China and Russia have long been bitter enemies, but under Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, the two countries are closer than they have been since the early days of Cold War. Such a relationship appeared improbable a decade ago when China and Russia were more enemies than allies. However, following a time in which both nations have been at odds with the US, Xi’s backing for Putin represents a growing convergence of Moscow’s and Beijing’s interests and worldviews. The Russian and Chinese leaders are unified in their opinion that the US is attempting to destabilize and topple their governments, as Xi’s words to Putin demonstrated. Russia and China backed revolutionary groups all across the world throughout the communist era. Today, however, Moscow and Beijing have embraced counter-revolutionary rhetoric. Both Putin and Xi have stated that America’s ultimate purpose is to destabilize the Russian and Chinese administrations, with local pro-democracy movements serving as America’s Trojan horse. While many aspects of the Sino-Russian relationship naturally pull them apart, they are currently held together by their shared belief that the US poses a threat to their basic interests. China and Russia have vastly different perspectives and approaches to the international order. Their agreement is primarily based on their anti-American agendas and leadership choices. Making a new world order is not merely an issue of sheer force for Russia and China. It’s also a debate about concepts. While the western liberal tradition advocates for universal human rights, Russian and Chinese intellectuals argue that distinct cultural traditions and “civilizations” should be allowed to grow in their own unique ways. Also, it’s worth noting that while Russia desires to be one of the world’s great powers, China appears to be considering dethroning the United States as the world’s leading power.
The disparity in scale between China’s and Russia’s objectives mirrors the disparity in their economic potential. Russia’s economy has grown to be about the same size as any other small European country. Moscow simply does not have the financial means to continue its quest for global dominance. China, on the other hand, is currently the world’s greatest economy by certain measurements. It is also the largest maker and exporter on the globe. It has a population of 1.4 billion people, which is nearly ten times that of Russia’s. As a result, China’s ambition to become the world’s most powerful country is realistic. Both Russia and China have publicly emphasized their growing ties in recent years. Chinese President Xi Jinping has referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as his “best buddy,” and both Xi and Putin have praised Sino-Russian relations as “the finest they’ve ever been.”
This has been reflected in joint military exercises, increased weapons, and energy transactions between China and Russia, and public support for one another throughout their state-run media channels and in their relations with international institutions such as the United Nations. Moscow has been especially anxious to foster these developments in its relationship with Beijing since the previous Ukraine crisis in 2014, to mitigate the effects of diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions imposed by the West.
What Has Been the History of China-Russia Relations?
Each has its own viewpoints and interests in its respective geographical areas, as well as its wars to fight. Despite mutual resistance to US unipolarity, Russia and China have a complicated and multi-layered relationship. Relations between China and the former Soviet Union were tense during the Cold War decades, marked by mistrust and doctrinal differences. Both countries kept sizable troops along their common border in the 1960s and 1970s. Russia could no longer afford to do so by the 1990s, while China decided to deploy its forces elsewhere. Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet leader to visit China in 1989 since Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to China in 1958. The foundations of Russia and China’s bilateral relations are “Mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual nonaggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful cohabitation”. A decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia, humiliated and disappointed by the West’s downgrading of the Soviet Union and in dire economic straits, turned to China for help. China also took full advantage of the opportunity and made Russia dependent on itself. In 2001, the two nations signed the Treaty of “Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation”, paving the way for further commercial and trade connections, including Russian defence and energy supplies to China, as well as Russian backing for China’s Taiwan policy. The annexation of Crimea by Russia in Ukraine in 2014 caused a severe deterioration in Russia’s relations with the US, NATO, and the European Union (EU). This was also a watershed moment in Russian-Chinese relations, exposing the relationship’s potential, as well as its limitations. When sanctions were imposed on Russia by the United States, the European Union, and Australia, the country on the nail turned to China. During a virtual summit in June 2021, Russia asserted that “Russian-Chinese coordination plays a stabilizing function in world events,” and the pact was extended.
Current Development between both the countries:
A quiet and peaceful border, rising trade between both the countries and a common scepticism of American intentions are the three foundations on which the Sino-Russian cooperation is currently built. Also, Russians have been pushed closer to China as a result of Western sanctions. Fresh restrictions on Russian gas supply (Nord Stream 2) are also destroying Russia’s primary exports to Europe, forcing them to rely even more heavily on China. Ironically, even though hastening a bipolar world is neither in Russia’s nor the European Union’s interests, western sanctions on Russia have worked to support China’s position in the strategic triangle. Since 2016, bilateral trade has grown from USD 50 billion to USD 147 billion. China is becoming Russia’s most important trading partner. In exchange for that Russia reaffirmed its support for the One-China concept and stated unequivocally that Taiwan’s independence is unacceptable. The two countries agreed to work together to advance the integration of Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative to reach a consensus in Vivendi Central Asia. Russia has also welcomed Chinese investment, signing a USD 400 billion deal with Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas exporter, to supply 38 billion cubic meters (BCM) of gas to China over the next 30 years, beginning in 2025. In January 2022, the two countries agreed to construct Power of Siberia 2, a 30-year pipeline that will add 10 billion cubic meters of gas to the annual supply.
Upcoming future between Russia and China
The two countries’ relationship looks to have reached a historic high, with a high level of consistency (as seen by a recent poll in Russia naming China as the country’s friendliest partner). The commerce and energy partnership has grown stronger. The increasing confrontation between the United States and Russia suggests that the current oppositional relationship will likely experience in the imaginable future. Continued enmity with the United States will continue to force Russia and China closer together, and both are likely to adopt a strategy of “never against each other, but not necessarily with each other,” pursuing their interests without putting them at risk their developing alliance. The increasing asymmetry in power dynamics, on the other hand, may produce friction in the future. Also, border tensions may rise if Russia is unable to stabilize the Russian population or regulate the Chinese population in Russia the Far East, and Eastern Siberia.
About the author – Adarsh Kumar Jha and Sakshi Singh are currently students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in the School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies.
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