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International relations

Xi and Putin slam 'foreign interference' with eye on Biden

China and Russia wary of a US administration vocal on human rights, democracy

Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts the virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit on Nov. 10. He and Chinese President Xi Jinping appear to be joining hands in anticipation of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden taking office.   © AP

BEIJING/MOSCOW -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday took a firm stance against foreign meddling in domestic affairs, presenting a united front to counter likely pressure from the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

The leaders spoke at the virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Xi's first diplomatic engagement since American news outlets called the presidential election for Biden over the weekend.

Xi expressed "firm opposition to interference by external forces in the domestic affairs of the SCO member states under any pretext," China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. The organization's roster includes China, Russia, India and some Central Asian countries.

Biden, who is expected to take office in January, has raised concerns over China's human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, as well as over its crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. He has also painted Russia as a major threat. Beijing and Moscow hope to push back against Biden's efforts to dial up pressure by maintaining unity among SCO members.

Xi also said China will actively consider supplying COVID-19 vaccines, hinting at prioritizing shipments to member countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hosted the virtual summit, echoed Xi's sentiment. "One more open challenge to our common security is the increased number of attempts of direct foreign interference in the internal affairs of states that are involved in SCO activities," he said -- a likely response to U.S. and European support for anti-government protesters in Belarus, an SCO observer state.

Biden has called Russia "the biggest threat" and "an opponent." 

Still, rifts exist within the SCO. The standoff between China and India continues in the Ladakh region.

On India, "it is hoped that this time the country could put aside many geopolitical concerns to jointly participate in the economic and trade cooperation efforts" under the SCO, a piece in the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Global Times said this week. Beijing appears to be working to minimize tensions with New Delhi to strengthen its coalition against the U.S.

Tuesday's SCO summit had originally been planned for the summer but was postponed over global spread of the new coronavirus.

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