Russian Prime Minister Gets an Awkward Reception on Trip to China

Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev/Pool via REUTERS via third party
Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev/Pool via REUTERS via third party

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and a delegation of his colleagues went to China this week with the hopes of further enhancing economic ties with Beijing.

But Mishustin’s counterpart, the Chairman of the State Council Li Qiang, who invited him on the visit, reportedly refused to meet with him at the China-Russia Business Forum on Tuesday, according to Russian newspaper Vedomosti.

Other top officials and managers of major Chinese companies also declined to meet with him and his colleagues, many of whom are sanctioned in the West due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Vedomosti reported.

Instead, Li sent a letter to the forum expressing interest in building cooperation with Russia and bolstering Russia-China trade, according to Global Times.

Mishustin is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Beijing since Russia launched its invasion in 2022.

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“Even those big businessmen who wanted and were ready to speak publicly were not allowed to meet by the authorities—they don’t want to take even the smallest risk,” one source told Vedomosti.

Other inconveniences reportedly cropped up during the trip as well. One Chinese currency exchange post refused to convert $100 for yuan for one of the Russian officials on the trip, since he shares the name of someone sanctioned.

In spite of the trip-ups during the visit, Mishustin was able to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping upon his arrival in Shanghai and work on economic deals, The Moscow Times reported. Xi, who met with Mishustin in Beijing as well, said in a statement that China would continue to work with Russia where mutual interests align.

“China is ready to continue to stand firmly with Russia on issues that concern the fundamental interests of both sides,” Xi said.

Li received Mishustin in Beijing as well.

The visit culminated in Russia’s prime minister signing off on a series of accords with China, according to Reuters.

The apparently mixed reception comes as China has worked to balance a strategically significant relationship with Russia while Moscow wages war in Ukraine.

Xi was caught off-guard by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort in early 2022, according to U.S. intelligence analysis. But China has benefited in some ways, taking advantage of discounted Russian oil and allowing its imports of Russian energy products to grow to $88 billion, according to numbers tallied through February, Bloomberg reported.

China has avoided publicly condemning the war in Ukraine, recently stepping in to offer to broker peace between Ukraine and Russia, albeit on conditions more agreeable to Russia.

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