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Why China 'Respects' Putin’s Bid for the Russian Presidency

 
 

On December 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to run again for the Russian presidency in 2018.

“I will put forward my candidacy for the post of president of the Russian federation,” he said in a speech to workers at a car factory in the Volga city of Nizhny Novgorod. “I‘m sure that everything will work out for us.”

Regarding Putin’s decision on seeking re-election, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang expressed China’s implicit support at the regular press briefing on December 7. He said:

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The presidential election is Russia’s domestic affair. We respect President Putin’s personal decision to run for the election. China firmly supports  Russia’s efforts for national stability, development, and rejuvenation. We believe that the Russian presidential election will be carried out smoothly.

When being pressed on China’s comment on Putin’s role in the Russia-China relationship, Geng replied: “I believe everyone knows clearly that the China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination is at an unprecedented best level, which is inextricably linked with the leadership of the two heads of state.”

“China stands ready to work with Russia to move forward the China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination by implementing the consensus reached between the two heads of state,” he added.

Putin has been in power — either as president or prime minister — for 17 years. It’s widely believed that Putin, 65, will win re-election easily, since he enjoys high popularity in Russia, while opposition leader Alexei Navalny might not be allowed to run a presidential campaign at all, according to Reuters. If Putin succeeds as expected, he will serve another six-year presidential term until 2024.

As Putin looks likely to win anyway, China’s undeclared support for him is an easy and beneficial move for Beijing. It can not only win Putin’s personal appreciation, but can further cement China’s already strong ties with Russia.

As The Diplomat has been following, both China and Russia have said repeatedly that the bilateral relations have reached a new high, under Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin’s administrations.

In July, for example,  Xi paid a two-day visit to Russia. During his meet with Putin, Xi said China and Russia are “good neighbors, good friends, and good partners.” He further emphasized that the bilateral relations “are now the best ever.”

In addition to the “best-ever” bilateral relations, Xi reportedly told Putin directly that they both shared a similar personality and found each other “congenial.”

With the United States turning increasingly unpredictable under the administration of Donald Trump and the risk of volatility between China and the United States growing, China strongly needs Russia’s constant support. And Putin’s remaining in power will best serve China’s interests. Meanwhile, Putin is surely in need of China’s support, too.

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