forum prevented Russian businesses and politicians from attending the event.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)