China’s defence minister visits Russia and Belarus in show of support

Beijing says the visit underscores the drive by China and Russia to align foreign policies in a bid to undermine the Western-led liberal-democratic world order.

China defence
Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in April [Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik via Reuters]

Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu is visiting Russia and Belarus in a show of support as the West attempts to isolate the two allies over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Li departed on Monday on the six-day trip, during which he will deliver an address at the Moscow Conference on International Security and meet defence leaders from Russia and other nations, China’s defence ministry said on its social media account, citing spokesperson Colonel Wu Qian.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to speak at the conference on the topic of the “Majority World countries’ search for ways to development outside Western mechanisms, including strengthening multilateral associations of a new type”, Russia’s official TASS news agency reported.

Representatives from about 100 countries and eight international organisations had been invited to attend, it said.

They will “discuss various aspects of security in the conditions of the establishment of a multipolar world order, ways to restore constructive international cooperation in the context of aggressive claims by Euro-Atlantic elites for world domination”, TASS said, quoting the Russian foreign ministry spokesperson.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Chinese and Russian leaders “have maintained strategic communication in different ways on various issues”.

“The two sides had orderly high-level exchanges of views on extensive topics including bilateral cooperation and issues of joint concern,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.

“The two countries will continue to advance the China-Russia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in the new era,” he said.

That was an apparent reference to a joint statement issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing last year just prior to Russia’s February invasion in which they declared a “no-limits friendship”.

Xi, meanwhile, visited Moscow in March, sending a message to Western leaders that their efforts to isolate Moscow over the fighting in Ukraine had fallen short.

Western-led world order

Li’s attendance at the conference further underscores the drive by China and Russia to align their foreign policies in a bid to undermine the Western-led liberal-democratic world order, despite the economic and reputational costs.

That will be followed by a visit to close Russian ally Belarus, whose territory was partly used to stage last year’s invasion. While there, Li will hold meetings with Belarussian state and military leaders and visit military facilities, the ministry said.

China claims to be neutral in the conflict, but has accused the United States and its allies of provoking Russia and has maintained robust economic, diplomatic and trade ties with Moscow.

China has reliably backed Russia in opposing US condemnation of the Ukraine invasion in international forums, but says it will not provide arms to either side in the war.

Source: The Associated Press