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Cartoon of the Day: China and Russia's ailing 'Axis of Evil'

Putin seen flying to Uzbekistan courtesy of Ukrainian army

(Illustration by @KluddNiklas for Kinamedia)

(Illustration by @KluddNiklas for Kinamedia)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Swedish cartoonist created this illustration to satirize Russian President Vladimir Putin's less-than-triumphant meeting with Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) in Uzbekistan last week, hot on the heels of large setbacks in Ukraine.

On Sept. 15, Xi and Putin in Uzbekistan held their first face-to-face talks since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Both leaders are facing challenges, with China's economy slowing due to continued zero-COVID rules and Russia's loss of 6,000 square kilometers to the Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive.

Xi got his trip off on the wrong foot, almost slipping while walking down an airstair as he landed in Kazakhstan on Sept. 14, prompting ridicule from a Taiwanese writer and netizens. Following the meeting, Putin conceded that China had "questions and concerns" over Russia's losses in Ukraine.

Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson posted an article on his news blog Kinamedia on Monday (Sept. 19) titled "Satire: Arriving to Uzbekistan" and included an illustration by Swedish artist Niklas Eriksson (@KluddNiklas). In the illustration, Xi, who is depicted as a devil holding a pitchfork, is seated in the cockpit of a Chinese jet as he prepares to land at an airport in Uzbekistan which displays a sign welcoming the "cunning leaders of The Axis of Evil."

Xi looks warily to his left as Putin, also portrayed as a devil, arrives at the same time. Unlike Xi, Putin has flames and smoke emitting from his head and pitchfork, he has a black eye, and one of his front teeth has just fallen out.

Putin's mode of transportation is also unusual as he is sailing to the scene atop a Russian tank turret. The flying tank turret alludes to the notorious "jack-in-the-box effect" that occurs when Russian tanks take a direct hit and the ammunition inside explodes due to a design flaw with the autoloader.

Olsson writes that Xi is "clearly not impressed with the performance of his ally." He adds that "any further strains in the relationship between the two main actors in the new 'Axis of Evil' will indeed be worth keeping an eye on."