• 02 October, 2023
Geopolitics & National Security

Russia and China Relation – Old Friends New Horizon

Sanatan Tiwary
Mon, 27 Mar 2023   |  Reading Time: 4 minutes

As Chinese president Xi Jinping who is believed to be much more comfortable staying at home has gone on his first official visit after being elected to a third term in power, the western world under American leadership keeps an eye on this much-hyped visit in both Chinese and Russian Media not because it may fuel the Ukraine War but also because of recent events in the middle east and China’s effort to become peaceful meditator in global conflicts. Many believe this effort by the Chinese was to put a question mark on the United States capability to solve global problems.
Russia’s Expectations from China
There is no doubt that the Russian economy has been hit by the western sanctions, with the US has succeeded to some extent in cutting down Russian exports from global trade. The point to note here is Russia’s economy was solely export dependent on mainly Oil and Natural gas, and the other was defence equipment. Though countries like India, China have come forward and increased their imports of oil and gas to a subsequently high level giving some breathing space to Russia economy. India’s alone import of Russian oil increased from 9.5 USD Billion to 37.8 USD Billion making Russia 4th largest oil partner in 2022-23 from 18th in 2021-22.

But does just exporting them would serve the Russia economy? The answer is a Big NO. Russia is a kind of a child always surrounded by its internal and external issues, whether it is 50 years of their Cold War with the west in the past or meddling in Afghanistan for nearly a decade or Putin’s backing to Asad’s army in Syria, Russia likes to be in the middle of the conflicts. But Putin knows better that his population is going or would go restless in future with economy, public health, inflation, and unemployment all in bad shape. He just can’t cover all his military adventures under the carpet of Nationalism. And So at the moment it just one country China which is economically and geo-politically stronger than ever can come to their rescue.

Russia needs Chinese investment to boost its infrastructure, manufacturing sector , and public sector. In the recent past, China’s imports of Russian natural gas through the Power of Siberia pipeline are set to have risen by at least 50% in 2022, according to Russia’s top producer, Gazprom. China’s Russian crude oil imports expanded 10% on year in the first 11 months at nearly 80 million tonnes. Imports from Russia rose 8.3%, slowing from a 28.5% gain in November, as a surge in COVID-19 infections following China’s abrupt end to severe restrictions weighed on domestic demand.

Diplomatically also China holds a key significance for Russia being a permanent member of the security council, it has always vetoed in favour of Russia for almost all important discussion on Russia – Ukraine conflict. Among them, the most significant was the discussion on the ”Bucca massacre’, on which even India was clear to take a stand by condemning the incident and asking for an independent investigation. China has been the only power quite vocal in the UN against United States policies and has been reiterating it that is the US and its allies who are fueling the Ukraine war by supplying sophisticated arms and ammunition to Ukraine.

Chinese Interest
This is not a hidden fact that the Chinese have nothing to lose with Russia, Rather they have much to gain. So despite their bloody past and differences which involved war in 1960 and a race to take a leadership role in central Asia which is largely dependent on Russia for their security and energy needs have come down to an agreement to fight together as a team if not as strategic allies in the world influenced by western culture and ideology. China has been constantly dependent on Russian advanced missile systems, tanks and state of arts military aircraft on which the Chinese have been doing reverse engineering for a decade and selling them to the world as made in China product thus making space in a league of military export countries.

But at the moment if you carefully watch China, They are actually looking to bring some settlement between Russia and Ukraine not because they want to end the war but to project Xi Jinping’s stature as one of the global leaders who can bring peace and settlement in even the toughest of the crisis. No doubt they have dented the leadership space of Americans by making to sit arch-rivals Saudi and Iran around the table and initiating some talks. But why there is so a sudden change of heart of the Chinese who is regarded as a bullying and expansionist mindset, and having trouble with all its neighbour including Japan, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Mongolia and India. The reason I see is Xi after getting elected for a record 3 term have not been able to deliver on the economic front for his nation. Economy wise China’s growth is sliding down post-Covid. There has been a major decline in foreign investment with many American and Japanese companies pulling their manufacturing from China. Also, China invested heavily in CPEC which they regarded as a dream project and a way to revive the ancient Silk Route has already taken a hit, and countries part of it are under the trap of Chinese debt or have defaulted. Xi has to appease his local audience and the only way is to project China as the ultimate peace broker and Xi as its leader to whom the world listens.

Not to miss an important point of “Indo-Pacific”, the US won the first round here by making the move first and forming a strategic grouping in form of QUAD and AUKUS with like-minded democracies and countries with common interest of free Indo – Pacific region. No doubt China needs Russia desperately to counter this and have some sort of say in this region.


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AVM Samir Borade VSM (rtd)

Apr 20, 2023
Xi Jinping is definitely trying to emerge on the global scene however, whether China will have any permanent friends (other than the notorious ones who in turn do not have any friends other than China), will always remain a question mark. Don't know, if Sun Zu ever imagined about good and permanent friends or the Chinese thought was only opportunistic and self centred?

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