China hails 'new era' of Russia relations

Russian dolls with portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin on sale at a shop in Moscow, Russia.
Russian dolls with portraits of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin on sale at a shop in Moscow, Russia. Copyright Dmitry Serebryakov/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Dmitry Serebryakov/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AFP
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The Chinese Defence Minister praised his country's "strong ties" with Moscow on Sunday.

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China has "entered a new era" with Russia, its defence minister said on Sunday. 

During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Li Shangfu praised China's "strong" ties with Moscow, which "go beyond the military-political alliances of the Cold War era". 

"This is my first foreign visit since taking office as Defense Minister," he said. "I specifically chose Russia, in order to emphasise the special nature and strategic importance of our bilateral relations."

In March, Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Putin in Moscow. The two pledged to bolster strategic ties and attacked the West for "undermining" international security. 

Both praised the coming "new era" of relations with the West, hinting at their resistance to the US-led order. 

At the time, Beijing did not promise to deliver lethal aid to Russia, as some in Western capitals feared it would. 

In Sunday's meeting, broadcast on Russian television, Defence Minister Li said China was "willing to work with Russia" to "strengthen strategic communication between the two armies". 

He also said the pair would cooperate to "make new contributions to maintaining global and regional security and stability". He did not mention the conflict in Ukraine at any point, however. 

This latest diplomatic meeting between Russian and Chinese officials comes two days after a visit to Beijing by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. She urged Beijing to ask "the Russian aggressor to stop the war" in Ukraine, stating that "no other country has more influence on Russia than China".

Earlier, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also urged Beijing to play a greater role in resolving the crisis.

On Sunday, Putin praised military cooperation between the two countries. 

"We actively work through military departments, regularly exchange useful information, cooperate in the field of military-technical cooperation and conduct joint exercises," the Russian President said.

"This is undoubtedly another important area that strengthens the nature ... of our relationship."

Beijing has officially declared itself neutral towards the Ukraine war, though it has never publically condemned Russia. 

Xi is yet to speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

In February, China published a 12-point peace plan for the fighting in Ukraine, saying it was firmly opposed to any attack on civilians. 

Although it called on all countries to respect one another's sovereignty - including Ukraine - its proposal was flatly rejected by Kyiv and its Western allies. 

It did not include the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory. 

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Speaking to Euronews in March, experts suggested China is walking a delicate balancing act over Ukraine. 

They said Beijing is unlikely to provide overt military assistance to Moscow for fear of scuppering its involvement in Ukraine's reconstruction and provoking the ire of the West.

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