On Monday this week, a report on page three of the People’s Daily recounted the compliments offered by foreign leaders to Xi Jinping as he secured a historic third term as China’s president. It was a boilerplate piece of propaganda, affirming the great esteem with which Xi and his leadership have been regarded internationally.
From Israeli President Isaac Herzog: “Under your leadership, China has achieved tremendous development, and I believe that China will continue to prosper.” From Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha: “Your global development initiatives and global security initiatives offer hope for a more peaceful, stable, and prosperous world.”
But there was one notable surprise in the otherwise unremarkable People’s Daily tribute to Xi — the mentioning by name of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who since Russia’s invasion of his country more than a year ago has been mentioned just once in the pages of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper.
The language from Zelensky came amid speculation that Xi Jinping will speak by video with the Ukrainian leader later this week, shortly after his return from a state visit to Moscow. And it seemed to underline the importance of China’s role in addressing global security issues, coming as Xi Jinping has positioned himself as a peace negotiator:
President Zelensky of Ukraine said that the Ukrainian side attaches great importance to the traditionally friendly relations between Ukraine and China. “I am confident that under your leadership, China will make significant contributions to strengthening the world security architecture and consolidation of the world order based on the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. I wish you new and outstanding achievements in your governance [of China].”
Interestingly — symbolically? — the first mention of Zelensky in the People’s Daily since October 2022 was hemmed in on all sides by articles extolling China’s deep friendship and partnership with Russia, including a piece penned by Vladimir Putin himself, “Russia and China: A Partnership for the Future.”
“I am convinced that the friendship and partnership between Russia and China, based on the strategic choices of our two peoples, will continue to grow strong and make Russia and China happy and prosperous,” Putin said in closing his article, which spoke of a no-bounds military and political alliance exceeding that of the Cold War.
“Without a doubt, the Chinese President’s visit will contribute to this,” he wrote.