On his much anticipated state visit to Moscow, Chinese President Xi Jinping steered clear of the extravagant five-star hotels surrounding Red Square, instead opting for a presidential suite in a Chinese-owned hotel on the northern outskirts of the city, forcing major traffic closures for his commute to the Kremlin.
The hotel is a metaphor for Sino-Russian relations, which have grown substantially closer since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s imposition of punishing sanctions.
Russian media reported that InterContinental Group, the British hospitality company, was supposed to manage the property, but after it left the Russian market last year along with many other Western-owned companies, the Chinese Soluxe chain swooped in, opening its first premium hotel in Russia.
The seven-room presidential suite, located on the 20th floor and spanning some 4,000 square feet, is equipped with a living room, dining room, bar, butler’s kitchen, two bedrooms with dressing rooms, private bathrooms and two hammams, BFM Business radio reported.
The windows face the botanical garden and VDNKh, a vast exhibition space built in the Joseph Stalin era to showcase and glorify economic achievements of the Soviets.
Russian state media praised Soluxe’s design as “a modern reading of Feng shui ideas” and noted that all rooms have access to Chinese television.
BFM noted that the business center near the hotel is a physical manifestation of growing economic ties between Moscow and Beijing as most of its occupants are Chinese businesses involved in bilateral trade, promoting the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road development strategy.
To accommodate Xi’s choice of lodging, Moscow authorities shut down several roads, including Prospekt Mira, a vital seven-lane avenue that connects the center with the city’s northeast. The roadblocks and heavy police presence paralyzed the capital on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.
Some coverage of the visit by Russian state media evoked Soviet tropes, particularly the Friendship of Peoples doctrine, which envisioned stronger partnerships between communist nations. On Monday, during ad breaks, state TV stations showed rolling slides of quotations from Xi encouraging hard work and pragmatism, overlaid by stirring classical music.
“In this world, you must most fear those who just talk but do nothing, those who only have ambition but don’t have the capability,” one slide declared.
Upon Xi’s arrival, a few dozen people gathered at the hotel’s entrance holding Russian and Chinese flags, as well as a scarlet banner with the inscription in Chinese “[We] warmly welcome the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Russia.”
The exuberant greetings actually started at Vnukovo International Airport, to the southwest of the capital, where Xi’s two planes landed on Monday. As Xi stepped onto the tarmac, a reporter from Russian state TV station Rossiya-24 gushed: “It is lovely weather in Moscow today; this is a promising sign.”
Xi’s visit, trumpeted in Russia as the signature diplomatic event of the years, was surrounded by public spectacle, with nonstop media coverage proclaiming the increasingly intertwined economic relations between Russia and China.
The elaborate stagecraft unfolded in the gilded halls of the Kremlin.
In a dramatic meeting Tuesday afternoon, the cameras tracked the two presidents as they strode toward each other from opposite sides of St. George’s Hall.
The ornate room, with its marble floors and golden chandeliers, is the largest in the Kremlin and is dedicated to Russia’s military glory. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in the middle of a large red carpet, smiling as they shook hands, before they each took their positions — standing solemnly side by side and dwarfed by unusually large national flags.
The grandiose optics, as well as the leaders’ matching red ties, delivered a clear message: a new, strong, united front against the West.
One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.
Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.
A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.
Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.