Russia, China acting together can change balance of power in their favor: scholar
Published: May 24, 2021 09:18 PM
Vladimir Kolotov. Photo: Courtesy of He Lei

Vladimir Kolotov. Photo: Courtesy of  Vladimir Kolotov

Editor's Note:

Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, is paying a visit to Russia from Monday to Thursday to hold the 16th round of China-Russia strategic security consultation. Why does this consultation take place following Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 19? What will be the feature of interactions of the "strategic triangle" - China, Russia and the US? Global Times (GT) reporter Xia Wenxin talked about these issues with Vladimir Kolotov (Kolotov), a member of the Russian National Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and head of the Far East History Department of Faculty of Asian and African Studies of Saint Petersburg State University.

GT: What will be the main concerns of this round of consultation between China and Russia?

Kolotov: During these strategic security consultations, China and Russia should, first of all, discuss the strategic stability issues, for instance, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Besides, the security situation in regions along their borders, such as Central Asia, should be mentioned as well.

Regarding the other regional real and potential conflicts, I think that the US will block all possibilities of the political settlement of hotspot issues because Washington tries to use them in order to export instability toward its strategic competitors like Russia and China, which were named as "revisionist powers."

The US is acting with its satellites and at the same time is combining different coalitions (NATO, Quad, etc) against its competitors, while Moscow and Beijing are acting separately without visible cooperation vis-à-vis real and potential conflicts.

So, in my opinion, during this round of strategic security consultation, our leaders should not only to "synchronize watches" regarding some global and security issues, but also agree on a new, closer format of interaction with each other.

GT: Now there seems to be a pattern of interactions between Russia and China: After one side talks to the US, a bilateral meeting will take place immediately. The same thing happened in March. Back then, Lavrov's visit to China right after the Alaska summit between senior Chinese and US officials. Does this say something about the interaction between China and Russia?

Kolotov: The two abovementioned meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken proved that the American side now is not able to hear its diplomatic partners. The US thinks only about its own agenda and is not able to see the problems of partners. This is a very specific kind of diplomacy when only American issues are resolved, and the problems of partners are ignored. The correct response to such a disrespectful attitude could be closer cooperation between Moscow and Beijing in the fields of security, economics, transport, etc.

GT: The media are reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with US President Joe Biden. Washington is trying to facilitate talks with Moscow, and its government has even partly dropped its plans for sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Biden has also been actively bringing his allies into the anti-Russia and anti-China camps. Does it indicate that Washington is running out of tactics against China and Russia, or that the US is not capable of containing the two as it wishes?

: I do not believe that the US is running out of tactics against China and Russia. Washington is a very skillful player in international affairs and will follow its old well-proven strategy of double containment. In the given conditions, the US does not have enough resources for such a strategy to contain Russia and China by their own hands, so Washington has the two main strategies: I. Create conditions for the possible conflict between Russia and China; II. Create coalitions from regional countries along Russian and Chinese borders and use them against their competitors. 

In order to prevent this scenario, we should build mutual trust as well as advance our cooperation in the field of strategic issues. 

GT: The US sees the rise of China as a threat to its world dominance, and has also been hostile to Russia due to the residual influence of the Cold War. Is the US the biggest variable in the relations between Beijing, Moscow and Washington?

: No doubt the US is the biggest, experienced and richest strategic variable in the world. In given conditions, the development of China-Russia relations is against the American interests and Washington will do its best to drive a wedge between China and Russia. 

GT: In what fields do you think Washington will drive a wedge? How can Beijing and Moscow collaborate to counter US suppression?

: First of all, the US can use its agents to undermine trust between Moscow and Beijing. In Russia, they will spread information that China is hatching plans to seize the Far East and Siberia, and in China that Russia wants to seize the northern regions of China. At the same time, there will be rumors in China that Russia has already secretly joined the US against China; and in Russia that China has joined the US against Russia. 

False accusations of Islamophobia will be simultaneously spread against Russia and China in order to use the combined potential of Islamic countries against us. In order to weaken our economic potential, economic sanctions and a ban on cooperation and export in the field of high technologies will be introduced under far-fetched pretexts. At the same time, American military bases will appear along the perimeter of our borders. The US will follow its old tactics: It will use neighboring countries against its enemies. This is what we can see right now along Russian and Chinese borders.

I hope our politicians and peoples have enough wisdom to understand the essence of this game and to make the right decision on the strategic essence of good-neighborly Russian-Chinese relations.

GT: Some Chinese scholars believe that China's strategic culture will put an end to the game of the "strategic triangle" - China, Russia and the US. That is because China views relations between them for the greater good and advocates non-violence, openness and cooperation. These scholars think this helps us get rid of the West's dichotomous view of the world. What do you think of the opinion of these scholars? What might be the future trend of the interactions of this "strategic triangle"?

: To solve this problem of the "strategic triangle" from the strategic culture of China, we should recall at least two quotes from Sun Tzu's The Art of War

First of all we should remember this in Chinese "Know yourself and know the enemy." Taking into consideration this idea we will draw the conclusion that an assessment that the US will appreciate a peaceful approach with non-violence, openness and cooperation and will do the same is completely wrong. Just remember the story regarding the ongoing Eastward expansion of NATO.

Mutual respect and beneficial cooperation within the "strategic triangle" would be the best scenario for future development, however, the fundamental characteristics of the strongest partner - the US - indicate that Washington opposes such a direction of development and does not consider it as an acceptable strategy. On the contrary, the US expects to achieve unilateral advantages and dictate its will from a position of strength. This is unacceptable for China and Russia.

The second law of war that should be remembered is "The law of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable." So the best way for peace is to make us so powerful that the enemy does not dare to attack us directly or indirectly.

So the reliable solution to the problem of the "strategic triangle" is to make it impossible to attack us - and for this, Russia and China must act together. It will change the balance of power in our favor.

The US is a smart and experienced global player, understands this option very well, and therefore is creating coalitions from dependent countries in order to weaken their strategic competitors by their hands. In China, this strategy is called "Kill with a borrowed knife." The US has its own coalitions, while Russia and China do not. And this is a strategic advantage for Washington.

So the future of this extended "strategic triangle" with dependent coalitions is not simple and we will see some very interesting and exciting rounds of the Great Game.