Xi Jinping with Putin: Little brother instead of big brother

Xi Jinping with Putin: Little brother instead of big brother

China is enjoying Russia’s weak position. The Russian ruler Putin now has to curry favor with Beijing.

Xi Jinping stands next to Vladimir Putin on the red carpet in the Kremlin

Xi Jinping visits Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin and exploits his weak position Photo: Pavel Byrkin/Reuters

Just before the Kremlin began its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow and Beijing swore to each other a “friendship without borders.” The war had already been raging for a few months, when the distance between the largest country in the world and the most populous became even smaller: Decades later, a bridge was opened over the Amur, or the Heilongjiang (the Dragon Stream), as the Chinese call the border river.

Now the unequal partners have expanded the “strategic cooperation” even further. It is a strong signal to the outside world that China’s head of state and party leader Xi Jinping, who has just been confirmed as president with 100 percent, first travels to Moscow. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin greets him almost humbly, speaks of “some envy” in view of the economic development in China and thus unintentionally sets out the Russian position.

Both countries need each other, they are like brothers, they always emphasize. In Chinese, however, the concept of brother is hierarchical. There is the “gege”, the big brother, and the “didi”, the little brother. For a long time, Moscow wanted to be the “gege” and has long since demoted itself to the “didi”.

China is aware of Russia’s dependence on its economically strong neighbor. It is true that Moscow and Beijing meet in their historical insult by the West and close ranks against the USA. But Beijing is happily exploiting Russia’s weak position. It sources cheap oil and gas, which Russia can no longer get rid of in Europe because of sanctions, and supplies cars, chips and commercial drones that can also be used by the military.

It relishes its role as a key player in the world’s security architecture, likes his half-hearted peace plan for the “acute crisis” in the Ukraine, as it is repeatedly said in Moscow, also have little credibility. The Kremlin sees the meeting in Moscow as a sign of strength against the West and fails to recognize how much it is currying favor with Beijing.

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