Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

China-Russia Relationship Reaches New Zenith in Beijing

State of the Union: Is China’s Ukraine strategy shifting?


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing this week, spending two days meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

In Putin’s first trip abroad since his reelection in March, Moscow and Beijing reaffirmed their commitment to tightening the two Eurasian powers’ relationship. In early 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia and China entered into a “no limits” partnership.


“Our cooperation in world affairs today is one of the main stabilizing factors in the international arena,” Putin claimed. “Together we uphold the principles of justice and a democratic world order reflecting the multipolar realities founded in international law.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Xi’s China has more or less successfully walked a tricky tightrope. While Russia is more focused on short term objectives in the war, China is concentrated on the long term goal of supplanting U.S. dominated diplomatic and financial systems with its own. 

Therefore, while China has a “no limits” partnership with Russia that includes various security priorities, China has not been overly supportive of Russia’s invasion and constantly offered itself as a mediator to bring the conflict to a close. China even submitted its own peace proposal, which Putin thanked Xi for at this week’s summit. 

China hasn’t gone so far as to forcefully condemn Russia’s invasion, either. The U.S. has accused China of supplying crucial components for weapons production, such as chips and jet and drone parts. China, however, maintains it has not provided Russia with any arms and closely monitors equipment sales that have civilian and military applications. China has also become the outlet for the heavily sanctioned Russian economy. Trade between Russia and China increased more than 25 percent to $240 billion in 2023. Russia has pumped energy exports into the Chinese market at a discount; Chinese vehicles are in the driver’s seat in the Russian auto market.

From the outset of U.S. involvement in the Ukraine war, this magazine has repeatedly and successfully argued that continued support of Ukraine would drive Russia and China closer together. And China’s ambiguity vis-a-vis the Ukraine war might be coming to an end.

If China is providing Russia with military components, which seems likely, and the economic relationship between Beijing and Moscow continues to develop at the current rate, Xi’s China is pursuing a new strategy: assist Russia in the war effort to keep America bogged down in the Ukrainian quagmire. This not only helps Russia meet its short term goals, but better position China to play a major role in finding an agreement to end the war. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and there are plenty of tension points in China and Russia’s relationship that America could exploit if a certain presidential candidate wants to make a Nixonian pivot if sworn in January 20, 2025. Surely, it wouldn’t be the only similarity he has to the 37th president.