Taipei, Taiwan: The leaders of Russia and China met Wednesday in Beijing and called for close foreign policy coordination, as concerns grow about possible conflicts with the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Beijing’s rising threats against Taiwan.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin discussed trade and the 10th anniversary of Xi’s trademark Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that has built highways, ports and power plants across Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere.
The policy has left many states deep in debt to Chinese banks, and the attempt to pump new life into it comes at a time when China’s own economy has slowed considerably due to huge over investment in real estate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a visit that underscores China’s support for Moscow during its war in Ukraine as well as Russian backing for China’s bid to expand its economic and diplomatic influence abroad.
The two countries have forged an informal alliance against the United States and other democratic nations that is now complicated by the Israel-Hamas war. China has sought to balance its ties with Israel against its relations with Iran and Syria, two countries that are strongly backed by Russia and with which China has forged ties for economic reasons as well as to challenge Washington’s influence in the Middle East.
Chinese President Xi Jinping promised foreign companies greater access to China’s huge market and more than $100 billion in new financing for other developing economies as he opened a forum Wednesday on his signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
Xi’s initiative has built power plants, roads, railroads and ports around the world and deepened China’s ties with Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Mideast. But the massive loans backing the projects have burdened poorer countries with heavy debts, in some cases leading to China taking control of those assets.
Putin will be among the highest-profile guests at a gathering marking the 10th anniversary of Xi’s announcement of the BRI project, which has laden countries such as Zambia and Sri Lanka with heavy debt from contracts with Chinese companies to build roads, airports and other public works they could not otherwise afford. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has praised the Chinese policy as bringing development to neglected areas.