Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping Stake Out a New World Order

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a solemn welcome ceremony for Chinese President Xi Jinping at the St. George's Hall at the Kremlin in Moscow. (Photo by Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping’s three-day summit in Moscow neither advanced a much-hyped peace plan in Ukraine nor an agreement for China to supply Russia with military aid. But the leaders found common ground on one issue: It’s time to end the current U.S.-led world order. 

Putin and Xi spent days before the summit saying as much in a set of carefully choreographed opinion pieces. In the Chinese Communist Party-run People’s Daily, Putin accused NATO of expanding “with an eye toward the Asia-Pacific region” in an effort to contain China. In the Russian state-controlled Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Xi said his upcoming trip marked a step toward “multipolarity,” a term used by both great powers to describe their preferred alternative to an American-dominated international system. Both stressed the two countries’ growing “friendship” in the face of a mutual adversary: the United States. 

Xi and Putin leaned into that friendship throughout this week’s meetings, clinking glasses for photographers, heaping praise on one another’s leadership style, and sharing animated discussion about their envisioned global order. “Change is coming,” the Chinese president reportedly said as he prepared to depart Moscow on Wednesday, bidding farewell to his “dear friend.”

While Putin strains under U.S.-led sanctions for his invasion of Ukraine, Xi is eyeing Washington’s strengthened diplomatic and military ties to Taiwan, efforts to unite East Asian allies Japan and South Korea, and AUKUS—a years-in-the-making partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia that recently unveiled a $40 billion submarine deal. A joint statement from Xi and Putin denounced the “negative impact on peace and stability” Washington’s “Cold War mentality” has had in the Indo-Pacific. In response, the autocratic leaders noted plans to “further deepen military mutual trust” between their two countries by continuing joint military exercises worldwide.

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