China’s Xi goes on first foreign trip since pandemic, expected to meet Putin

Nur-Sultan, Sep 14 (EFE).- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived Wednesday in Kazakhstan’s capital of Nur-Sultan on what is his first visit abroad since the coronavirus pandemic, and during which he is also expected to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Uzbekistan and meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev personally received the Chinese president, according to a statement by the Presidential Palace.

During his visit to Kazakhstan, Xi, who was given a guard of honor, seeks to reinforce bilateral ties between the two countries.

The two delegations then moved to the Ak Orda Palace, where they are expected to discuss several issues of strategic and mutual interest before signing a series of bilateral agreements.

After visiting Kazakhstan, Xi will travel to neighboring Uzbekistan to attend the summit of the SCO, made up of China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Although the Chinese foreign ministry on Tuesday did not confirm the meeting between Xi and Putin, the Russian president said last week that he had plans to meet Xi during the SCO event.

The two leaders have not met in person since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

In their last face-to-face meeting in early February in Beijing, the two leaders underscored the strong friendship of their respective nations, shortly after which Russia attacked Ukraine.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, China has maintained an ambiguous position and called for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries, and attention to the “legitimate concerns of all countries,” in reference to Russia.

Beijing has repeatedly declared its opposition to sanctions against Moscow for not being a solution to the problem and supposedly not being based on international law.

Xi’s visit comes at a time when China’s relations with the West is strained as a result of tensions in the Taiwan Strait following the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in August.

In response, Beijing carried out military maneuvers around the island, which Taipei defined as “a blockade.”

Xi’s last foreign visit was in January 2020 to Myanmar to meet then-State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now in prison following a military coup.

Since the pandemic, the Chinese president has held most of his meetings with his foreign counterparts and international organizations over video conference.

Apart for a few exceptions this year, such as Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and others during the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, China has not invited any foreign dignitaries.

Xi’s trip comes a month before the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) – the most important political conclave which takes place every five years -, during which the president aspires to a third term, unprecedented among his recent predecessors. EFE


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