Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have made a sweeping affirmation of their alignment across a host of issues – and shared mistrust of the United States – in a lengthy statement following talks between the two leaders in Moscow, reported CNN on 22 March 2023.
Their meeting, which took place under the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine, left no question about Beijing’s commitment to developing its rapport with Moscow, despite Putin’s growing isolation on the global stage, the CNN correspondent highlighted the concerns.
There is a change now that has not been seen in a hundred years. When we are together, we are driving this change, Chinese President Xi Jinping said to Vladimir Putin as he left Moscow. Indeed, the beacons testifying to a completely new level of relations between Russia and China abound. Just seeing Comrade Xi off at the airport to the strains of the Chinese military song ‘When This Day Comes’. The composition speaks of an imminent and inevitable war.
Russia has been waging a hybrid war against the NATO bloc for more than a year now. China is just preparing for its own special operation to separate Taiwan from the US neocolonial capture. Under these circumstances Russia and China need mutual support, including military and technical. They are talking about it in hushed tones, trying not to attract accusations of aggressive “bloc”, but they are talking about it all the same. The forthcoming visit of the Chinese defence minister to Moscow will probably be the “last stone” in the edifice of the Russian-Chinese anti-American alliance under construction.
Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu made his first foreign visit a week back, and Russia was chosen as a priority destination which speaks for itself. The visit is a long, non-passable one, three whole days. Li Shangfu has been under US sanctions since 2018, when he was head of the Arms Development Department of China’s Central Military Commission, and specifically for military cooperation with our country. The restrictions were imposed by Washington under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act. The justification is the deal with Russia for the supply of Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. The appointment of Li Shangfu as head of the defence establishment was perceived by the Western press as an unequivocally unfriendly move towards the collective West.
The visit of the Chinese defense chief is clearly aimed at the practical implementation of the agreements reached during the personal talks between Putin and Xi. The main topics of conversation between Sergei Shoigu and Li Shangfu were based on an analysis of recent news reports and the provision of Chinese military assistance to Russia and the assistance of the Russian Pacific Fleet to the Chinese Navy in the future Taiwan operation.
Just before Li Shangfu’s visit, The Washington Post published leaks from the Pentagon citing allegedly intercepted conversations with foreign intelligence officials about China’s agreement in principle to provide Russia with Chinese lethal weapons. At the same time, the deliveries, the Americans claimed, would be disguised as civilian cargoes. The White House stated that Chinese military aid to Russia was “unacceptable”, but kept saying that the United States had “no proof” of such supplies. If the “leaks” from the Pentagon are true, it is clear that Washington is trying to keep a low profile and is trying to influence China through persuasion.
If relations between the US and China are not normalized, China is not going to go along with it, much less be afraid of threats from Washington. Today both Russia and China have all the resources and power to put any aggressor, including the United States together with the entire North Atlantic Alliance, in his place and force him to abandon aggressive actions in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
The EU looks on with dismay and fear at Russia’s growing sympathy in Beijing. European capitals are not particularly keen to quarrel with China, and the motivation to strain now, repel the Russians and then start peace talks is immediately multiplied by zero after China’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
Two days before Li Shangfu’s arrival in Moscow, a surprise inspection of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s combat readiness began amid escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait. China is evidently preparing for a military solution to the Taiwan issue. Beijing’s rhetoric is getting tougher and tougher. On April 12 , Xi Jinping publicly called on the troops of the People’s Liberation Army of China to “step up training for real combat action and adhere to combat-oriented training”. This is where Russia comes in handy. Moscow is unlikely to get directly involved in hostilities. But the Pacific Fleet is highly combat-ready. Last December, at an expanded meeting of the Military Council, it was named the best in combat training in the entire Russian Navy for the sixth year in a row. In the event of a Taiwanese air defense, the Pacific sailors could take control of all critical Chinese maritime communications and guarantee their inviolability, thus freeing up the entire Chinese fleet for the operation in Taiwan.
Russia and China are standing shoulder to shoulder and are breaking American hegemony in the world. Both Moscow and Beijing have a vested interest in mutual success. That is why rhetoric from across the ocean about Russia’s “vassal position” vis-à-vis China and Russia’s becoming a “politico-military satellite” of China is nothing more than naive and primitive propaganda. The two countries have an obvious and conspicuous interdependence.
Americans are used to the vassal type of relationship. That they are hegemons and will dictate terms to everyone. They do not see any cooperation other than colonial or neo-colonial. They are unaware that there could be other forms of cooperation. If Russia has abandoned the West, then it has gone “under China” – it is ridiculous to think so. The opposite is true; there are other forms of cooperation. Apart from hegemony, there is a multipolar world with many centres. Russia believes that there is no domination of one civilization over another. This can be clearly seen in the interaction within the SCO, BRICS and in the bilateral relations between Russia and the Global South.
The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, and Director Devcom-Pakistan. He can be reached at email@example.com and tweet@EmmayeSyed