China and Russia cement their bond as Xi and Putin take a stance against US dominance
- In a joint statement released after their recent summit, the two leaders outlined new energy and space deals and promised mutual support over regional disputes
- In particular, they were united in their criticism of the US and its allies, revealing coordinated security interests in Europe and the Asia-Pacific
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin recently held their first face-to-face meeting in several years. Ahead of the talks, I suggested that the pair were likely to “synchronise their watches” and embrace closer cooperation in global politics, economics and security, look to forge a deeper energy alliance, and launch a rip tide of criticism against the US.
So far, plenty of these predictions have come true in the extensive joint statement released after the summit, outlining the Russia-China partnership over the next few decades.
Most importantly, Moscow and Beijing have formally consolidated their official positions on a wide range of global affairs, which had previously only been stated orally or were scattered across multiple documents. They now present a cohesive interpretation of the new state of international relations, in which the two countries declare an open revolt against the US-led world order.
They are rebelling against the “minority [of states that] … advocate unilateral approaches to … international issues”, interfering in the domestic concerns of other states “against the opposition from the international community”.
By suggesting there is a minority (that is, implying the US and its allies) challenging the rest of international community, Russia and China are dividing the global landscape into two rival camps.
The statement devotes much attention to Moscow and Beijing’s mutual views on democracy and human rights, building on their earlier criticism of these concepts. As the two have repeatedly been subject to criticism by the US-led “minority” for their poor human rights records and autocracy, Russia and China reiterated that the terms are not universal and depend on each country’s cultural and historical background.
The statement says that the ongoing worldwide redistribution of power has created a growing demand for new global leadership.
Earlier, Putin stressed that it was up to Russia and China to facilitate the “democratisation of … interstate relations”, which means they intend future changes in the global power structure to be formulated outside Washington – preferably, somewhere between the Kremlin and Zhongnanhai.
Moscow and Beijing seek to “improve global governance” by defending common interests, which also differ from those of the “minority” states.
In another highlight of the summit, Putin and Xi reassured each other over the issues drawing much of their attention. Regarding global security, Russia received China’s much-hoped-for support over its “legally binding security guarantees in Europe”, while Beijing was assured of Russia’s stance on Taiwan as “an inalienable part of China”.
China not only endorsed Russia’s security claims but also joined Moscow in laying down additional ones, including opposition to the global enlargement of Nato, without specific reference to Europe. The US was largely pummelled over alliance building, its Indo-Pacific strategy and the Aukus partnership.
The EU should take a note of this when implementing its own newly unveiled Indo-Pacific initiatives. Russia and China are interested in global security beyond their own geographic spheres of interests; the inclusion in the statement of the Asia-Pacific region as an emerging arena of competition with Washington only serves to reinforce that position.
The laundry list of Moscow and Beijing’s mutual exchanges of goodwill goes on. Russia joined China in its criticism of Japan over the alleged release of nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima plant, an issue which has long concerned Beijing.
After gaining Russian backing, China may grow more vocal when dealing with Japan on other regional issues, many of which are growing more complicated by the day as cooperation intensifies between Tokyo, Washington and Canberra.
Seemingly, Moscow has indirectly backed Beijing in its trade spats with the US and some European states by opposing unilateral trade policies and supporting reforms to the World Trade Organization.
Moscow also received oblique support from Beijing as both denounced the politicisation of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whose members largely blamed Russia for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK in March 2018.
The concept of “indivisible security”, extensively promoted by Moscow, was also incorporated into the joint communique, while the endorsement of the “P5” statement on the prevention of nuclear war can be seen as another point scored by Putin, since the initiative originated in Moscow.
Meanwhile, new gas and oil projects serve as testimony to the growing Russia-China energy alliance, since they are expected to make Russia the biggest gas supplier to China, while a reported 25 per cent of all oil produced by the Russian state-owned energy giant Rosneft will now go to China.
The multi-year nature of the deals enables both states to hedge against the kind of global market turbulence that is now beleaguering Europe and Asia.
Regarding cooperation in space, Moscow and Beijing made further headway by agreeing to coordinate their satellite navigation systems, which would challenge Washington’s GPS and Europe’s Galileo networks.
Russia-China cooperation in the Arctic is also mentioned in the statement, hinting at plans by both sides to prioritise it in the long run.
The statement is extremely comprehensive, encompassing all areas of Russia-China international cooperation including global security, the world economy, geopolitics, redistribution of power, ideology and values, as well as the internet and artificial intelligence management.
This all signifies that the future of global politics will be driven by the ideological competition for the role of prime architect of a new world order, with Moscow and Beijing already keen to co-produce the blueprints.
Although such a partnership is not carved in stone and Russia-China interests may fluctuate or even diverge in the long run, current global geopolitical trends seem to be adhering to Putin and Xi’s summit templates.
Author: Danil Bochkov is an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, SCMP