Sham summit results: 4 forecasts on the alliance between China and russia
Experts tell what the world can expect after the "historic meeting" between Xi Jinping and vladimir putin
From Monday to Wednesday, 20-22 March, the world's attention was focused on the "friendship visit" of Chinese President Xi Jinping to russian President vladimir putin. Western experts have carefully analysed every word and every nuance of this well-orchestrated three-day summit and have made conclusions about how the relationship between Xi and putin will develop in the future.
Mind collected the important things that experts saw behind the platitudes and official communiqués that lacked detail.
China will keep its alliance with russia
The moscow summit was an "celebrating authoritarian power". This opinion was expressed by US Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley.
"This was a three-day bro-fest... China and russia are very comfortable together and want to flex their muscles to the world. You have a China, which didn’t hesitate to run over the top of Hong Kong. You have russia, which invaded Ukraine. And they’re both authoritarian leaders who have formed an authoritarian bloc,which is a threat to freedom everywhere.” The Hill quoted Jeff Merkley as saying.
The two authoritarian presidents met in an emphatically friendly atmosphere amidst the eye-catching trappings of imperial power. Xi called putin a "dear friend" on camera, and putin toasted Xi Jinping's health in the ornate former throne room of the russian tsars. The Chinese leader did not seem to be bothered by the fact that the russian president commits war crimes in Ukraine, and a few days ago the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for him.
In experts' opinion, after this "festival of authoritarianism", China will have to suffer reputational losses for a very long time, especially due to the deterioration of relations with Europe. Obviously, Xi expects to compensate for this by reaching agreements with putin that will increase russia's economic dependence on China.
"This summit is a very clear indication that when it comes to the geopolitics of the next decade or more, China is very determined that it will show its support for russia," writes Rana Mitter, a PRC expert at Oxford University.
russia will become a junior partner in the alliance
In his alliance with putin, Xi is the “senior partner”, and the body language “screamed” that disparity of power. This is the view of China scholar Ian Williams, author of China's New Cold War.
"The optics were striking. putin appeared every bit the supplicant, and Xi at times appeared almost nonchalant, barely trying to conceal an air of superiority. putin anxious and edgy. Xi was trying to reassure his beleaguered friend that things can only get better. But there is a more chilling reading – that Xi was re-affirming their shared longer term project to create a new international order, and both men see the Ukraine war as part of that project. ," Ian Williams describes the summit.
Xi Jinping's influence in the alliance with putin began to grow long ago, but the war in Ukraine has accelerated this dynamic. After failures on the frontlines and international isolation, russia found itself in strong economic and diplomatic dependence on China. Further strengthening of this dependence will reduce putin's status from "junior partner" to vassal.
China will maintain the status quo with regard to Ukraine
During his three-day visit to moscow, Xi Jinping showed that he does not intend to increase support for russia in its war in Ukraine. This is according to Yu Jie, Senior research fellow on China at the London-based think tank Chatham House.
"Xi's goal for this trip is to preserve the status quo with Russia, not to move an inch closer or pave the way for new cooperation," the BBC quoted Yu Jie as saying. "During the meeting between Xi and Vladimir Putin, the two sides exchanged all kinds of diplomatic niceties. While Xi re-emphasised China’s ties with russia as no-alliance, no-confrontation and not targeting any third party. There appears to have been very little military discussions."
According to Yu Jie, the Sino-russian alliance is based mainly on shared resentment of US hegemony. At the summit, Xi Jinping promised to continue to provide vital support to the russian economy, with which China's trade turnover in 2022 is expected to reach a record $190 billion. However, China did not make any promises of military assistance in order not to harm its $1.6 trillion a year trade with the European Union.
The Washington Post describes Xi's visit to moscow as "a strong China is bolstering a weak Russia". Xi certainly offered moral and psychological support in what might be described as a get-well visit to an ailing relative.
"Though Putin was beaming in Xi’s reflected glow this week, the visit was a reminder of just how isolated the Russian leader is since his invasion of Ukraine and how Putin's bid for greater power in Europe has made him weaker," the Washington Post notes.
China and the rf will draw the "global south" towards them
Xi and putin will focus their diplomatic efforts on bringing more non-Western countries into their alliance. This is the conclusion of Colin Cottle, a China specialist at the Atlantic Council, a US-based think tank.
As both Xi and putin's relations with advanced economies continue to sour, they will, in Colin Cottle's opinion, focus on the "Gglobal South". First of all, the alliance of two autocratic states will turn to partners from the BRICS economic bloc: Brazil, India and South Africa. Brazilian President Lula de Silva will visit Beijing this month, and India will launch a series of ministerial talks in the run-up to the G20 summit in September.
"Xi and Putin are both increasingly comfortable with breaking from the US-led international order. They will need more than symbolism, messaging, and economic promises to convince large swaths of the Global South to do likewise," Colleen Cottle says.
On 10 March, China surprised the world by reconciling Saudi Arabia and Iran at a meeting in Beijing, whose confrontation had been called the Middle East Cold War. Riyadh and Tehran pledged to restore diplomatic relations, giving Beijing a trump card to play the peacemaker. Now China is actively proving to the countries of the "global South" its neutrality in the conflict in Ukraine. At the same time, Beijing accuses the United States and NATO of creating problems by military means, which China is trying to extinguish through dialogue.
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