Mar 21, 2023
Chinese President Visits Putin in Russia as the Countries Increase Cooperation Transcript
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow Monday for a three-day state visit to Russia. Read the transcript here.
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Geoff Bennett (00:00):
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow today for a three-day state visit to Russia. Relations between the two countries have grown closer over the past year as China’s imports of Russian oil have increased and both countries seek to undercut the US on the world’s stage. Nick Schifrin has the story
Nick Schifrin (00:21):
They call each other dear old friends, and in their 40th meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping labeled Russian president, Vladimir Putin, his partner in war and peace.
Xi Jinping (00:30):
[foreign language 00:00:34]-
Xi Jinping translator (00:34):
China attaches great importance to China-Russians relations because we are each other’s biggest neighboring countries as well as strategic partners.
Nick Schifrin (00:42):
The two men share authoritarian recipes for power and a mutual desire to upend US influence. China remains one of the biggest buyers of Russian energy. Chinese companies are providing Russia with parts essential to maintain Russian weapons. The two countries conduct joint military exercises, and since the war in Ukraine began, China has neither endorsed nor condemned it. Beijing’s new peace plan calls for upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty, but not for Russian troops to withdraw, an approach Putin endorsed today.
Vladimir Putin (01:17):
[foreign language 00:01:20]-
Vladimir Putin translator (01:19):
We know that you proceed from the principles of justice and observance of the fundamental provisions of international law, of indivisible security for all countries.
Nick Schifrin (01:29):
But today, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, rejected in advance any call for a ceasefire.
Antony Blinken (01:34):
Calling for a ceasefire that does not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory would effectively be supporting the ratification of Russian conquest. It would recognize Russia’s attempts to seize the sovereign neighbors territory by force. It would enable Russia to further entrench positions in Ukraine.
Nick Schifrin (01:53):
This weekend, Putin tried to show just how entrenched his position in Ukraine already is. In a staged and scripted nighttime visit, Russian TV showed him speaking to residents of Mariupol, nevermind the daytime view, a city nearly obliterated by Russian troops.
This weekend, Putin also visited Russian-occupied Crimea, including what Russian media described as a children’s center, one day after Putin became an indicted war criminal for allegedly overseeing the forced deportation of Ukrainian children. In part because of those war crimes, Putin and Russia are increasingly isolated. But today’s visit came with an endorsement from the leader of the world’s second-largest economy and military.
Xi Jinping (02:35):
[foreign language 00:02:39]-
Xi Jinping translator (02:39):
Thanks to your strong leadership, Russia has achieved significant success in reaching prosperity and wellbeing of the country. I’m sure that the people of Russia will support you in your best efforts.
Nick Schifrin (02:50):
Beijing casts Xi as a peacemaker and he’s expected to speak with Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky following his trip to Moscow. What is driving the increased level of cooperation between Russia and China? For that, we turn to Sasha Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who joins us from Geneva. Sasha Gabuev, welcome to News Hour. Thanks very much. Firstly, how important is it for Putin to get this visit from Xi?
Sasha Gabuev (03:16):
It is very important because China, over the course of the last 12-plus months, has turned into a major supporter of Russia. It’s the major market for Russian hydrocarbons, and the major source of cash for Putin’s war chest. It’s the major source of imports, including dual-use imports and civilian chips that enable Putin’s war economy going. When China stands next to you or behind you, you can say that you are not isolated.
Nick Schifrin (03:48):
I want to drill down into what China’s sending to Russia. But first let’s get the other side. How does Xi Jinping see the importance of the relationship between Beijing and Moscow right now?
Sasha Gabuev (03:58):
I think that Xi Jinping’s relationship with Russia was always important. Russia is an important source of raw materials, and Russia is the only like-minded authoritarian state on the US Security Council among permanent members. But what also colors his perspective now is this view that the US-China relationship is going off the cliff, it’s continued confrontation that gets worse, and here Russia as a junior partner is a very valuable asset.
Nick Schifrin (04:28):
That is the case especially as President Biden sees the world or at least paints the world in terms of democracy versus authoritarianism. Right?
Sasha Gabuev (04:36):
That’s absolutely right. That’s the depiction that helps to bring Russia and China closer together, particularly since both are quite obsessed about what they see, the US democracy-promotion effort. Both Xi Jinping and Putin see themselves vulnerable at home and they definitely want to join hands to push back against US hegemony.
Nick Schifrin (04:57):
Senior US officials are particularly worried about right now if China were to decide to send weapons openly to Russia, but how do you see China already supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine?
Sasha Gabuev (05:11):
I think that providing cash by opening its market for Russian hydrocarbons is very important because soldiers need to be paid and all of the military procurements also need to be covered. But also China provides the civilian ships and also some of the components of Russian arms like radars and surface-to-air missiles and many other arms and Russian weapons that are used on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Nick Schifrin (05:39):
Are these supply chains that are going from China to Russia, are they long-established? Because US officials have repeatedly said that Beijing hasn’t made the overt decision to arm Russia.
Sasha Gabuev (05:51):
These are long-established relationships. These are not ready weapons that are complete; these are just components. But these are ties from sanctioned Chinese entities to sanctioned Russian entities that go back years and years. We don’t see evidence that China has already provided some significant amount of weapons that will be lethal and that will be used on the battlefield.
Nick Schifrin (06:14):
As I mentioned before, Beijing portrays Xi Jinping as a peacemaker in this visit, as part of a diplomatic effort to try and end the war in Ukraine. How much of this visit is really about that effort?
Sasha Gabuev (06:25):
Right now, the mood in Kiev and in Moscow is give war a chance. China perfectly gets it, and for Beijing, its diplomatic effort is just more a tool to push back against Western criticism that is leaning too much in support of Vladimir Putin’s war. At the same time, it provides justification for Xi Jinping to go to Moscow to engage Putin on a state visit, but that needs to be coupled with outreach to President Zelensky, which will also happen, but in a separate phone call rather than a full-fledged visit.
Nick Schifrin (07:00):
Finally, we expect a joint statement out of this trip from both leaders. What should we be looking out for?
Sasha Gabuev (07:07):
The language might be a little bit guarded, but it cannot mask that the relationship is getting deeper. It’s increasingly asymmetric. The terms are dictated by China, and then the primary target that they have in mind as their opponent are the United States of America.
There will be some documents that are the underwater part of the iceberg, for example, decisions to sell secretive Russian military technology like surface-to-air systems, S-500, or the most advanced Russian fighter jets to China that both Moscow and Beijing feel is not the right time to publicize that, given the war and the negative optics, but it’s okay to start implementing them and go public about that months from now and maybe even years from now.
Nick Schifrin (07:57):
Sasha Gabuev of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, thank you very much.
Sasha Gabuev (08:02):
Thank you for having me.