The Daily Telegraph

Geopolitic­al shift


When they last met in February, Xi Jinping was opening the Beijing Winter Olympics, looking forward to a year in which his power would be consolidat­ed by an extension to his presidency, while Vladimir Putin was preparing to order his forces into Ukraine for what most people imagined would be a quick and decisive victory. They took the opportunit­y to declare a “no limits” partnershi­p.

A few months on and the world does not look quite so auspicious for these two autocrats. President Xi is making only his first overseas trip in two years to attend a conference of Asian nations in Uzbekistan, having refused to travel because of the coronaviru­s. China is almost alone in the world in still operating a “zero Covid” approach that continues to see major cities closed down with a consequent­ial impact on the economy and the morale of the people.

Whether Mr Xi is still happy with a “no limits’’ tie-up with his Kremlin counterpar­t given what has happened to Russian forces in Ukraine is open to conjecture. The two leaders are meeting on the fringes of the Samarkand conference, with Mr Putin’s status severely diminished by the military debacle that has left his own leadership under attack back home. Moreover, Mr Xi will have noted the West’s united response to the Ukraine invasion if he is considerin­g a similar action in Taiwan.

America is about to announce further military assistance to Ukraine and the European commission president Ursula von der Leyen pledged the EU’S determinat­ion to end dependency on Russian energy. In the space of eight months, the geopolitic­al tectonic plates have shifted, with ramificati­ons to be felt for many years ahead.

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