Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko – a close ally of Vladimir Putin – vowed to deepen defense and security ties and expressed split views on the war in Ukraine at a meeting on Wednesday in Beijing, as geopolitical tensions around Russia’s war continue to rise.
Lukashenko endorsed China’s recent stance on a “political solution” to the conflict, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry reading of the meeting, referring to a statement released by Beijing last week that called for peace talks to end the conflict, but did not push for a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine – drawing skepticism from Western leaders.
Both Xi and Lukashenko expressed “deep concern over the protracted armed conflict” and looked forward to a “swift return to peace in Ukraine”, according to a joint statement following their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, where Xi saluted Lukashenko in a ceremony alongside a phalanx of Chinese troops.
The visit by the Belarusian leader – who allowed Russian troops to use Belarus to stage their first incursion into Ukraine last year – comes as tensions between the United States and China have escalated in recent weeks, including in because of Washington’s concerns that Beijing was planning to send lethal aid. to the Kremlin’s difficult war effort.
Beijing has denied the claims and instead sought to portray itself as an unbiased agent of peace – unlike the United States, which it has accused of “adding fuel to the flames” in the conflict and damaging the world economy with sanctions targeting Russia.
Speaking about the war at Wednesday’s meeting, Xi called on “concerned countries” to “stop politicizing and instrumentalizing the global economy” and act in ways that help “resolve the crisis peacefully,” in a apparent reference to the United States and its allies.
The joint statement highlighted the alignment between Minsk and Beijing regarding their opposition to what they see as a Western-led world order, with their joint statement including opposition to “all forms of hegemonism and of power politics, including the imposition of illegal unilateral measures”. sanctions and restrictive measures against other countries.
China and Belarus, which have also been the target of heavy Western sanctions after Russia invaded, would also boost cooperation in a range of economic areas, the statement said.
They also pledged to “deepen cooperation” on training military personnel, combating terrorism and “jointly preventing the ‘color revolution’” – a reference to popular pro-democracy movements that autocrats claim to be. supported by Western governments.
The meeting, which Chinese state media described as “warm and friendly”, was the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting since upgrading ties to a “comprehensive all-weather strategic partnership” on the sidelines of the summit. the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). last September in Uzbekistan, in which Putin also participated.
“Today, we will jointly define new visions for the development of bilateral relations… Our long-lasting friendly exchanges will keep our friendship unbreakable,” Xi told Lukashenko at the meeting, according to Chinese state media. He also endorsed Belarus becoming a full member of the China-Russia led SCO, where it is currently an observer state.
Speaking the same day from Uzbekistan, which is also a member of the SCO, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China “cannot have it both ways”, by “showing up in public as a force for peace” as it continues to “fuel the flames of this fire that Vladimir Putin started.”
Blinken said there were “some positive elements” in China’s peace proposal, but accused China of doing the opposite of supporting peace in Ukraine “in terms of its efforts to advance Russian propaganda and disinformation about blocking the war and the fight for Russia”.
He also repeated Western concerns that China was planning to provide Russia with lethal aid and later said he had no plans to meet with his Russian or Chinese counterparts at a meeting of foreign ministers. Foreign Affairs G20 scheduled for New Delhi, India on March 2.
The tightening of ties between Minsk and Beijing is also accompanied by a years-long decline in Belarus’ relations with the West.
The former Soviet state has been the target of broad sanctions by the United States and its allies in response to Moscow’s aggression after Lukashenko allowed Russian troops to invade Ukraine through the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) north of Kiev.
Nor does the European Union recognize the results of Lukashenko’s 2020 election victory – which sparked mass pro-democracy protests in the country and was followed by a brutal government crackdown. The United States also called the election “fraudulent”.
Throughout the conflict in Ukraine, there have been fears that Belarus could once again be used as a launching ground for another Russian offensive, or that Lukashenko’s own troops might join the war. Before heading to Moscow earlier this month, Lukashenko said there was “no way” his country would send troops to Ukraine unless it came under attack.
Like China, Belarus has previously hinted that the United States does not want to see an end to the conflict.
In comments to reporters earlier this month before traveling to Moscow to meet Putin, Lukashenko said he wanted to see “peaceful negotiations” and accused the United States of preventing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from negotiate.
“The United States is the only one who needs this massacre, they want it,” he said.