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Oct 18, 2023, 3:37pm EDT
politicsEast Asia
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Semafor Signals

Putin and Xi get closer

Sputnik/Sergei Guneev
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The News

China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin declared that their relationship was “continuously deepening” after the two met in Beijing this week during the 10th anniversary celebrations of China’s Road and Belt Initiative.

As a worsening conflict brews in the Middle East, the two leaders hailed their “close and effective strategic coordination” amid their increasing isolation from the West.

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SIGNALS

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The Xi-Putin meeting comes as the U.S. tightened restrictions on Beijing’s access to artificial intelligence chips as part of a series of measures announced Tuesday that would prevent China from making “breakthroughs” to advance its military operations, Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo said. A 2022 Georgetown University report found that of 97 AI chips procured through the Chinese military over an eight-month period in 2020, nearly all were designed by U.S. companies.

There are cracks in the Sino-Russian relationship: Putin’s Ukraine invasion has weakened China’s geopolitical goal of weakening the Western alliance, while Russia is likely miffed by Xi’s decision not to offer them lethal aid. But China is motivated “to keep Russia in the game as long as possible,” writes Bloomberg Opinion columnist Minxin Pei. The weaker Russia becomes, the more Beijing is incentivized to “prop it up” given that Xi does not want to face the US and its allies alone, Pei writes. Beijing has provided Moscow with equipment and materials crucial for military uses, and bilateral trade between the two countries reached a record high in 2022.

Both Beijing and Moscow have avoided directly condemning Hamas for its attack on Israel, and have instead focused their criticism on Israeli attacks in Gaza and called for an independent Palestinian state. China, in particular, has attempted to assert itself in the Middle East by forging stronger diplomatic ties with Arab leaders, but a previous attempt by Beijing to mediate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians yielded few results. Foreign policy experts note that for Russia and China, the fighting between Israel and Hamas is a “long-awaited distraction” from the Ukraine war and China’s ongoing crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

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