Tillerson’s nomination won’t affect Sino-Russian engagement

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/12/13 23:53:39

US President-elect Donald Trump has named Rex Tillerson, chief executive of ExxonMobil as well as an old friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as his secretary of state. The 64-year-old Tillerson has worked for ExxonMobil for a long time and has built close relationships with many world leaders. But like Trump, he has no political experience. Trump has so far invited a large number of CEOs and many retired military top brass into his team, filling his cabinet full with surprising rule-breaking promotions.

But the nomination of Tillerson is shrouded with the most controversies as many lawmakers are worried Tillerson might be too close to Russia. He worked in Russia for many years and was awarded the Kremlin's Order of Friendship in 2013. Analysis that the Senate may not confirm him is rife, but it would need the veto of all Democratic senators and at least two Republicans.

If Tillerson is approved by the Senate, the US-Russia relationship is poised for improvement as Trump has signaled his favorable impressions of Putin. The bilateral relationship hit its lowest ebb during the Obama administration. It could swing back during the next president's tenure.

There have always been concerns in the Chinese public opinion field that an improved US-Russia relationship may harm Beijing-Moscow ties. Such a worry is not ridiculous, but not professional either. Improvements in US-Russian ties mean a decrease of tension between the two sides. Therefore, it is highly likely that top leaders from both countries will once again shake hands with each other with a smile and turn reprehensive diplomatic language into compliments on certain occasions to reduce the chances of provoking one another.

However, genuine progress requires breakthroughs in major contradictions between the two, including on the Ukraine issue, the security threats Moscow faces due to NATO's military build-up in Eastern Europe and the Syria conundrum. All that reaches Putin's bottom line and Trump will have to make compromises. But if Trump gives in comprehensively, US allies in Western and Eastern Europe will be furious and feel betrayed by Washington.

Even if there are a certain degree of improvements between US and Russia, the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination will not be impacted. There are no border disputes or ideological divergences between Beijing and Moscow. Even in Russia's hardest days, China never changed its respect for this neighbor and Putin. The bilateral ties have withstood the test of time.

Russia will never sell its independent diplomacy. Chinese people might as well be more confident over this matter. A better Washington-Moscow relationship will not change the peace along China's northern border or mutual support between China and Russia over quite a few international issues. In the past, China and Russia have taken a path of ties characterized by partnership rather than alliance and have both dealt with strategic pressure from the West. The two will keep going forward side by side.

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