China's leader Xi Jinping left the country for the first time this week since the Covid pandemic began, meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin amid warnings the two leaders have created "a strange new monster" which threatens the global order.
The last time the two men met they signed a "no limits" friendship agreement between their two countries. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine.
As the leaders meet again, Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has delivered a dark assessment of the partnership.
"Authoritarian powers are on the move. Energised by revisionist and expansionist ambitions," Australia's opposition defence spokesman warned in a speech to the Hudson Institute in Washington DC.
"As they struck their no limits partnership in February this year, Xi and Putin created a strange new monster," he said.
"We see its carnage in the atrocities in Bucha [in Ukraine] and its menacing missiles streaking across the Taiwan Strait.
"This monster nurses a hard grievance against America and the global order she protects."
Mr Hastie told his audience that the autocratic duo want to reshape the world, arguing that China seeks to usurp the Unites State's position and move to a multi-polar world before achieving a unipolar international order with China at the helm.
The volley of Chinese missiles fired over Taiwan in the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit "should focus our minds" to that fact, Mr Hastie said.
In the speech, the MP asserted it was incumbent upon the United States to develop a "grand strategy" necessary to inspire confidence among its allies, including Australia, to face China.
Russia and China to hold joint patrols in the Pacific
The Russian and Chinese navies are holding joint patrols in the Pacific Ocean, the Russian defence ministry said on Thursday (local time) deepening military and diplomatic ties between Moscow and Beijing in another unsettling sign for Western allies in Australia's broader region.
A ministry statement on Telegram said crews from both sides were conducting joint tactical manoeuvres and carrying out exercises involving artillery and helicopters.
"The tasks of the patrols involve the strengthening of naval co-operation between Russia and China, upholding peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, coastal monitoring and safeguarding Russian and Chinese nautical economic sites," the statement said.
The deepening 'no limits' partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resources titan of Russia is a geopolitical development the West is watching with anxiety.
Russia and China warships conducted their first joint patrols of the western Pacific Ocean in October last year, a move closely monitored by Japan which described the manoeuvres as "unusual".
Putin 'values China's position' on Ukraine
Since Russia's invasion, China has trod a careful line, criticising sanctions against Russia but stopping short of endorsing or assisting in the military campaign.
During the leaders' meeting, Putin expressed his gratitude for China's tacit support of the invasion.
"We highly value the balanced position of our Chinese friends when it comes to the Ukraine crisis," Putin told Xi at their first meeting since the war began.
"We understand your questions and concern about this. During today's meeting, we will of course explain our position."
Xi did not mention Ukraine in his public remarks, nor was it mentioned in a Chinese readout of their meeting, which took place in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of a regional summit.
China's support is widely seen as essential for Russia, which needs markets for its energy exports and sources to import high tech goods as it faces sanctions imposed by the US and its allies in Europe and Asia.
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