Russian President Putin To Visit China For International Belt & Road Forum In September?

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Russian President Putin has been invited to visit China to attend the 3rd International Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the invite being extended during Xi’s visit to Moscow earlier this year.

Putin attended and spoke at the first two Belt & Road Forums, held in 2017 and 2019 in Beijing. The event is a high-level ‘brainstorming’ session, described by Wang Xiaotao, deputy head of China’s the National Development and Reform Commission in 2017 to be “an open and efficient international cooperation platform; a closer, stronger partnership network; and to push for a more just, reasonable and balanced international governance system.”

Russia has in fact been hosting a very similar event this week in Moscow, the Eurasian Economic Forum, which also includes Chinese participation. That is designed to look at ways in which the BRICS, Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) can be expanded and possibly integrated.

The dates for the coming International Belt & Road Forum have not yet been set but this is believed to be scheduled for September or possibly later. September would also fit in with the tenth anniversary of the BRI, and is the month Chinese President Xi Jinping formally announced the project during a speech concerning China’s Central Asia strategy at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan in 2013.

China’s leaders do have a tendency to respect anniversaries of important events, and the BRI has been a global game-changer: China has since lent nearly US$1 trillion in overseas financing projects since it began. That is equivalent to EU member Bulgaria’s entire national GDP being given out, every year, for the past decade.

Putin’s participation will of course be controversial, with security at the event extremely tight. He is also due to give keynote speeches on similar themes at next months’ St.Petersburg International Economic Forum and at the Far Eastern Economic Forum, also to be held in September. It is highly likely that the proposed Beijing Belt & Road forum would happen about this time as the two cities are reasonably close. This would also mean other invitees would be in the North-East Asian region at the same time and therefore solve a lot of logistics issues.

As and when Putin attends, it will also mark a bell-weather in terms of support for China and Russia’s plans for greater global integration via infrastructure mechanisms such as the BRI, and as a counterbalance to the G7’s recent statements that they are best left to running global affairs. Attendance will be telling.

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