What Drives Sino-Russian Rapprochement?

China and Russia have come close together over the last few years. The chief reason being the soured ties between China and the USA, the two powerful countries having locked horns with each other as their trade war seems in no mood to end. The trade war has provided Beijing and Moscow an opportunity to strengthen their ties.

To capitalize on that golden opportunity for infusing a new lease of life into their ties, Beijing and Moscow seem well set to work within the framework of cooperation to not only address their mutual concerns but also to offer a joint stand against their rival, the US. Recently, China’s president Xi Jinping visited Russia to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and meet Russian president Vladimir Putin. The visit has come 30 years after the two countries’ relations saw normalization following an era of confrontation. Interestingly, the visit itself is a sign of higher level of strategic cooperation.

The two authoritarian states are aware of the importance of their cooperation. As both Beijing and Moscow are facing American dominance and pressure, they see each other as close partners. Though the two countries are different in terms of power, they have seen an equilibrium in their ties to continue with their partnership. The two nations are backing each other in every corner of the world,  US anger and resentment notwithstanding.

Speaking of Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, it is in place to mention that Beijing and Moscow have signaled the start of a new phase in their relations. While speaking in Moscow on Wednesday, Mr. Xi spoke of the growing relations between his country and Russia. He praised Mr. Putin, calling him as “one of my closest friends and a great colleague.” Xi added that Sino-Russian solidarity was essential at a time when “protectionism and unilateral approaches are on the rise, and a policy of force and hegemony is increasingly taking hold.”

The strong bond between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin points to a unity, which from their perspective, is a key in countering the US, which has imposed economic sanctions on Moscow and intensified trade war with China.

Meanwhile during the visit, Beijing and Moscow have signed several deals. Huawei and Russian Telecom Company MTS have agreed to develop 5G network in Russia. The Russian Direct Investment Fund and the China Investment Corporation established a $1 billion fund to support research and technology innovation. Russian and Chinese state energy companies also agreed to a joint venture to sell Russian liquefied natural gas in China. The South China Morning Post reported that the value of the deals signed during the high profile visit of Mr. Jinping was $20 billion.

The ties between Russia and China got a momentum after the West slapped a mountain of sanction upon Russia following the latter’s annexation of Crimea and an informal occupation of Ukraine’s Donbass region. Russian alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential elections has further soured US-Russia relations. The policymakers in Kremlin expect that by inching closer to China, Moscow would get an alternative trade partner as well as an ally against the US. The hope seems to have come true as the volume of trade between the two countries has increased. China is now Russia’s largest trading partner and Russia is China’s largest oil supplier. Kremlin states that the trade between the two big players is now valued at $ 108 billion.

Having said that, it is worthwhile to mention that the more severe the trade war between Washington and Beijing gets, the more China and Russia are likely to come closer. Russia is already suffering under the Western sanctions and China is now reeling under pressure due to the trade war. As a result, the two countries find it essential to resist the US together. They seem to understand that if they do not fight back together, Washington will fight them separately and weaken them economically and politically.

On its part, Moscow would like to use the opportunity, following the trade war between China and the US- and increase its trade and investment in China while trying to win the latter’s support in compensating the loss caused to its economy by the Western sanctions.

Moreover, America’s involvement in Afghanistan and sabre rattling against Iran can suit Sino-Russian relations at this juncture, bringing them closer to push Washington back. America needs the support of Beijing and Moscow to resolve the Afghan and Iran crises. Therefore, China and Russia are at an advantageous position and by operating together, they can at least influence Washington’s behaviour towards them.

In view of this scenario, the days ahead are going to be interesting. It remains to be seen how the power game shapes and how China-Russia bonhomie impacts the US influence and dominance across the globe. 

Image credit: www.kremlin.ru (via Wikimedia Commons.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Geopolitics.

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