Chinese President Xi Jinping will be in Russia from March 20-22 for a state visit after he was invited by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Friday.
The visit comes as China offers to broker peace in Ukraine, an effort that has been met with scepticism in the West given Beijing’s diplomatic support for Russia. It also comes at a time of rising tensions between China and the United States, particularly over Beijing’s support for Moscow.
“During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China,” the Kremlin said.
“A number of important bilateral documents will be signed,” it added.
Xi has met Putin in person 39 times since becoming president, most recently in September during a summit in central Asia.
Last month, Putin hosted China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on a visit to Moscow. One source said that Wang’s trip to Moscow was to help prepare for Xi’s visit.
Visit to ‘promote peace’
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Xi’s visit to Russia – his first in nearly four years – was in part to promote “peace”, although he made no explicit mention of the Ukraine war.
He said the leaders would also exchange opinions on major regional and international issues, strengthen bilateral trust and deepen economic partnerships.
Xi will hold a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy following his Russia visit, according to some media reports, although Beijing has not confirmed this.
China and Russia struck a “no limits” partnership in February 2022, when Putin was visiting Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The two sides have since continued to reaffirm the strength of their ties. Trade between the two countries has soared since the invasion. China is also Russia’s biggest buyer of oil, a key source of revenue for Moscow.
Meanwhile, the West has been wary of China’s close ties with Russia. Beijing has not condemned the conflict in Ukraine or called it an “invasion.”
Some officials have warned that a Russian victory could colour China’s actions toward Taiwan.
Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island, that it considers a wayward province, under its rule.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena