Russia and China are set to sign a set of bilateral agreements on Wednesday during the Russian prime minister’s trip to Beijing as the two giant neighbours pledge closer cooperation even as the West remains critical of their ties amid the war in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin – the highest ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent thousands of its troops to Ukraine in February 2022 – was holding talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang, according to the Russian government.
“As a result of the talks, a number of bilateral agreements is planned to be signed,” the Russian news agency Interfax reported, without elaborating.
The visit comes after Russia and China reacted furiously to the Group of Seven weekend’s declarations that singled them out on a range of issues, including Ukraine, nuclear arms and economic coercion.
Xi visited Russia in March and held talks with “dear friend” President Vladimir Putin, after committing to a “no limits” partnership just before the 2022 Russia attack on Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
Beijing has rejected Western attempts to link its partnership with Moscow to Ukraine, insisting that their relationship does not violate international norms, China has the right to collaborate with who it chooses, and their cooperation is not targeted at any third countries.
As a show of support, the Chinese premier on Tuesday sent a congratulatory letter to the China-Russia business forum in Shanghai, attended by Mishustin and a large group of Russian tycoons, saying China is willing to expand bilateral economic and trade exchanges.
In April, China’s exports to Russia saw continued momentum, climbing 153.1% from a year earlier, after more than doubling in March, according to data from Chinese customs.
Russia’s energy shipments to China are projected to rise by 40% this year, and the two countries are discussing technological equipment supplies to Russia, Interfax news agency reported.
Deepening of ties with China is a strategic course for Moscow, said the secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, who held talks on Monday with Chen Wenqing, member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo who oversees police, legal affairs and intelligence.
Mishustin’s visit comes at a time when Ukraine is readying a counteroffensive in a bid to retake occupied territory by Russian forces.
Beijing has refrained from openly denouncing Russia’s invasion. But since February, Xi has promoted a 12-point peace plan, which has been met with scepticism from the West and cautiously welcomed by Kyiv.
Last week, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs Li Hui visited Ukraine and met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, kicking off a European tour that Beijing billed as its effort to promote peace talks and a political settlement of the crisis.
Li Hui is scheduled to visit Russia on Friday, Russian news agency TASS reported.