BEIJING – International pressure may have brought China and Russia closer together, but not enough for the two countries to provide military support to each other, US analysts said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin virtually for the second time this year on Wednesday. It came just days after the US and the other group of Russia’s seven major economies condemned military build-up and “aggressive rhetoric against Ukraine”.
“Beijing and Moscow are forging closer ties because both governments see deeper bilateral cooperation as beneficial to their respective national interests, and not primarily because of an ideological affinity between Xi and Putin,” said Neil Thomas, an analyst for China and Northeast Asia at the firm Eurasia group.
China and Russia would rather “divide Washington’s political attention between strategic hot spots in Europe and the Indo-Pacific,” he said in an email.
It is not clear what position Beijing has on Ukraine, but China has undergone similar international scrutiny on human rights issues and territorial claims on the democratically self-governing island of Taiwan.
Neither of them specifically endorsed the other’s position on their sensitivity points, so I think both of them want to maintain some flexibility.
Adjunct Senior Fellow, Rand Corp
While Moscow was sending troops to the Ukraine border earlier this year, Beijing stepped up military activity near Taiwan. US President Joe Biden recently made confusing statements about whether Washington would defend Taiwan in an attack.
Beijing wants to ensure that “the Russians would do nothing” in the event of a military crackdown on Taiwan, said Angela Stent, professor emeritus and director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and Eastern European Studies at Georgetown University.
“I think both sides recognize that Putin knows that if China invades Ukraine, [isn’t] will send military aid, “she said on CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Thursday.” But they will remain completely neutral and that will allow them to do what they want within their sphere of influence. “
Official reports from Beijing and Moscow presented the virtual meeting of the two heads of state and government on Wednesday as yet another friendly conversation that strengthened relations between the two countries.
Analysts highlighted the rare and more personal use of “you” in Xi’s speech by Putin as published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“Neither of them have explicitly endorsed each other’s position on their sensitivity points, however, so I think they both want some kind of flexibility to maintain,” said William Courtney, Adjunct Senior Fellow at Rand Corp., on CNBC’s “Capital Connection.” ” on Thursday. He is a former US ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan.
On the video call, Xi said he was looking forward to meeting the Russian leader in person at the Beijing Olympics in February. The Chinese head of state “also confirmed China’s determination to firmly support Russia in maintaining long-term stability,” said a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Russia is talking about China’s goodwill
Moscow adopted an even more optimistic tone.
In the video call, Putin said Russia’s relations with China are at the best level ever, according to both countries.
A Kremlin adviser also alleged to reporters after the meeting that Xi said bilateral relations are stronger and more effective than those of the allies, even though the two sides do not have such a formal alliance.
“President Xi stressed that he understands Russia’s concerns and fully supports our initiative to develop appropriate security guarantees for Russia,” said Yury Ushakov, Russian foreign affairs adviser to the president.
Putin said Washington should not allow Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in exchange for assurances that Russia would not invade. But Biden told Putin in a virtual meeting last week that Washington would not accept such a request.
An attack on a member of NATO – a powerful military alliance – is considered an attack on all member countries. Ukraine has wanted to join NATO since 2002, but Russia has objected because such a move would pose a direct threat to its borders.
China’s diplomatic self-interest
Press releases from the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not describe the relationship with Russia as some kind of alliance. The two countries are important trading partners, with China buying significant amounts of energy products from Russia.
“China does not want a formal military alliance with Russia because it wants to avoid direct involvement in the chaotic international politics of Moscow’s destabilizing steps in Eastern Europe and pursues an ‘independent foreign policy of peace’ that counteracts and emphasizes military conflict.” of dialogue, “said Thomas from the Eurasia Group.
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“Russia is the junior partner in bilateral relations,” said Thomas. “And Moscow’s ambition in Ukraine [is] Beijing nowhere near important enough to give up its longstanding opposition to formal alliances in international affairs. ”
Beijing pursues its own interests and claims that a core principle of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy is “building a community with a common future for humanity with the aim of defending world peace and promoting common development”.
Earlier this week, China’s State Department said Xi had sent Biden a message of condolence over the deaths and other devastation caused by high tornadoes in the United States