Last time Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, declared victory over all odds.

The two world’s most powerful autocrats, despite a Western diplomatic boycott of Beijing’s Winter Olympics and a crisis in Ukraine, shared their vision for a new order. One that would better serve the interests of their countries and not be controlled by the West.

The two leaders made a joint declaration of 5,000 words expressing their mutual admiration for the United States and its allies.

Their joint statement stated that “the world is going through momentous changes”, pointing out the “transformations of the global governance architecture” and the “world order.”

Xi and Putin will again meet in Uzbekistan’s southeast city of Samarkand, 200 days after their last meeting. Many things have changed, but not in the way Russia or China might have expected.

Putin launched a massive invasion of Ukraine three weeks after meeting Xi at Beijing. Putin had hoped for quick victories, but Russia is still far from winning seven months later. His forces are demoralized, exhausted and fleeing territories they have held for many months.

This is making China nervous. Beijing, which has become closer to Moscow since Xi’s rule, has a stake in the outcome. A defeated Russia will be a stronger partner for the West, and China will find it less reliable and useful in its great rivalry with the United States. Washington could be less distracted by a weaker Moscow, which would allow it to concentrate more on Beijing.

Xi is on a fine balance. He should not be too keen to help Russia. This could expose China to Western sanctions and diplomatic pressures that could harm its interests. This backlash would also be sensitive for Xi who is only weeks away from winning a rare third term at 20th Party Congress.

The two authoritarian powers are not closer to influencing the world order in their favor. Experts say that Russia’s war on Ukraine has actually strengthened Western resolve.

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