Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin visited Beijing, China and signed several deals with the country on May 23. Mishustin described the heightening of bilateral ties between Russia and China as unprecedented, amidst disapproval and sanctions from Western officials due to the ongoing Ukraine war. Mishustin is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine. He was scheduled to meet Ukrainian-Chinese Premier Li Qiang and President Xi Jinping. As Russia faces increasing pressure from Western sanctions and the Ukraine war enters its second year, the country is looking to China for help.
Mishustin said at the meeting that “Russia-China relations are at an unprecedented high level,” characterized by respect for each other’s interests and a desire to meet challenges jointly. The memorandum of understanding signed included agreements to deepen investment cooperation and trade services. Russia’s energy shipments to China are expected to rise by 40% this year, and the two countries are discussing the supply of technical equipment. China’s willingness to engage economically with Russia provides new opportunities, although it is cautious to avoid triggering secondary sanctions against China.
Beijing has rejected Western attempts to link its alliance with Moscow to Ukraine and says it has the right to cooperate with whomever it chooses. Chinese Premier Li Qiang expressed the country’s delight in working with Russia to promote practical cooperation in various fields. Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushing for a peace plan for Ukraine, which has been cautiously welcomed by Kiev and met with skepticism from the West. China’s Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, Li Hui, visited Ukraine last week, and is scheduled to visit Russia on May 28.