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Xi’s cocoon in Moscow: A Chinese-owned hotel over Red Square opulence

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/21/2023 Mary Ilyushina, Francesca Ebel
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday. © Vladimir Astapkovich/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday.

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 Soluxe Hotel, located inside a massive gated Chinese business center with a Forbidden City-style 12-acre park, held its grand opening last year after changing ownership.

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 police who were part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's motorcade wait near the Soluxe Hotel in Moscow on Monday. © Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Russian police who were part of Chinese leader Xi Jinping's motorcade wait near the Soluxe Hotel in Moscow on Monday.

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.

China portrays Xi’s Russia trip as bid for leadership of non-Western world

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.”

As Xi visits Russia, Putin sees his anti-U.S. world order taking shape

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.


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