Xi and Putin reject US ‘interference’ and pledge industrial co-operation

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Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have rejected US “interference” in their affairs and pledged to strengthen their industrial co-operation after trade between the two countries soared last year.

Moscow and Beijing should “cultivate new momentum for co-operation” and “maintain the stability of industrial and supply chains”, Chinese state media quoted the president as telling his Russian counterpart in the call on Thursday.

“The two sides should strengthen strategic co-ordination, safeguard the national sovereignty, security and development interests of their respective countries, and resolutely oppose external interference in their internal affairs,” he said.

China has emerged as Russia’s most important ally since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago. Beijing has tacitly backed the war by throwing Moscow an economic lifeline and shares the Kremlin’s antipathy for what it calls US economic “hegemony”.

The Kremlin boasted that Russia’s annual bilateral trade volume with China had passed ahead of schedule the $200bn target set by Putin and Xi, reaching a record $228bn in 2023. It said that 90 per cent of transactions between the countries were denominated in roubles or yuan.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters that Russia and China had “close approaches on key international issues” and “do not and will not accept” US policy towards them.

“Mutual rejection was expressed of the US course aimed at interfering in the internal affairs of other states,” Ushakov said, according to Russian state newswire RIA Novosti.

“Moscow and Beijing do not and will not accept this policy,” he added. “The most important thing is that the leaders of the two countries understand that the US practically has a policy of dual containment of Russia and China.”

Russia’s increasing reliance on China, however, has cemented its junior partner status in the relationship as Moscow becomes increasingly dependent on new markets for its energy exports.

The two countries have yet to agree to begin construction on the long-delayed Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, which aims to replace the revenues Russia made from gas exports to Europe before the war.

Putin backed China’s position on Taiwan and also discussed Ukraine with Xi, the Kremlin said, though Ushakov said the latter portion of the call was “fairly brief”.

They also held a detailed discussion of Israel’s war against Hamas, the “humanitarian tragedy in Gaza” and the wider situation in the Middle East, Ushakov added. “Our countries’ positions on the principles of sustainably resolving [the conflict] in the region completely overlap.”

China has stepped up exports to Russia of everything from vehicles to machine tools, assisting its war effort as European and US sanctions close off Moscow’s access to western technology.

Chinese shipments of advanced “computer numerical control” machine tools have increased tenfold since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with the country’s producers now dominating trade in the devices critical to Russia’s military industries.

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