The Sino-Russian partnership faced many crises in the years 1857-1860. Diplomatic relations between Russia and China improved after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, US-China alliance ended Russian-Chinese partnership began as the nineteenth century wore and now both countries are strengthening ties across every aspect of their partnership. The history of Russia and China relations is distressed and both the countries play different roles in the world’s economy which is making a difference in their objectives. In short, the overall partnership between Russia and China has been greatly altered in the nineteenth century.
History of Sino-Russian Relations
Official contacts between Russia and China began with the border clashes in the year 1680 which were later onwards settled by the Treaty of Nerchinsk. Russia was the only European power at that time to share a common border with China. Between the Eighteenth and first half of the Nineteenth century, Russian-Chinese relations were second-rate. This period of poor relations ended with the crisis of 1857-1860. A radical improvement in Sino-Russian relations took place following in October 1917 revolution when the USSR became the strongest supporter of China. At that time, the world was aware of the very close relationship between the USSR and China, strong and genuine relationship was observed between the two governments in the 1920s. As time proceeded, USSR became China’s strongest international supporter in its war against Japan. Following the defeat of Japan, a decade of extremely close political, military and economic relations followed during which Russia and China were formally allies. Since 1989, strengthening relations between the two countries were seen. In 1998, Russia and China acted for the first time openly in concert on the Security Council to oppose the United States bombing of Iraq. Both countries strongly opposed the attack led by the US on Yugoslavia in 1999 and on Iraq in 2003. Since then, the partnership between Russia and China in economic, political and security matters has steadily intensified. The reality is that Russia and China share a common history, culture and above all geography. Despite sharing the world’s longest border all-out war between Russia and China has never happened.
Russian-Chinese Economic Relations
Russian-Chinese economic relations are steadily expanding and these ties are evidence for the closeness between the two countries. In the year 2018, the trade between Russia and China increased by 15 percent as compared to 2017 and has reached a record $100 billion. China is Russia’s second largest trading partner and Russia’s largest individual partner in exports and imports. As for China, the Russian merchandise is at best mediocre. Moreover, more than three-quarters of Russia’s exports to China are basically raw materials, crude oil, and wood. By the Power of Siberia, the natural gas pipeline will further widen by facilitating the export of $400 billion worth Russian raw materials to China.
Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership
To which capital did Xi Jinping take his first trip after becoming the President of China? Moscow. Which foreign leader gets to speak after Xi Jinping at every international meeting held in China? Vladimir Putin. When Putin was awarded the ‘Medal of Friendship’, Xi Jinping called the Russian President as, ‘best, most intimate friend’. Chinese and Russian national security documents call their relationship a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’. China’s ambassador says that ‘China and Russia are together like lips and teeth’. The words used by Russian Minister are, ‘comprehensive, equal and truth-based partnership and strategic cooperation’. Russia was selling arms to China for decades. In the past years, not only China sold its most advanced air defense systems, the S-400, but has engaged China in joint RandD on rocket engines – and UAVs. Russia and China have worked cooperatively to produce and reinforce new organizations to resist conventional American-led international organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICs.
Sino-Russian Ties, A Threat to the US
As an ancient proverb states, ‘The enemy of my enemy is a friend’. The balance of power; as in the military, economic and diplomatic between Sino-Russia and the USA is critical. Russia and China had been disturbed with the United States and the international order it dominates. As US pressure on Russia grew with authority after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the diplomatic attempt to isolate Russia, China opened its arms. Whenever the United States and the western countries imposed pain, China offered comfort. When the national security leaders of Russia and China think about current threats, the threat they see is the United States of America. Both countries believe that the United States is challenging their interests in Eastern Europe or the South China Sea and is seeking to weaken their authoritarian government. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping compared notes about the ways the United States is working to weaken each leader’s control within his society. In the past year, the leader of two countries met four times: in Beijing (BRI Summit), Astana (SCO Summit), Moscow (Xi’s official visit) and Xiamen (BRICS Summit). Both countries signed a four-year guideline for military cooperation and their first naval exercise was conducted in the Baltic Sea. Due to increased western authorization against Russia and a high drop in oil prices led to an active debate in China about how they should help Russia.
Now the world sees as Beijing and Moscow are drawing closer to meet what they see as, ‘American Threat’.
America’s Biggest Nightmare: Russian-Chinese Partnership
The growing partnership between Russia and China creates a major strategic challenge to the US, which would have negative consequences. The American leader concluded that Washington is doing a big miscalculation by failing to make strategic adjustments to prevent the close alignment of China and Russia. Russia and China have become increasingly aligned in the past years; the United States has lost its valuable position which is possessed before the Cold War of better relations between Sino-Russia. American national security leader once said, ‘the partnership between Russia and China would be the most dangerous scenario, united not by ideology but my complementary grievances. He also stated that ‘when Sino-Russian leader thinks about threats; the major threat they see is the United States’. He moreover stated that ‘Washington likes to talk about its strategic purposes but the global politics are about consequences not about intent’. Most importantly, the United States has classified Russia and China as its chief military rivals in a strategy document. The American Foreign Minister Allison states that ‘Washington develops strategy by identifying objectives, but fails to ‘align mobilize-able means to achieve an end’. Furthermore, Allison recommended the United States should change its strategic objectives towards Russia and China’.
The US and NATO adapting to Sino-Russian threats
As per new statements and reports, the United States has revived calls for NATO allies to increase their military expending so the alliance can adapt to new challenges, including a more truculent Russia. In the past year, the United States put China, Russia, and Iran at the core of its national strategy for defense. Moreover, the United States unveiled a new, ‘national defense strategy’ that represents China and Russia as the greatest threats to the United States interests, stating that the country’s armed forces must increase battle preparation. This new strategy represents a ‘fundamental shift’ in the US defense policy, which has primarily focused on responding to terror groups in the Middle East. This new defense strategy is anticipated to serve as a complement to the United States President Donald Trump’s security strategy, which also pointed to Russia and China as America’s chief military challenger. Reacting to this defense strategy, China recounted it as a shift to ‘Cold Mentality’, while Russia authorities related it as having an ‘imperialist character’. Moreover, this defense strategy also pointed to Russia’s growing aggressive operations in Syria and Ukraine as an element in labeling it one of the United States’ top military challenges.
Interestingly, not even a single political party has analyzed why Russia and China behave this way. We always hear and see the speeches of American politicians about the leading role of the United States in the history of almost all aspects of life. The United States is now lagging behind in the understanding of international problems, basing its position again on purely nationalist positions. The United States has a long way to go in embedding itself in the current world order. The China-Russia relationship is quite ordinary and extraordinary. On one hand, both sides were visible, moving towards security-strategic coordination to offset growing pressure from the US and its allies. On the other hand, Russia and China continued to interact in cooperation, competition, and compromise for interests and influence in a range of areas including trade, investment, and regional development. As we reflect on what the United States is now doing, we should rather think about Brzezinski’s warning about ‘the most dangerous scenario’, could soon turn into reality. But the past is never a safe guide to the future.
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