According to Xinhua’s press release, Xi Jinping received the Egyptian President, the President of Serbia, the President of Kazakhstan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and others at the Great Hall of the People. He later hosted a state banquet in the Great Hall of the People for some foreign heads of state.

Although Putin was considered the most important guest in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, the venue of Xi Jinping’s meeting with Putin on Feb. 4 was only the Diaoyutai State Guest House, which was one level lower than the Great Hall of the People.

Xinhua reported the state banquet with only photos and no live video. The photos and transcripts show that Putin did not attend the state banquet. 

Chinese language media Xiwang Zhisheng reported observers also noted an important detail, suggesting that Beijing has suffered a significant setback in its dealings with Moscow. According to the full text of the Joint Statement released by Xinhua on Feb. 4, Russia and China pledged in the last paragraph that the two sides would continue to cooperate within the framework of the so-called “China-Russia-India” mechanism. The statement between Russia and China has a particular emphasis on India. 

According to Xiwang Zhisheng media, after all, just two days ago, India announced that it would not send diplomats to the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony and that India occupies an essential position in the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy against China.

The joint statement, published by the Kremlin, used the expression that the two sides “intend to develop cooperation within the ‘Russia-India-China’ format.” Compared with Xinhua’s “China-Russia-India mechanism framework,” Russia put “India” before “China.”

The Kremlin’s joint statement, coupled with Putin’s absence from Xi Jinping’s state banquet and his quick trip to Beijing, has raised doubts about the Russia-China alliance.

French media TV5 Monde published an interview with Marc Julienne, head of China Research at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) on Feb. 5, entitled “China and Russia are more distrustful than friendly.”

Julienne argues that the Russia-China alliance is a practical, lucrative partnership, not a diplomatic, political, and military alliance that includes a joint defense treaty. There are areas where Russian and Chinese interests diverge. Bear in mind that Russia sells many weapons to India, which currently has a border dispute with China.

Julienne believes that Ukraine’s conflict is Russia’s conflict. There is no alliance between Moscow and Beijing if a war breaks out. Beijing is unlikely to help Russia, as it is directly interested in the Ukraine crisis because it wants to invade Taiwan. If the U.S. and Europe do not respond strongly enough to the Ukraine crisis, this will strengthen Beijing’s confidence in its expansion in East Asia.

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