Body Language Expert Reveals Putin’s Attention-Seeking Behavior In Trying To Engage President Xi With Eye-Contact

Body Language Expert Reveals Putin's Attention-Seeking Behavior In Trying To Engage President Xi With Eye-Contact

Vladimir Putin attempted to establish eye contact with Xi Jinping during their meeting today, but according to a body language expert, it’s evident that the Chinese president holds a senior role in their relationship.

The Russian president met his Chinese counterpart for a summit in Beijing on Thursday, where the two leaders reaffirmed a ‘no-limits’ partnership that has grown deeper as both countries face escalating tensions with the West.

During Putin’s two-day state visit to one of his strongest allies, he thanked Xi for his efforts to resolve the Ukraine conflict, despite his country’s forces pressing an offensive in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region in the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

The largely symbolic visit stressed the partnership between two countries facing challenges in their relationships with the US and Europe.

However, amid the two nations’ deepening relationship, body language

‘One leader will put themselves out in terms of travel or how far they walk to greet their guest or employ dominance signals like Trump’s infamous ‘Power shakes’ or even power-patting,’ she explained.

However, she added: ‘When world leaders want to show active and often strategic alliances there will often be mutual body language acts of ingratiation to signal profound bonding to the rest of the world.

‘Putin clearly takes heed of these rituals here but Xi’s responses suggest he didn’t get the memo or read the rule books in terms of mutually active ingratiation rituals.

‘There are clearly cultural differences to take into consideration, but the overall result makes Putin look keener to ingratiate and show bonds [with his counterpart] here than a […] higher status-looking Xi does,’ who Ms. James says was ‘merely polite’.

‘Putin has firstly travelled to China for the meeting and he is also the one using the facial expressions and attentive signals of active friendship or collusion here.’

Analyzing a photograph showing a handshake between the leaders, Ms. James said there was a noticeable difference in how Putin and Xi approached it. 

In the photograph, ‘Xi faces front with his arm lifted out to one side away from his torso and held palm-up to clasp Putin’s hand,’ she said. ‘His expression looks polite but his smile appears aimed at the cameras.’

‘Putin’s smile is more pronounced, with raised and rounded cheeks, and his arm is held across his body, making his handshake an attempt look more personal here.’

It was also clear that there was a difference between the leaders as they walked side-by-side, with a photo showing Putin leaning in to talk with the much taller Xi, in an attempt to get the Chinese leader’s attention.

‘As the two men walk side-by-side Xi seems to stride out, looking ahead and looking massively self-assured,’ Ms James said.

‘Putin seems to be actively trying to engage him in conversation here but the pose suggests it is Putin talking while Xi is the higher-status listener. Putin is using eye contact in what looks like a bid to get Xi’s attention and although Chinese business body language suggests looking down while the other person is talking can be a sign of respect, Xi is looking ahead here rather than down.’

She added: ‘Putin’s expression looks almost impish here, with a raised brow and eye-smile as he raises on hand to gesticulate.’

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