China-Russia meeting: what is China’s relationship with Russia - does it support the invasion of Ukraine?

Chinese president Xi Jinping met with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow after being personally invited by the Russian president

Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a highly-publicised meeting between the two heads of state.

It comes shortly after Putin was issued with an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Xi, who has just begun his historic third term in power, has been reluctant to criticise Russia and Putin’s invasion since troops moved into Ukraine last February.

The bordering countries have enjoyed a flourishing friendship over the past 30 years, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Both Putin and Xi have both remarked on a “special relationship” between the two countries and are close personal allies.

When it comes to the war in Ukraine, China has remained officially neutral, although this is disputed by the West. According to reports, Xi is hoping that his country could act as a peace broker between Russia and Ukraine.

However, Beijing’s deal for peace has not been received well by the West. But how exactly does China and Russia’s relationship shape up? Here’s everything you need to know.

Is China an ally of Russia?

Technically China and Russia are not official allies. No treaty has been signed by the two countries to tie them together however both have remained friendly for many years and even have close military, political and economic relations. The relationship between Russia and China has been described as “not allies, but better than allies” by both sides despite no treaty between the two.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have remained close personal allies for many years. (Credit: Getty Images)Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have remained close personal allies for many years. (Credit: Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have remained close personal allies for many years. (Credit: Getty Images)

According to expert Charlie Parton, an associate fellow at Council on Geostrategy, China shares a "no-limits friendship" with Russia in which both countries hold similar values. He said: "It's a marriage of convenience rather than love. I mean, from the Chinese point of view, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and the basis of all Chinese foreign policy is anti Americanism."

He continued: "Russia is definitely a threat to Europe. China is also a threat to the West, so the combination of the two is a stronger threat to the US."

However, Mr Parton added that the geographic positioning of both China and Russia may well be a reason for the friendly relations. He said: "China and Russia, if they weren't close, it might be a problem.

"They used to have a million soldiers each on their borders facing each other and on the point of fighting in the 60s, so that suits them too. If you've got friendly relations, you can take soldiers off the border and put them elsewhere."

Does China support the war in Ukraine?

Xi has been very careful in pulling China onto a side amid the war in Ukraine. However, China has not condemned Russia’s role in launching the conflict.

The Chinese president has given assurances to Putin that China supports Russia’s “sovereignty and security”. Around the beginning of the war, there were also reports from China that Russia propaganda was being spread about the invasion of Ukraine.

However, the country has also attempted to broker a peace deal to end the war. The 12-point peace plan suggested by China was offered to both sides on the year anniversary of the invasion.

The deal included criticism of unilateral sanctions and the respect of sovereignty and borders. It also called for Russia and Ukraine to resume peace talks, however did not directly ask Russia to remove troops from Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showed a cautious welcome to the peace deal, and stated that he would be open to discussing the matter further. Russia on the other hand refused the terms, with Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating that "for now, we don’t see any of the conditions that are needed to bring this whole story towards peace."

While China offered a peace deal, the US dismissed the offer as an attempt to distract from its pro-Russian stance. This was echoed by NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg who said that the peace deal “doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Mr Parton said that China's reluctance to condemn Putin's invasion of Ukraine comes as a t looks to keep the strong relationship with a nation with shared interests. He said: "I think it stems from the fact that China's sees Russia as a friend in its struggle against America.

"Russia is as anti-American as China is. That extreme anti-Americanism unites the two of them."

He added that Chinese-Russian relations hang on Russia's opposition to the US, adding that Xi would be "concerned" if Putin were to fall from power and Russia was to adapt into a more westernised country. Mr Parton explained: "I think it suits him very much to have Russia as a threat to other countries, because it uses resources. It distracts from the threat that he [Xi] poses."