China and Russia must work together to defeat Covid-19, Xi Jinping tells Vladimir Putin

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China and Russia must fulfil their duties as recognised world leaders and work together to defeat Covid-19, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday, in the latest show of solidarity between the long-term allies.

Likening the global health crisis to the second world war, which in China is often referred to as a war against fascism, Xi said that Beijing would continue to provide support to Moscow as it battled the deadly disease.

“Being among the main victor powers in world war two and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China and Russia shoulder the task of safeguarding global peace,” Xi told Putin in a telephone conversation, according to a statement by the foreign ministry in Beijing.

“And our countries are assigned a special mission to contribute to the development and progress of humankind,” he said.

“China is willing to work with Russia … to protect international justice, maintain and implement the principles of multilateralism … make a contribution to global development and protect the world order,” Xi said.

Putin was quoted as saying that Russia was willing to strengthen its comprehensive strategic partnership with China.

“Russia opposes individual forces making use of the pandemic to criticise China and will stand firmly with the Chinese side,” he was quoted as saying.

Putin said also that two countries should enhance communication and cooperation under multilateral systems like BRICS – the group of emerging economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasian economic and security alliance.

Almost 4 million people around the world have been sickened by the coronavirus. Photo: Reuters
Almost 4 million people around the world have been sickened by the coronavirus. Photo: Reuters

Friday marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe, though because of the Covid-19 pandemic most commemorative events, including Russia’s annual victory parade, were cancelled or postponed.

The telephone call between Xi and Putin was their third since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, which began in the central China city of Wuhan in December and has sickened close to 4 million people and killed more than 270,000 around the world. Mainland China has reported over 4,600 deaths from Covid-19 and Russia more than 1,700.

The show of solidarity between Beijing and Moscow comes amid mounting pressure from the West over their alleged manipulation of the narrative on the pandemic.

The annual parade in Moscow to mark Russia’s victory in the second world war has been postponed. Photo: AFP
The annual parade in Moscow to mark Russia’s victory in the second world war has been postponed. Photo: AFP

Lea Gabrielle, the coordinator of the US state department’s Global Engagement Centre, on Friday accused China and Russia of working together to promote disinformation and conspiracy theories about the health crisis.

“Even before the Covid-19 crisis we assessed a certain level of coordination between Russia and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] in the realm of propaganda, but with this pandemic the cooperation has accelerated rapidly,” she said at a press conference.

“We see this convergence as a result of what we consider to be pragmatism between the two actors who want to shape public understanding of the Covid pandemic for their own purposes.”

Beijing and Washington have steadily ramped up their dispute over the handling and origins of the coronavirus pandemic, with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeatedly pushing the theory that the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory, despite the World Health Organisation and America’s top epidemiologist dismissing such claims.

China has also denied the accusation and described Washington’s attacks as “shameless”.

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