Xi Jinping says trade with Russia will hit new highs in coming months


Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by video on Friday at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which Russian President Vladimir Putin opened with a speech lasting more than an hour. This photo is from Putin’s visit to Beijing in early February 2022.

Alexei Druzhinin | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday stressed his country’s commitment to trade with Russia, despite Western sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

“Today our cooperation between Russia and China [is] rising,” Xi said, according to an official English translation broadcast by Russian state broadcaster RT. He cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing in early February.

“Trade in the first half of this year has been [in the tens of billions of U.S. dollars] and we can expect new records in the coming months, which testifies to the great cooperation between our two nations,” Xi said.

The Chinese leader was speaking via video at the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which Putin opened with a speech lasting more than an hour.

The official reading of Xi’s remarks by Chinese state media did not mention “new records” in China-Russia trade. The reading called for the removal of trade barriers and greater cooperation with other countries, including Russia.

In the Chinese reading and RT’s translation, Xi stressed that China’s economic potential has not changed and talked about the continued development of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Trade between China and Russia totaled $65.81 billion in the first five months of this year, up 28.9 percent from a year ago, according to data from China Customs. Most of the growth comes from Chinese imports from Russia.

Beijing has refused to call Russia’s attack on Ukraine an invasion. After a high-profile meeting between Xi and Putin in early February, a reading said there were “no limits” or “no go zones” for cooperation, without mentioning Ukraine.

Earlier this week, Xi said in a phone call with Putin that Kyiv and Moscow “should push for a proper settlement” in the ongoing war in Ukraine, according to a Chinese reading of the call.

“China, they have their national interest in mind,” Putin said on Friday following Xi’s remarks, according to RT’s English translation. “But we don’t contradict each other.”

He described Russia’s relations with China as “friendly”, but noted that “that doesn’t mean China should play with us in everything. We don’t need it.”

Xi has not spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. From Germany to Japan, many countries have joined the United States in freezing the assets of Russian oligarchs, restricting the access of Russia’s biggest banks to the global financial system, and cutting off Russia from critical technology.

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