Chinese leader Xi Jinping left Moscow on Wednesday after his multiday visit in which he and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for continued and growing bilateral relations, but neither made any mention of military assistance.
Xi’s highly anticipated and choreographed three-day trip projected unity for the growing partnership as both face an increasingly tense outlook with the West. Leaders globally were focused on the two leaders’ discussion of Russia’s war in Ukraine and whether Beijing would provide Russia with lethal aid, as U.S. officials have warned for about a month.
Beijing has repeatedly attempted to position itself as a neutral arbiter. However, it has not condemned the war and has often pushed Russia’s account of the war, and a recently published peace plan from China was quickly dismissed as a nonstarter by Ukraine and its allies due to the tenets of the deal that would benefit Russia.
Putin said he supports “many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China” on Tuesday, which includes a ceasefire that would freeze the current battlefield positions in place, effectively solidifying Russia’s gains, which U.S. officials have explained would provide Russia the opportunity to refit, resupply, and redeploy its troops for a future offensive.
The two leaders did not discuss Ukraine’s peace plan, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, according to Russian state media outlet Tass.
U.S. officials have denounced the Chinese peace plan and warned preemptively that Xi may seek to play the role of peacemaker in the war.
“I don’t think you can reasonably look at China as impartial in any way,” National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said on Tuesday. “They haven’t condemned this invasion. They haven’t stopped buying Russian oil and Russian energy.”
While there was no public mention of military aid, the two leaders affirmed their country’s growing partnership. They jointly signed and released the Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era.
“Russia reaffirmed that it was committed to restarting peace talks as soon as possible, and China expressed its approval,” an excerpt from the joint statement said. “Settlement of the Ukraine crisis must respect the reasonable security concerns of every country and prevent the formation of confrontational blocs that add fuel to the flames.”
The White House made a sharp rebuttal to the joint statement, accusing China of parroting Russian propaganda.
“If China wants to play a constructive role in this conflict, then it ought to press Russia to pull troops out of Ukraine,” Kirby added.
U.S. officials reiterated this week that they have not seen intelligence to suggest China has decided to provide Russia with lethal aid.