Putin and Xi plot a new world order to challenge America’s might

President Putin heads east this week to the ancient Uzbek city of Samarkand for talks with President Xi that highlight Russia’s dependence on China since its disastrous war in Ukraine.

The Chinese and Russian leaders will meet at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an eight-member economic and security grouping that includes India and Pakistan, as well as Uzbekistan and other former Soviet countries in central Asia.

This will be Putin and Xi’s second face-to-face meeting this year, but the first since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, shortly after the end of the Beijing Olympics, where they met. Then, as Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, the two men pledged that the friendship between their countries knew “no limits”. That sentiment was reinforced this week by Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, who said that Beijing and Moscow sought to take the global order “in a more just and reasonable direction”.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, said today that the meeting would have “a special significance in view of the current international situation”, and added: “China has taken a well-balanced approach to the Ukrainian crisis, clearly expressing its understanding of the reasons that prompted Russia to launch the special military operation. The issue will be thoroughly discussed during the meeting.”

Although Beijing has not publicly backed the Kremlin’s invasion, it has not condemned it, and has accused Nato of provoking Russia by expanding eastwards into former Soviet countries. China has also continued to strengthen economic and strategic ties with Russia in the almost seven months since the start of the war. Chinese troops took part in massive war games that were staged by Russia in its far east region and the Sea of Japan this month.