Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan this month to prepare for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, two Central Asian governments have announced.
“At the invitation of the head of state, the President of the People’s Republic of China is scheduled to make a state visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan .
Xi is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan to attend the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian political and security forum, in Samarkand on September 15 and 16, according to an announcement on the Uzbek government’s website. is.
China’s president is expected to meet with Putin between the forums. While it didn’t amount to an official visit to Moscow, the talks would reaffirm ties with China and Russia as Putin is adamant about invading Ukraine.
Xi’s diplomatic outreach to China’s Central Asian neighbors comes amid strained relations with the United States after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last month. The visit is likely to be Xi’s first outside of China since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in early 2020.
It’s also worth noting that Li Zhanshu, the third-highest-ranking Chinese Communist Party official, will attend an economic forum with President Putin in the Russian city of Vladivostok this week, said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. said to do.
“The message is that China may not go out of its way to violate sanctions to help Russia, but it will definitely not throw Russia under the bus,” Gabuev said. “If it’s neutral, it’s definitely pro-Russian neutral.”
Xi has remained in China throughout the pandemic and has taken a cautious approach to international travel as Beijing implements a strict zero-coronavirus policy.
The president’s visit to Central Asia is expected to be the first in a series of visits to friendly nations this year, signaling Beijing’s desire to reassert China’s international influence.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said last month that Xi Jinping and Putin would attend the G20 summit in Bali in November, but the Chinese president will visit Thailand after Bali, according to people familiar with the matter. will continue its attractive offensive in Southeast Asia.
China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly declined to comment on Xi’s travel plans. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Xi was planning to visit Uzbekistan for the annual meeting of Central Asian leaders.
It is unclear whether Xi will travel to Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan first. Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said the government news agency would announce the dates soon, but he said the visit would be in September.
Xi Jinping’s visit comes weeks before he is expected to be reappointed as leader of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission. The appointment at the 20th Party Congress, which begins Oct. 16, paves the way for his unprecedented third term as president.
Steve Tsang, director of the Soas China Institute in London, said President Xi Jinping’s decision to move to the front of parliament was “an expression of confidence in his position”.
Tsang noted that historically plans to oust China’s leaders were being prepared for the party’s congress meeting.
“This will quell any domestic speculation that Xi’s position could be challenged,” he said.
Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding in Beijing