Russia and China now understand that they must stand together to ward off Washington’s aggression. Because if one of the two countries falls, the other country is left to its own devices. An approximation is essential.
By Dmitry Trenin
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow was not just symbolic. It was his first trip abroad after being re-elected to a third term as President. Xi’s state visit was particularly important in light of the larger context in which it took place. The global situation requires further deepening of Sino-Russian relations to address the external challenges both countries are facing.
Putin praises Chinese roadmap for peace in Ukraine
The international system is in a crisis on the scale of a world war. This crisis began almost a decade ago, when the Western-backed government coup was unleashed on the Maidan in Kiev and Russia’s response to taking control of Crimea, leading to an American-Russian confrontation that continues to this day. Three years later, the US abruptly transitioned from its previous “engage and contain” China policy to a trade and technology war, culminating in a serious confrontation between Washington and Beijing.
Last year, Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine to eliminate what Moscow saw as a “land-based, US-armed and controlled aircraft carrier on Russia’s doorstep,” which Ukraine had become de facto. The Russian-American confrontation thus degenerated into a proxy war between the two largest nuclear powers in the world. At the same time, Washington increasingly tightened its stance on Beijing and also tried to mobilize its allies and partners in Asia and Europe against China.
Against this background, tensions around Taiwan have also increased significantly. Therefore, the possibility that Washington will provoke an armed conflict over this island cannot be ruled out. It is not only the fate of Ukraine or the future of Taiwan that is at stake here. The problem is the existing world order itself and its current organizing principle: US global hegemony. This status, flatly rejected by Moscow and Beijing, is now being seriously questioned. For several years, the US has been calling the current situation “competition between great powers”, which was the essence of both world wars in the 20th century. Since the 1990s, Russia and China have advocated a transition from US-led unipolarity to a multipolar world order. This position is supported by numerous countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. In fact, the process of systemic change is already in full swing.
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In response, the US is pursuing a strategy to defend its global supremacy at all costs, which ultimately amounts to a strategy of prevention. The US has seen the rise of China, the unexpected resurgence of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Iran’s regional and nuclear ambitions as challenges that cannot be tolerated. Despite Beijing’s keen interest in maintaining its extensive and profitable economic ties with the West, Russia’s efforts to resolve the Donbass crisis under the Minsk agreements, and Iran’s commitment to the nuclear deal, Washington has consistently gone on the offensive.
In addition, the US understood that time was not on their side and thus decided to act while the balance of power was still in their favour: to provoke Moscow to the point that military action had to be taken in Ukraine, which Russia should weaken and isolate; Raising tensions around Taiwan with the aim of putting pressure on China and forging anti-Beijing alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. Further, US strategy includes mobilizing and disciplining numerous allies around the world. US supremacy within these various blocs, representing the latest version of world empire, has never been more absolute.
In fact, former great powers such as Britain and France, as well as leading industrial powers Germany and Japan, are much more closely tied to US politics today than they were during the Cold War. After Washington encouraged NATO to expand into the Indo-Pacific and established a new military bloc, AUKUS, specifically targeting China, Washington is using the full power of its alliances against China and Russia. One also hopes to take out both rivals one by one. First eliminate Russia as a great power, and then get China to accept Washington’s dictates.
Given the situation, what could be the strategy of Sino-Russian interaction? China and Russia are great powers that play out their strategies with complete sovereignty on the world stage. The goals of these strategies are based directly on the respective national interests. Relations between Moscow and Beijing are a far cry from the strict bloc discipline that prevails in the US-led Western alliances.
China has announced its goals: with Russia against the West
Still, the Chinese and Russian leaders understand that they must thwart Washington’s plan to first neutralize Moscow and then turn on Beijing. As a result, US warnings and threats towards China about the aid Beijing might provide to Russia could actually be counterproductive. China’s leaders will find the tone of these admonitions rude and disrespectful, especially in the context of upcoming US arms sales to Taiwan. As China seeks to win US and EU markets for its goods and services, one wonders whether Washington and its allies can actually be trusted, given Moscow’s experience of the Minsk accords, which former German and French leaders have admitted were nothing more than a ruse to give Ukraine time to rearm.
Much stronger coordination between Beijing and Moscow can therefore be expected. This does not point to the formation of a new military bloc in Eurasia, but rather to a greater concerted effort to help the world move faster towards multipolarity, effectively meaning that US global hegemony must end.
One way to achieve this would be to reduce the US dollar’s role in international transactions. Much of the bilateral trade between China and Russia is already conducted in Chinese yuan, although the yuan can also be used in trade with third countries. Another way to help create a new world order is to upgrade non-Western institutions like BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to set the agenda in areas like finance and technology, and energy and climate, and last but not least in the field of international security.
China’s recent emergence as a global geopolitical rather than just geo-economic actor, brought to the fore by its recent mediation of Iran-Saudi rapprochement, is being hailed in Moscow as a practical step towards the new world order. Moscow and Beijing could be more successful if they work together to reduce the economic and political dependence of many countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America on the US and its European allies.
Xi-Putin Meeting: Strengthening Friendship – West Growing Jealous
In the area of military security, there is much that Russia and China could gain from closer cooperation. Beyond the existing formats. The main goal would be to dissuade Washington, not only by words but also by deeds, from escalating the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine and further provoking Beijing over Taiwan.
A specific area is the in-depth dialogue on nuclear policy and nuclear proliferation in the current conditions of confrontation between great powers and actual conflicts. Even as China and Russia work to transition to a multipolar future, Putin and Xi have a huge responsibility to ensure that transition occurs without a hot war between the great powers. Closer security cooperation between China and Russia would definitely make this transition safer.
Dmitry Trenin is Professor at the School of Economics and Senior in the College of Research at the Institute for Global Economics and International Relations. He is also a member of the Russian Council for International Relations.
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