Global Insights: In Sochi, Xi and Putin Put China-Russia Ties on Display

Global Insights: In Sochi, Xi and Putin Put China-Russia Ties on Display

In addition to the magnificent opening ceremony and the admirable performance of the athletes on display at the Winter Olympics, Sochi has seen a remarkable show of solidarity between the host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his most important visitor, Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Chinese government is underscoring the foreign policy significance of Xi’s decision to go to Sochi, which marks the first time a Chinese leader has attended a major foreign sporting event. The visit is Xi’s first foreign trip this year, and Russia was also his first foreign destination after becoming president last year. Since then he has met Putin at four additional major international events, taking care to hold separate bilateral talks on each occasion. Clearly, despite a generally realpolitik foreign policy, China has made targeted personal diplomacy with Putin a priority.

To underscore the point, the Chinese media have taken pains to underscore Beijing’s support for Putin’s Olympics in the face of a de facto Western leadership boycott of the games due to objections to Russia’s anti-gay laws and other Russian domestic practices. Putin likewise made a show of attending the Beijing Summer Olympics in August 2008 in the face of international calls for a boycott due to Beijing’s support for the Sudanese government’s repressive policies in the rebellious region of Darfur.

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