Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

How far will Xi go to help a desperate Putin?

By Craig Singleton

06 Oct 2022 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

Recent reports of a growing fissure between Xi and Putin are greatly exaggerated, according to this analysis in Foreign Policy. Rather, China’s support for Russia is only likely to deepen.

Anyone who has been in a relationship knows there are good days and not so good days. While trust and respect are the bedrock of healthy partnerships, transactional and even toxic relationships have proven, time and again, to be just as durable. Sometimes more so. That is why Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s marriage of convenience will endure, not despite Russia’s recent battlefield setbacks, but because of them.

To be fair, Xi appears to be concerned about Putin’s accumulating losses in Ukraine. Chinese observers, like their Western counterparts, probably expected the war to last weeks, not months. Even fewer could have predicted Kyiv would mount successful counteroffensives striking deep into Russian-held territory. But these developments aside, Xi is unlikely to turn on Putin, even as Russia resorts to nuclear saber-rattling and sham referendums that challenge Beijing’s long-held anti-secessionist stance.

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