Trump cannot alienate China-Russia ties

By Cui Heng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/25 20:13:39

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has been attempting to adjust the relationship among China, the US and Russia. He claimed earlier on his campaign trail that it is China, rather than Russia, that is the principal threat to the US, and Washington should improve ties with Moscow. Trump's foreign policy is not only about adjusting the US-Russia relationship, but more about changing the world order formed under the presidency of his predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, where China and Russia strategically supported each other to balance the US.

After the resignation of Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Trump team has been cautious about its contacts with Russia. Trump's recent meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, airstrikes in Syria and the North Korean nuclear issue demonstrate that the Trump administration, finding it hard to rapidly improve Washington-Moscow ties, is attempting to drive a wedge between Beijing and Moscow. Trump's abundant experiences accumulated from over 30 years of commercial wars are reflected in his handling of foreign affairs.

It has to be admitted that Trump's recent actions have alarmed Chinese and Russian elites. Known for his unpredictability, Trump is an unusual political leader that does not act in accordance with the existing rules of the current political system.

The US raided Syria during Trump's meeting with Xi, leaving a false impression on Moscow that Beijing and Washington reached a consensus on the Syrian issue; it was widely reported that the US aircraft carrier strike group was deployed to the Korean Peninsula during US State Secretary Rex Tillerson's Moscow visit, leaving Beijing to think that Moscow and Washington clinched a deal on the Pyongyang issue.

Trump's business skills have permeated his political decisions. He attempts to sow dissension in the Beijing-Moscow relationship by deliberately creating a false notion that China and Russia have respective deals with the US on sensitive issues. In the meantime, the US' media outlets and elites have seized the chance to hype up the potential disputes between China and Russia. US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster claimed earlier that China helped the US to isolate Russia and Bolivia over the Syrian issue.

Fomenting dissension is a common tactic in the history of international relations. The US government has used it on the Beijing-Moscow relationship several times since the end of the Cold War.

For instance, US academics trumpet that China's One Belt and One Road initiative is a challenge to Russia's influence in Central Asia. However, Washington's instigation failed to upset the Beijing-Moscow relationship. Instead, it has provided an opportunity for the two countries to strengthen their strategic collaborations. China and Russia announced cooperation between the Belt and Road initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union.

Trump has not realized that the Beijing-Moscow relationship goes beyond previous power politics. According to the theory of realism, the foundation of China-Russia cooperation is to counter the US global dominance and if the US pressure vanishes, this bilateral cooperation will break up. However, it ignores the fact that China and Russia have forged a highly trustworthy and mutually dependent relationship through more than 10 years of strategic interactions.

Regarding the Syrian and North Korean issues, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi communicated with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to ensure collaborations. There is no need to make a fuss about China's abstention on the UN resolution to condemn Syria's chemical attack. It is not unusual that Beijing and Moscow, with different cognitions and interests, have conflicting views on the Syrian crisis. But the two countries maintained an overall strategic collaboration on the issue.

The Sino-Russian ties have surpassed ordinary power relationship, and are consolidated based on the common cognitions on civilization, international order and people's demands. Both countries emphasize the significance of establishing a community with a common destiny, advocate democracy in governance structure, oppose to Western dominance on international affairs, and are dedicated to reforming the post-Cold War international order.

For Beijing and Moscow, both at the crucial stage of rejuvenation, people's wellbeing is equated to economic development and fast-growing comprehensive strength. Based on common cognitions and experiences of strategic interactions, China and Russia have realized strategic mutual trust amid the chaotic power games.

The author is a PhD candidate at the Center for Russian Studies, East China Normal University.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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