Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia has been the talk of the town recently, as it raises questions about China’s growing diplomatic influence and its challenge to the US-led global order. The visit is expected to showcase China’s role as a major global power and peacekeeper capable of shaping global events. However, the visit is not without its controversies, including concerns about China’s support for Russia and its limited engagement with Ukraine.

Xi’s Tightrope Walk

Xi’s visit to Russia is a delicate balancing act, as he seeks to deepen ties with Russia while presenting China as a neutral peace broker. At the same time, he needs to avoid antagonizing Europe, a key trade partner that Beijing has been courting away from the US. Xi aims to cast himself as a statesman during this trip, using it to establish China’s position as a major global power and peacekeeper. Beijing has offered Moscow much-needed diplomatic and economic support throughout the invasion, echoing Russian propaganda, accusing the West of provoking the war in Ukraine, and repeatedly siding with Russia in blocking international action against Moscow.

China’s Diplomatic Engagements

The asymmetry in China’s diplomatic engagements with Moscow and Ukraine is apparent, and is further highlighted by Xi’s visit to Russia. China’s Foreign Ministers have only talked with their Ukrainian counterparts five times since the start of the war, whereas Chinese officials – including Xi, his top diplomats, and other senior leaders – have spoken with Russian officials 29 times. Xi has spoken to Putin four times since the invasion, including a face-to-face at a regional summit in Central Asia last September. However, he has yet to hold a single phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

China’s Plan for a Political Settlement

The release of China’s position paper on a “political settlement” to the war is a move by Beijing to boost its credentials as a potential peace broker. However, the plan only generated a lukewarm reception from Moscow and Kyiv, and was widely criticized by Western officials for lacking substance – and failing even to recognize Russia’s violation of Ukraine sovereignty. For now, American and European officials have continued to view Beijing’s self-claimed role as a peace broker with skepticism and concern.

Concerns about China’s Support for Russia

In recent weeks, Western officials have voiced concerns that China is considering providing lethal assistance to Russia’s military. Beijing has denied the allegation and instead accused the US of prolonging the war by “adding fuel” to the battlefield and providing Ukraine with weapons. American officials said they would be watching intently for signs that China is moving forward with providing weapons to Russia during Xi’s summit with Putin. Ukraine is also closely watching the situation and hopes that China will not become an accomplice in the ongoing war.


Xi’s visit to Moscow is not without controversies, raising concerns about China’s support for Russia and its limited engagement with Ukraine. While China hopes to present itself as a neutral peace broker, its lopsided position and limited engagement with Ukraine have led Western officials to view Beijing’s role in the war with skepticism and concern. The optics of the visit will look different to some, as it will feature two autocrats who have long described themselves as firm friends shaking hands and banqueting while a conflagration in Europe rages. Nonetheless, the visit will be closely watched by many Western capitals as it showcases China’s growing diplomatic clout on the world stage and its ambition to challenge the US-led global order.