Strong China-Russia partnership helps both to deflect US coercion
Published: Feb 13, 2022 08:56 PM
Strong China-Russia partnership helps both to deflect US coercion. Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

To counter strategic squeezes from the US, China and Russia are forming ever-closer political, security and economic ties. The joint statement released by Beijing and Moscow, after President Xi Jinping and his "best friend" President Vladimir Putin met in-person on the sideline of the Beijing Winter Olympics is a manifestation of China-Russia strong friendship and partnership, which the mainstream Chinese media outlets define as "more than allies".

The joint statement says the two countries have "no limits" in developing all-around cooperation between the two heavyweights. It is significant for the top leaders to metaphor the two nations' strategic partnership as "back-to-back" - meaning the two countries, like two brothers, leave one's own back to the other to defend. It speaks of the unprecedented mutual trust and shared confidence in each other's capabilities.

There is a good reason for the two nations -- both permanent members of the UN Security Council -- to forge brotherly partnership. The first country to diplomatically recognize People's Republic of China is former USSR, followed by other socialist countries in the world. And in the 1950s when this country faced a daunting task to rejuvenate itself from the debris of war, as well as cruel economic blockade from the US and its allies, it was the USSR that gave China generous and firm support. The two rail and road bridges across the Yangtze River in two mega Chinese cities, Wuhan and Nanjing, are tokens of that friendship.

Now, facing the US government's aggressive moves to contain both China and Russia, it is natural for the two countries to work in lockstep. In addition to holding common or identical stances on global development, security and international order, according to the joint statement, government representatives from China and Russia also signed as many as 15 cooperation documents on broadening the two countries' cooperation on economy, trade, energy, science and technology, and finance. The inking of so many deals speaks volume of the vigorous China-Russia ties in the 21st century.

But, this intimate relationship has become an eyesore in Washington, as the US government is reluctant or loath to see China and Russia advance their traditional alignment and friendship. Russian Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said last week that the message from the US media coverage about the summit between Chinese and Russian leaders was "very negative," and Washington is clearly concerned about Moscow and Beijing "moving closer together".

Currently in Europe, Russia is facing relentless security pressure from the US-led NATO that has made piecemeal but steady progress to Russia's western door-step. Trying to gnaw at Moscow's resolve to defend its national security, Washington has threatened to impose "even broader and harsher" economic sanctions on Russia.

Under this backdrop, close cooperation between China and Russia on energy, trade, finance and science and technology is all the more important. As strategic "back-to-back" fraternal partners, China is obliged to bolster Russia in time of need.

And, thanks to consistent support from China, the Russian economy has become increasingly resilient following years of sanctions imposed by the US and other Western developed countries. A strong economy will back up Moscow to deflect ruthless economic coercion from the US. China has been Russia's largest trading partner since 2010, and last year their bilateral trade volume jumped by 35.8 percent to reach an all-time high of $147 billion.

Pushed by top leaderships, the two countries' economic interdependence is set to consolidate over the coming months. Prior to his visit to Beijing earlier this month, President Putin wrote a letter to China's Xinhua News Agency, noting that Russia plans to open up Siberia and its Far East for development, and he warmly welcomes Chinese business investment. The just-finished steel bridge linking the northeast Chinese city of Heihe with Blagoveshchensk in Russia Far East will assist the economic partnership.

As the US continues to dissuade its European allies not to import energy from Russia, China will purchase more. China's CNPC has agreed to increase pipeline gas transmission from Russia's Gazprom by 10 billion cubic meters each year, and, CNPC will continue to buy annually from Russia's Rosneft Oil 30 million tons of crude oil via Kazakhstan for as long as 10 years.

Also, China and Russia will ramp up cooperation in emerging areas, including finance, cyberspace, data security, the Arctic and infrastructure. At the same time, Beijing and Moscow are seeking to increase the use of their currencies in bilateral payments to curtail the influence of the US dollar and reduce the effect of the US-imposed sanctions. In December 2021, President Putin's foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said the two nations had agreed to develop an independent financial infrastructure to help service trade between them "that cannot be influenced by third countries",  Russian media outlet RT reported.

And, recently, Li Zhanshu, chairman of the National People's Congress, China's top law-making body, said that China and Russia should support each other's core interests with legislation, according to the South China Morning Post. "We must continue to focus on safeguarding the two countries' political safety," Li said in a virtual meeting with Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko, chairwoman of Russia's Federation Council, and Ivan Melnikov, deputy chairman of the State Duma. Truly, providing legal reassurance to protecting the two countries' political, economic and security partnership is of great importance.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.