The ‘Winter Olympics Pact’ between Moscow and Beijing

Foreign Affairs

This week in the China-Russia weekly update: Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are going to schmooze in Beijing, and more.

xi jinping and vladimir putin
Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and Vladimir Putin. 习近平 Reuters / Kremlin/dp

The People’s Daily heralded the upcoming get-together between Vladimir Putin and Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 at the Winter Olympics, saying that the visit will mark the 38th meeting between the two figures since 2013, when Xi chose Russia for his first foreign trip.

“The China-Russia relationship has grown into a big ship featuring the highest degree of mutual trust, the highest level of coordination and the highest strategic value,” says the People’s Daily. “At the helm of the ship are the two heads of state.”

  • As we reported earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi 王毅 said in a phone call with his Russian counterpart that China is willing to jointly ensure a “Winter Olympics Pact” (冬奥之约).

What will come out of the meeting? Russian state media says that Beijing and Moscow are preparing “many gas agreements.”

  • The two sides will likely make a major announcement regarding the Power of Siberia-2 (PoS-2) Russia-to-China natural gas pipeline, additional capacity on the Power of Siberia-1 (PoS-1) pipeline, and/or new liquefied natural gas (LNG) agreements.
  • The two sides may also announce an expansion of their political and military ties while stopping short of a NATO-style alliance.

More on China-Russia ties

Chinese trade with Russia and Europe: The People’s Daily announced that 2021 China-Russia bilateral trade stood at $146 billion, a 35% increase from 2020.

  • Most variation in bilateral trade is explained by commodity prices and the macroeconomic climate (although exchange rates play a role).
  • Bilateral trade will likely continue to rise in 2022 amid higher commodity prices and greater volumes shipped on the Power of Siberia-1 natural gas pipeline.
  • A war in Ukraine would have unpredictable consequences for the world economy and trade flows.

Chinese embassy in Moscow includes Belarus-related content

The Chinese embassy in Russia continues to include select Belarus-related updates (in Chinese) in its Russia “related news” section. This is noteworthy for four reasons.

  1. Putin contemplated absorbing Belarus in April 2021.
  2. The Chinese embassy in Moscow has not included Belarus-related content in its “Russia-related news” section since at least 2016.
  3. The CCP has been maintaining strict messaging discipline amid Putin’s potential escalation, as the People’s Daily Russia section has been silent for three months.
  4. The embassy’s updates have been up for over three weeks. Whatever the embassy is implying appears conscious and intentional. More to come in Belarus later this year, perhaps.

Click here for the complete archive of China-Russia weekly updates.