Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that the world is entering a historic phase in international relations, opening up an opportunity for Russia and China to lead a new “world order.”
“We will move together with you and our sympathizers towards a multipolar, just and democratic world order,” Lavrov said at the opening of a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, according to AFP.
It was Lavrov’s first official visit to China since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a war against neighboring Ukraine in late February.
Wang echoed Lavrov’s comments, saying China is ready to work with Moscow to build on their ties.
“China-Russia relations have withstood the new test of the evolving international landscape, staying on the right track and showing resilient development momentum,” Wang said, according to a press release released by China’s Foreign Ministry on the meeting. “Both sides are more determined to expand bilateral ties and more confident to advance cooperation in various fields.”
Jeremy Fleming, the head of Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency, issued a strong warning to China that a partnership with Russia – a country known for flouting international rules – would not support its mission to lead the world.
“Russia understands that in the long term China will continue to grow militarily and economically,” Fleming said during a speech in Australia. according to the BBC. “Some of their interests conflict; Russia could be squeezed out of the equation.”
While the meeting was set to focus on Afghanistan, the Chinese foreign ministry said Lavrov and Wang also discussed ongoing tensions in Ukraine.
“We support Russia and Ukraine in overcoming the difficulties of continuing the peace talks, support the positive results achieved so far in the negotiations, support the de-escalation of tensions on the ground and support the efforts of Russia and other parties to prevent a major humanitarian crisis from happening large scale,” said Wang.
China has so far refused to publicly condemn Russia for the war. Earlier this month, the White House warned China – a major US competitor – that there would be consequences if it helped Russia bypass Western sanctions.
Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Center at the University of California, San Diego, and a former State Department official, told the New York Times last month that China’s close ties with Moscow are of concern to the United States.
“This is certainly of concern, and it is not a positive development from a US national security or US national interest standpoint,” Shirk said. “They have kind of a shared perspective on the US right now, and there’s that affinity between the leaders.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has previously referred to Putin as his “best friend.” The two also released a joint statement ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, in which they said that “the friendship between the two states has no borders” and asserted “there are no ‘prohibited’ areas of cooperation.”
Fleming said Putin is counting on China for military support and technology and as a market for his lucrative oil and gas business, according to the BBC.
On Thursday, Lavrov will visit India, which continues to buy Russian oil — even in larger quantities during the war — by taking advantage of rebates offered by Russia.
India has bought nearly 13 million barrels of Russian oil since the war began, according to Reuters, compared to nearly 16 million barrels in 2021.