Russia-China partnership — a headache for US

Currently, US is keeping a close watch on China to ensure that it doesn’t provide any military assistance to Russia

By Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Moscow last month. In many ways, one can look at the visit as a continuing effort by both President Xi and President Vladimir Putin to strengthen the Russia-China engagement and cooperation. A partnership already termed a partnership of no limits is geopolitically making one thing absolutely clear – China and Russia are fast emerging as two of the greatest beneficiaries of the Ukraine conflict.

The growing Russia-China partnership which is a consequence of the Ukrainian crisis is all set to achieve one of the most important geopolitical goal of this century – not President Biden and his G-7 partners goal of B3W (Build back better world) but President Putin and President Xi’s goal of B3OW (Bring back balance and order in the world). Both Xi and Putin consider the division of the world not in autocratic and democratic terms but in terms of an orderly and disorderly world.

Both leaders believe the disorder and chaos that the world has experienced has been gifted to the world by the Americans in the ‘unipolar moment’ of the world in the last two or more decades. Both China and Russia – the former a rising power and the latter a resurgent power – have their work cut out as great land powers. The US became a great power when altering international boundaries by use of force. It created for itself a favourable terrain and global landscape by connecting the Pacific to Atlantic through Panama Canal and captured, owned and controlled many territories and islands in the Western Hemisphere including the strategically important largest island of Hawaii that it owns in the Central Pacific Ocean.

Today, the US has created a favourable global landscape for itself and has locked in place a post-war status quo from which only it can benefit and not the rising and resurgent powers. This is seen both by China and Russia as geopolitical greed to design and fashion an international system that gives smooth sailing to a hostile US and its allies but becomes tough and very rough for any revisionist power that challenges this system.

A recent example of this unjust US-designed international system is the ICC (International Criminal Court) issuing arrest warrant for Putin. Why haven’t such orders been issued for President Bush or Obama? Were war crimes not committed in Afghanistan and Iraq under their presidency? The current global (dis)order has emerged from the choices made not by Russia and China but by the US and its allies. The US and its allies cooperated both in the economic and security realm (NATO being the largest and most powerful security organisation in the world) to create the current international order and utilised the same first to contain the Soviet Union and now the rising power China and the resurgent power Russia from closing the gap on global power disparity.

It is no crime to offer an alternative vision for global governance, especially when the unipolar moment of the world has left the eastern part of the world deprived and devastated. It is in this context that Xi’s comment during his visit to Russia gains importance. He told Putin that the world is fast changing so “let’s drive the change together”. “I agree” was President Putin’s response. The alternative view of global governance that both the Russian and the Chinese leaders have in mind is a world that governs through multipolarity and not unipolarity.

Americans consider that a truly consequential partnership between China and Russia should involve cooperation around wide variety of areas and not shallow cooperation based on only purchasing of oil and hunting guns. Such a cooperation, the Americans think, is largely born of convenience rather than of any strategic necessity otherwise both countries would have been engaged in a formal alliance. Such an American view is flawed as all major foreign policy decisions that the US is taking are being dictated by the challenges being thrown at it by both Russia and China.

Currently, the US is keeping a close watch on China to ensure that it doesn’t provide any military assistance to Russia. Theoretically, the US ensured that the military-tomilitary cooperation and assistance between Russia and China is curtailed and prevented when back in 2017, the US Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. In statecraft, theorists do matter, but more than the theorists it is the practitioners who matter the most. One look at the Russian President’s team that met their counterpart during the Chinese President’s visit to Moscow tells us what can be the agenda of the discussion between the two strategic and no-limits partners. In attendance on the Russian side were former President Medvedev who now represents President Putin as his deputy in the Presidential Commission on the military-industrial complex; Sergei Shoigu who is the Russian Defence Minister; Dmitry Shugaev who heads the federal service for military-technical cooperation; Yury Borisov who runs and controls Russian space agency; and Dmitry Chernyshenko who is in charge of science and technology in the Russian cabinet.

The portfolio of the men in Putin’s team shows that the matter under discussion was not be the construction of ‘Disney Land’ in Moscow or ‘Walt Disney World Resort’ in Saint Petersburg but something related to how both powers together can cooperate and partner to outsmart and outmatch the US in the global commons. The US might consider itself as the global hegemon which may decide the terms on which the coming global geopolitical competition will take place, but it should never count out Russia and China which together can pose it formidable challenges. Both powers are already creating counterbalancing in various continents.

Their diplomatic speed and commitment if not more is at least on a par with West’s speed and commitment in Latin America and Africa. Both powers are in a great position to respond to any act of aggression by the US resulting in a global upheaval that it doesn’t want in the first place. Together Russia and China pose a great geopolitical challenge to the US. Cooperate with them or seek conflict is the central question not only in the US foreign policy, but it is a question an answer to which will decide what kind of world our future generations will live in – orderly or disorderly.



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