Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Two Pandas Summit: Autocrats Gather; Economies and Military Ties Strengthened

Vladimir Putin welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping and 1,000 Chinese officials and businesspeople for a state visit and to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Russia looks to skirt western sanctions, attract Chinese investments and strengthen its alliance with the U.S. and Western democracies other leading antagonist, China. And, of course, China is looking for allies in its trade dispute with the U.S. Xi brought two pandas for good will and called Putin, who was celebrating a birthday, his best friend.

President Putin spent considerable time criticizing the U.S.’s geopolitical and trade positions as unilateralism and hegemony. And, the joint discussions made clear that – concerning Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, the use of Huawei and the Arctic – the two countries are in agreement on viewpoints and promoting joint positions and ventures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President
Vladimir Putin, June 7, 2019 | Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

While the West’s alliance relationships, such as the EU and NATO, are on the defense, Russia and China are building theirs. Last September, President Putin and President Xi shared blintzes as their militaries maneuvered together.

Vladimir Putin invited Xi Jinping to a Russian pancake cooking class in Siberia while Chinese troops joined Russians in a large five-day military exercise that U.S. Defense officials described as: “…moving beyond symbolic displays of force to coordinate weapons systems and command structures. Washington says the two countries have developed capabilities that could test U.S. military dominance in times of crisis.” (The Buzz, Sept. 28, 2018)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping make
pancakes during a visit to the Far East Street exhibition on the sidelines of the
Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 11, 2018 | Reuters

The Polls

The American people have no illusion about their views concerning Putin or Xi. A CNN poll of 2017 asked a favorability question of world leaders, and President Putin had a 12 percent favorable rating and 71 percent unfavorable. President Xi had a 10 percent favorable, a 36 percent unfavorable, and 53 percent not having heard of him or with no opinion.

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