China’s Xi praises “good friend” Putin in New Year’s message

Chinese President Xi Jinping ended 2023 with a message of solidarity for Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his nation.

The two leaders have long had a cordial relationship, one that Xi said on Sunday has become “stronger” with his “good friend” within the past year as Western nations have been galvanized against Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began almost two years ago with the February 24, 2022, invasion.

Xi is viewed quite favorably by Russians, getting 71 percent of their support, according to a recent Gallup Poll. But as Putin’s war drags on with no end in sight, questions remain in his nation about how long the conflict can continue and whether it’s politically sustainable.

“In the face of changes unseen in a century and a turbulent regional and international situation, China-Russia relations have maintained healthy and stable development and moved steadily in the right direction,” Xi said Sunday, according to The Moscow Times, an independent, English- and Russian-language online newspaper.

Xi went on: “Under our joint leadership, political mutual trust between the two sides has further deepened, strategic coordination has drawn closer, and mutually beneficial cooperation has continued to achieve new results.”

Xi Putin China Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are seen during a meeting in Beijing on October 18. On Sunday, Xi had warm words for Putin, an indication that their nations’ strong relations will continue in the new year.

Moscow has lost more than an estimated 360,010 troops in 2023, according to the latest report from Ukraine’s military. More than half of Russians want a resolution to the war in 2024, according to a survey published this past Friday by the polling group Russian Field. Meanwhile, Putin, 71, is seeking a fifth presidential term this year.

Russian woes were exacerbated on Saturday when St. Petersburg abruptly canceled a New Year’s Eve–themed concert in response to Ukrainian missile attacks on the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, which resulted in at least 24 people dead, including three children, and 110 injured. Moscow blamed Ukraine, which may have been retaliating after deadly Russian drone and missile strikes the day before against the city of Kharkiv, about 40 miles away.

With a presidential election set for March 17, it has been rumored that Putin is suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s disease and even dementia. In October, the Kremlin had to dismiss reports that the president had suffered a cardiac arrest.

As Putin and Xi continue to forge good relations in a time of global instability, the Russia-Ukraine war and the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas have brought nuclear threats.

The tense geopolitical situation and the Xi-Putin alliance could also be significantly affected by the U.S. presidential race, which appears headed for a rematch between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump. The latter is way ahead of his GOP rivals in the polls just weeks before the first primaries, while Biden faces no serious challenger for the Democratic nomination.

“The potential reelection of Donald Trump would have repercussions around the world,” Julie Norman, a professor of U.S. politics at University College London, previously told Newsweek. “In the U.S., we could see challenges to the election or electoral system—especially if Trump again wins the Electoral College but not the popular vote—and we’d likely see polarization exacerbated to new extremes.”

She continued: “There are also concerns that a second Trump term would undermine democratic norms and institutions much more than the first term, which would have long-term repercussions for the U.S. domestically, America’s image abroad and the future of democracy around the globe.”