Friday, September 04, 2015

Friendship Between Putin and Xi Becomes Strained as Economies Falter

By JANE PERLEZ and NEIL MacFARQUHAR, NYT
SEPT. 3, 2015

BEIJING — They have met more than a dozen times and stood shoulder to shoulder during Thursday’s military parade here. But the once-vaunted relationship between the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s leader, Vladimir V. Putin, has come under strain as the economies of their countries have faltered.

Two landmark energy deals signed last year for Russian natural gas to flow to China have made little progress and were barely mentioned when the two men met for talks after watching the show of weapons Thursday on Tiananmen Square. The bilateral trade that was predicted to amount to more than $100 billion this year instead reached only about $30 billion in the first six months, largely because of a reduced Chinese demand for Russian oil.

Mr. Putin has enjoyed basking in the stature of Mr. Xi, who leads one of the world’s largest economies. But with the recent stock market turmoil in China and the slowest economic growth in a quarter-century, Beijing will be unable to provide the ballast that Mr. Putin has sought against economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Europe and the United States after its annexation of Crimea, not to mention plummeting oil prices worldwide.

“Russia was dependent on China growing and driving the demand for its commodities: oil, gas and minerals,” said Fiona Hill, a Russia specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “China was an alternative to Europe.”

(More here.)

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