china and russia -- 7/26/22
Today's selection -- from China Unbound by Joanna Chiu. China is much more important to Russia than Russia is to China:
"'If we are able to keep up this rate of growth, we may be able set a record at the level we discussed achieving over the period of several years: $100 billion,' Putin said. This goal was indeed achieved by the end of 2018, and in 2019 bilateral trade hit nearly US$110 billion.
"Deteriorating relations with Washington have only drawn Russia and China closer. At the time of the 2018 medal ceremony, a trade war was looming between Beijing and the U.S., while the U.S. had imposed sanctions against Russia over Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. With little goodwill to lose in the relationship, Russia continues to be brashly anti-American. And Beijing has moved closer to Moscow's position in recent years. The two leaders position themselves on the same side in economic disputes, agreeing that America has selfish motivations for criticizing China's trade practices and for expressing distrust of the New Silk Road strategy.
"'We both believe that the current trade protectionism has increased, and there are many uncertainties in the recovery of the world economy. Economic globalization and regional economic integration are the trend of the times,' Xi said at the June gathering.
"To this day, Putin and Xi probably have more in common with one another than either has with any other world leader. They have both secured mandates to rule virtually for life: in March 2018, China's parliament lifted presidential term limits, paving the way for Xi to become the most powerful and longest-serving CCP leader since Mao; and in July 2020, after an overwhelming vote of confidence from the Russian electorate, Putin won the right to remain president until 2036, when he will be eighty-three years old. (However, it should be noted that Russian election results and democratic processes tend to come under serious dispute, not unlike the 'voting' in Chinese parliament.)
"Both are preoccupied with controlling information flows at home. Both have preached non-interference while running elaborate disinformation and political influence campaigns in other countries. And both are ready and willing to butt heads with America.
"In late 2018, the two countries showed off their military prowess. Thousands of China's troops joined in Russia's biggest war games exercise in almost forty years, taking part in massive drills at a Siberian firing range.
"Politicians like former U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo have definitely taken notice, warning of an authoritarian cabal led by Russia, China, and Iran that would threaten freedoms around the world.
"But while there's not much to dispel international observers' assumption that the leaders of China and Russia are indeed 'best friends,' the future of their relationship is still uncertain. Putin's optimistic comments on trade growth haven't reflected the unequal nature of the flow of goods. Russia's economic reliance on China has increased year by year to 15 percent of total trade, while Russian goods make up only around 1 percent of China's world trade.
"In Russia, there is growing concern that Moscow is no longer the 'big brother' of the scrappy Chinese Communist Party of old. Someday, China could even encroach on Russia's traditional sphere of influence in Central Asia. A May 2020 analysis from the U.S.-based Kennan Institute found that while Russia's security sector presence has not diminished, China has dramatically increased its arms sales and joint military exercises in Central Asia. Chinese border forces have been operating inside Tajikistan to help monitor terrorist activity in recent years, since Beijing is concerned over possible terrorism spillover to Xinjiang, when previously only Russia had a foreign military presence there.
"Whether the relationship between the two countries leads to deepening cooperation or, conversely, conflict could mean a world of difference in global power dynamics."