When China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, hosts President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this week, the two leaders are expected to present a united front. But they have different agendas.

Mr. Putin is trying to escalate his war in Ukraine before Ukrainian forces can receive a replenishment of arms from the United States, and probably wants to know he can rely on China. Mr. Xi will seek to bolster his strategic partner and “old friend,” but he is also under pressure to avoid further alienating the West over his support for Russia.

Those priorities are the backdrop of Mr. Putin’s two-day state visit, which began in Beijing on Thursday and will include a trip to the northeastern city of Harbin, where a China-Russia trade fair is being held.

Mr. Putin will most likely seek more help from Beijing, which has provided a lifeline to the Kremlin ever since Western sanctions were imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago. China purchases huge quantities of Russian oil and provides technologies that help Moscow withstand its economic isolation and sustain its war machine.

Mr. Xi considers Russia an important counterweight in China’s rivalry with the United States, but he risks alienating Europe, a key trading partner, at a time when China is relying on exports to revive its sluggish economy.

Here is what to know about the summit.

The visit is Mr. Putin’s first foreign trip since winning his fifth presidential election in March. Mr. Xi showed the same respect to Mr. Putin when he made Russia his first foreign trip after securing his norm-shattering third term as China’s president in March 2023.

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