DGovernment planes circled Beijing Airport all morning. Every half hour, 23 heads of state and government arrived for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games. One of the last to arrive was Russian President Vladimir Putin, shortly after two in the afternoon. As always, it came later than announced. Unlike other heads of state, Putin, as is customary, did not wear a mask as he descended the stairs of the plane. Nonetheless, Putin was the first to be welcomed by Xi Jinping, beaming and waving at the Diaoyutai state guest house. A video of the meeting was accompanied by romantic music like a love film by Chinese state television. The “Volkszeitung” spoke of a “significant event in international relations”.
It was a demonstrative closing of ranks against the West’s threat of sanctions against Moscow and against the political boycott of the Winter Olympics announced by the USA and other western countries. After the meeting, the two leaders released a joint statement in which China unequivocally backs Russia. In it, it supports Russia’s demands on the US and NATO for “security guarantees” and rejects any future NATO expansion. In the statement, which was first published by the Kremlin, the alliance is called on to abandon its “ideologized Cold War approaches”. In return, Russia reiterates its previous position that it considers Taiwan an “inalienable part of China” and joins China’s criticism of America’s, Australia’s and Britain’s security pact in the Indo-Pacific (aucus).
The start of an important political year
For Xi Jinping, it was the start of an important political year, which will culminate in the big party congress in autumn. Xi wants to be confirmed there for a third term, although this is contrary to party practice. It was no coincidence that Beijing chose a symbolic day as the date for the opening ceremony: This year, the fourth of February coincides with “Lichun”, the beginning of spring according to the traditional Chinese calendar.
For two years, neither state guests nor ministers were received in Beijing because of the pandemic. On Friday, Xi Jinping staged his return to the world political stage with a big bang. It was “an extraordinary moment for China’s diplomacy,” wrote the “Pekinger Abendzeitung” in a commentary, triumphantly listing the guest list of heads of state and government, speakers of parliament and members of royal families. The fact that the majority of these are authoritarian states and above all neighboring countries was not mentioned. The Xinhua news agency also believed that the politicians who had traveled there were proof that “any attempt to discredit, boycott or interfere with the Winter Olympics is unpopular and will fail.”