Putin and Xi's show of unity is deliberatebut one of them holds all the cards

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Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 17:40:41 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 17:40:41

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are closer than ever, and they want the world to see it

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are closer than ever, and they want the world to see it. But that's not the only reason behind the Russian leader's state visit to China.

Moscow correspondent @IvorBennett

Thursday 16 May 2024 14:52, UK

There's obviously a great deal of symbolism to this visit.

The banquet, the tea ceremony, the walk in the parkXi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are closer than ever, and they want the world to see it.

Their message is that it's time for a new global order, that isn't dominated by the West.

The Kremlin also wants to tell those watching back home that Russia isn't alone. That it no longer needs Europe.

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But the primary aim for Putin here is more pragmatic. It's about the economy.

The war in Ukraine has left Russia isolated from Western markets, and it needs China to keep it afloat.

So far, Beijing's been more than happy to buy discounted Russian energy, which has proved a lifeline for Moscow.

A tidal wave of Chinese goods has come the other way, which has kept the shelves stocked for consumers and softened the impact of sanctions.

For now, Russia's economy is growing. It's forecast to expand by more than 3% this year. But for how much longer?

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There are labour shortages in key sectors, like oil and gas.

The losses on the frontline have exacerbated a demographic crisis, and the brain drain that followed the invasion has affected the quality of the workforce.

What's more, the war is fast turning into a money pit for Moscow. Defence spending is projected to reach nearly 9% of GDP this year.

That explains the recent reshuffle of Putin's top team, in which he replaced his defence minister with an economist.

He wants to ensure Russia can continue to afford the war for as long as it takes.

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And that's where China comes in.

The delegation accompanying Putin speaks volumesboth new and old defence ministers, his finance minister, central bank governor, oil bosses and oligarchs, and more.

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