Warming Russia-US ties no loss for China

By Li Xing Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/24 19:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Donald Trump won a surprise victory in the US presidential elections. He is a successful businessman, but green in politics and diplomacy. How will his election affect the relationship between China, the US and Russia?

Considering Trump's rhetoric during his campaign, it seems that he has a favorable impression of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is willing to develop ties with Russia. His rival, Hillary Clinton, even accused him of being Putin's "puppet." Russia also favored him.

Trump's win indicates that US populism defeated so-called liberal internationalism and that "America first" populism defeated cosmopolitism. Isolationism now dominates US society. Therefore, it is highly likely that US-Russia ties will improve. If Trump wants diplomatic achievements, mending relations with Russia could be a quick approach.

The Sino-US relationship is much more complicated. Since Trump is likely to put more weight on domestic issues and the economy, military tension between the two may be eased, while economic relations may face strain. How will the improvement of Moscow-Washington ties affect Beijing-Moscow relations?

Given their overall strength and international influence, China, the US and Russia are undoubtedly the top three most powerful countries in the world. They are interrelated. Both China and Russia do not want to face a head-on confrontation with the US, and want to see the other to take more of the pressure. Does this subtleness indicate distrust between the two?

China and Russia are not allies. As the sole superpower, the US is key in the new type of major power relations with China. The US is also pivotal in removing economic sanctions on Russia. In other words, the US is a priority for both China and Russia, and their development cannot progress without the US. Both take a pragmatic attitude toward their national interests and there is no hidden trick behind this relationship.

There is no need to worry about China-Russia ties. The US is still the most powerful country in the world and in the triangular relationship as well. The structural conflict between Russia and the US, such as the eastern expansion of NATO and the issues surrounding Syria and Ukraine, and the structural competition between China and the US over politics, human rights and trade, will be difficult to eliminate.

The US will not easily give up its hegemonic ambition, but it will make some changes to its tactics and strategies to realize it. Trump will revert to domestic economic development instead of traditional military menace and political accusations. The US will not draw back from its global battle to maintain hegemony.

Meanwhile, the internal drive for China-Russia strategic coordination is strengthening, but within this relationship, China may be more dependent on Russia than vice versa in the Trump era. Putin will continue to be China's reliable partner, and it is groundless to predict strain in Sino-Russian ties.

Is Trump reliable? Whether he will fulfill his campaign promises remains to be seen. What is certain is that Trump's victory affects domestic politics more than the international community and it affects US allies more than China and Russia.

As the US retracts its global presence, there will be more space on the world stage for China and Russia. The trilateral competition between China, the US and Russia will enter a new phase. The warming-up of US-Russia ties may be faster than the development of Sino-US relations.

A Cold War mentality no longer fits the times. An easing Moscow-Washington relationship will benefit international cooperation and global governance, which is not a bad deal for China. China and Russia having a working partnership rather than a formal alliance has already set an example for other countries in dealing with their foreign relations. Hopefully big powers can evade the law of the jungle and make their due contribution to building a fair and reasonable international new order.

The author is director of the Eurasian Studies Center and a professor at the School of Government, Beijing Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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