Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia from March 20-22 at Vladimir Putin's invitation.

The two countries describe their relations as a comprehensive strategic partnership and are determined to stand shoulder to shoulder in a "turbulent international system".

Before getting into the details of this visit, it is useful to look at the international conjuncture. The ongoing Ukraine crisis, Russia's sanctions and containment of China are deepening China-Russia relations.

China-Russia relations, which have developed in opposition to the US, share a vision of an alternative international system.

In a pre-visit article for RIA Novosti and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Xi Jinping emphasized this point. He stressed that China and Russia are making joint efforts to promote international relations democratization and effectively implement true multipolarity.

In his article, Xi points to an emerging paradigm in great powers' relations, saying that the relations between the two countries will set the benchmark for the future type of international relations.

Xi Jinping acknowledged that the current global trend is towards multipolarity and globalization, and commended the joint efforts of China and Russia to adapt to this emerging era. Moreover, he recognized the complexity of the problems at hand and stressed the need for pragmatic solutions. In regards to the Ukraine crisis, Xi emphasized the importance of sustained dialogue and consultation to find a rational way forward.

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin published an article titled "Russia and China - a partnership for the future" in China's official newspaper, the People's Daily.

In the article, Putin called Xi Jinping a "comrade" and "old friend" and praised relations between the two countries as having "reached the highest level in history".

Putin says Russia and China have strengthened their political dialogue and expanded strategic interaction. The volume of trade between the two countries doubled to $185 billion by 2022, with a target of $200 billion this year.

Putin's article emphasizes the strength of the Russia-China partnership, but also criticizes the role of the United States and NATO in the region.

Putin says the United States is dismantling international security and cooperation architecture by declaring Russia and China "urgent threat" and "strategic rival".

In his article, Putin also criticizes NATO's attempts to enter the Asia-Pacific region. Putin says some powers are trying to divide Eurasian space into military blocs.

Putin also said that the two countries "effectively coordinate" their foreign policy positions and "stand shoulder to shoulder like a rock in the middle of a turbulent current".

So what does this visit mean in the end? Russia and China really forging a future partnership/alliance? Or are they merely forming a temporary front in their opposition to the US?

Both countries are officially opposed to an alliance relationship. Therefore, a relationship model defined as a "comprehensive strategic partnership" is gaining weight. However, the current state of relations resembles an "undeclared strategic alliance".

China and Russia are two significant powers with overlapping global geopolitical interests. They share a common interest in challenging US hegemony and promoting a multipolar world order.

So much so that the Power of Siberia gas pipeline has been described as the deal of the century, close coordination on platforms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS also attracts attention.

Although there have been rough patches in the history of relations, the Putin and Xi era is progressing smoothly. Xi Jinping says strengthening and developing relations with Russia is Beijing's 'strategic choice'. The word "strategic choice" is deliberately chosen. Both countries need each other strategically due to global conjuncture.

China and Russia have signed a series of economic and military agreements in recent years, including major gas deals and joint military exercises. The relationship between China and Russia is likely to shape the international system in the coming years.

The two countries are moving towards a vague but determined and undeclared strategic alliance to withstand changing international conditions. It is too early to say whether this represents a paradigmatic breakthrough theoretically. But it is certainly different from conventional inter-state relations.

This new type of relationship can be defined as a new type of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness and win-win cooperation that Chinese diplomacy demands and is determined to implement in the new era.

Chinese diplomacy believes that ideological obsessions and geopolitical imperatives between countries are obstacles to realizing the ideal state of international relations.

It is worth noting that the relationship between China and Russia is inherently asymmetric. As Russia's isolation from the West continues, it will inevitably become increasingly reliant on China. Over time, this could potentially place China in a favorable position, particularly in regards to Arctic developments and other regional relationships.

In short, China could gain considerable influence over Russia through this asymmetric relationship.

In conclusion, China and Russia share a common distrust of the West and attitude towards US "hegemony" in international relations.

The two countries seem agreed and committed to building a multipolar architecture of global governance that promotes a multipolar international system.

The two leaders held formal talks on 21.03.2023. These talks resulted in (2) joint statements and (12) memoranda of understanding.

The highlights of these documents, titled "Joint Statement on Deepening Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the New Era" and "Joint Statement on Pre-2030 Development Plan on Priorities in China-Russia Economic Cooperation", are actually similar to the points made in the articles written by the two leaders before the visit.

It is emphasized that China-Russia relations are not a military-political alliance of the Cold War era. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this model of relations, as advocated by the Chinese side, is referred to in the literature as an emerging type of international relations.

In the declaration, the Russian side reaffirms its commitment to the one-China principle and recognizes Taiwan as an inalienable part of Chinese territory.

The two countries call on NATO to adhere to its commitments as a defensive and regional organization.

If we evaluate the joint declarations from a conjunctural point of view, it is possible to say that China has not made any commitment to Russia in terms of military aid, but has provided serious economic support.

Russia will now be able to sell higher volumes of gas to China, which it has not sold to Europe due to sanctions. The Power of Siberia 2 project is a precursor. In addition, the positive reception of China's peace plan by Russia will be a plus for China in the diplomatic arena.

China does not want to lose a partner like Russia over the Taiwan issue. The ongoing Ukraine crisis is preventing the US and the West from focusing on Asia Pacific. Therefore, Russia's fall would put China in a difficult position.

Thus, China will persist in supporting Russia, but the bilateral relationship will demonstrate asymmetry favoring China. It remains to be seen if this restructured approach to international relations signifies a paradigm shift.

Note: This article was published in Turkish on my blog on March 21, 2023.

Dr.Hüseyin Korkmaz. The author is a researcher focusing on China and geopolitics in the Asia, primarily related to the US-China relations.