China and Russia have called themselves “strategic partners” for a quarter of a century, but this partnership has never looked more beneficial than it does today. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin share an old rule of international relations: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The enemy is the United States. Last week, President Joe Biden called 110 countries to the summit of democracy and vowed to wrestle with authoritarian regimes like China or Russia.
Intensification of military cooperation
Not surprisingly, these two strengthened each other’s appearance. At today’s Sino-Russian video summit, Xi welcomed Putin’s demand that NATO not expand eastward. In other words: Sovereign states like Ukraine should not be allowed to decide for themselves whether they belong to defensive alliances, but rather the great powers should define their spheres of influence at the negotiating table.
As a result, China and Russia intensified their military cooperation, for example through joint exercises. The United States suspects that both countries are planning an invasion: China in Taiwan and Russia in Ukraine. In this case, it would be better to coordinate between Beijing and Moscow. Simultaneous invasions would be a nightmare for the United States, and they would be completely overwhelmed by their reactions. And even if China and Russia are flexing their muscles: Together they create a double effect.
Extremely unequal partners
However, the axis connecting Beijing and Moscow is fragile. There are two very unequal partners who have come together. China is now ten times larger in economic terms; And for a long time it is difficult to take seriously, the Chinese armed forces have become almost as powerful as those of Russia. For Xi, China is the superpower of the twenty-first century – and Russia is just a junior partner. Nevertheless, Putin emphasizes at every opportunity how important relations are equally important to him. He sees Russia and China as equals in the group of great powers.
These are not ideal conditions for a lasting friendship. But the Sino-Russian axis is currently serving its purpose as a bulwark against the United States.
International Reporter, SRF
Sebastian Ramsbeek is an international correspondent for SRF. Before that he was a reporter in Brussels and worked as a trade correspondent for the news magazine “10vor10”. Ramsbeck studied international relations at the Graduate Institute of Geneva.
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