A visit by President Xi Jinping to Russia, to meet Vladimir Putin, is planned for the Spring. It will come at a critical time. The first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is approaching. The war, which began shortly after the two leaders met in Beijing, has left thousands dead and millions displaced. It is a source of global instability and economic woe. China has strenuously denied that it had advance warning of the invasion. The war has left it in a difficult position, facing pressure from the West to distance itself from Moscow. The trip will be Xi’s first to Russia since 2019. China’s close relationship with Moscow understandably raises hopes, even expectations, that the meeting will pave the way for a resolution of the conflict. But it is unrealistic to expect such a breakthrough at a time when relations have reached a delicate point. China has adopted a balanced approach to the war. It has not condemned Russia’s actions and respects Moscow’s security concerns, including any eastern expansion of Nato. It opposes the punitive sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. But Beijing has not supplied Moscow with weapons and has repeatedly called for a peaceful negotiated settlement to the crisis. Xi Jinping expected to visit Russia, defying impression of split over war Beijing cannot isolate Russia given its strategic importance to China. But it also cannot afford to be seen as Moscow’s accomplice in pursuing the war in Ukraine. It has adopted a neutral position. When the leaders last met, in September, Putin recognised China’s “questions and concerns” about the war. The trip is expected to deal with broader issues. The two nations have shared “core interests”, notably resistance to moves by the US to forge alliances to contain their influence on world affairs. China has been Russia’s biggest trading partner for more than a decade. Bilateral trade has soared during the war in Ukraine, especially in the energy sector. The meeting will provide a basis for further cooperation. A much-anticipated visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will not now proceed as expected. It is to be hoped it will take place in the near future as the opportunity for dialogue is important. The world needs better relations between China and the US and a resolution to the Ukraine war. These objectives will only be achieved if there is a willingness to put aside differences and seek common ground. Efforts to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine and find a solution are needed, but China cannot be expected to achieve this on its own. All parties, including Nato members, must strive to bring about a negotiated peace. Xi’s trip to Russia provides an opportunity for progress. But hopes should be realistic and expectations not too high.