Mr. Xi “will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22 at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin,
China “always believes political dialogue is the only way to resolve conﬂicts and disputes”
Beijing, earlier on the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion, re leased a position paper that called on both sides to reach “a comprehensive ceaseﬁre”. The paper reﬂected Beijing’s approach of, on the one hand, saying it supported the “sovereignty” of all countries, while on the other, criticising the West, which has questioned Beijing’s credentials as a mediator, citing its close “no limits” relationship with Russia.
Beijing’s recent hosting of landmark talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran has turned the spotlight on its aspirations to emerge as a key player in the Ukraine crisis. Over the past year, China hasn’t condemned Russia for its invasion. It has called for peace, but at the same time justiﬁed Russian security concerns with regard to the West and NATO.
Historical evolution of ties
The relationship between Russia and China can be described as multi-layered and complex with a side of strong geo-political alignment against a unipolar west dominated world order and other side being disagreements over the junior partner status for Russia, especially in the region of Central Asia which Russia sees as its backyard and is important for China to fuel its economic growth and expand the influence in middle east.
The relationship between the erstwhile USSR and China was marked with mistrust, hostility and different ideological affinity during the cold war phase . Though USSR and China both had communist regime and mutually collaborated in the initial years wherein USSR provided the necessary initial support to China but things started to change after China gradually opened its economy under Deng Xiaoping and border confrontations emerged between the two neighbouring nations.
The relationship between the two countries changed when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and paid a state visit to China in 1989.
Along with that the disintegration of USSR, with the much weaker Russia was now looking for new partners also paved the way for cooperation.
- The two countries demarcated the land borders in 1991 and later the two countries also resolved the dispute over territories of ABAGAITU islet, BOLSHOY island and in 2005 over the disputed Vladivostok region.
- In 1992, the two countries declared that they were pursuing a “constructive partnership”; in 1996, they progressed toward a “strategic partnership”.
- The two countries signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and friendly cooperation in 2001, which had mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression and non-interference each other’s internal affairs as the broad guidelines
China-Russia relationship today are defined by a growing ideological affinity to rewrite the global order and a shared opposition to the United States on the global stage begins to come into focus.
China and Russia’s relationship had transformed in the 14 years as both Moscow and Beijing had accumulated grievances against the West and China’s new ambition to replace the US as Asia’s dominant power have brought the countries much closer now.
- The two countries signed a partnership (BEJING DECLARATION) “without limits” and with no “forbidden areas” in 2022.
- It also offered a blueprint for further political, economic, and military cooperation while showcasing a common front against the west.
- The Beijing declaration laid out a solid basis for jointly confronting the West and this Sino-Russian alliance added to Moscow’s confidence in risking a confrontation with the West in Europe.
- The main form of cooperation is the economic relations between Russia and China is trade. From 2003 until 2013, mutual trade increased 7.7 times; in 2014 the scale of bilateral operations increased even more. The aggravation of relations between Russia and Western countries contributed to the expansion of economic ties with China.
- The two countries entered into $400bn gas deal to supply 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually to China for next 30 years
- The two countries again signed an agreement in 2022 for Power of Siberia 2
- The trade between the two countries have almost tripled from the levels of 2016 and China has now emerged as the largest trading partner for Russia.
- The countries are also in advance stages of formally linking Chinese belt and road Initiative and Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.
- Russia has reaffirmed its support to One-China principle and opposed any sort of independence for Taiwan. China has also backed Russia’s stand on expansion of western military alliance in Europe.
- Russia sold advanced fighter aircraft and missile systems to the Chinese (which includes advanced weapons like the S-400 missile-defence system and Su-35 fighter jets)
- China has continued buying discounted Russian energy and aiming to make transactions in rubbles or Chinese renminbi owing to western sanctions post Russia-Ukraine war.
- Many Russian regions have set new trade records with neighbouring Chinese provinces, a dependence that looks set to grow in the future.
Difference Between Russia & China
- There is no-formal security alliance between China and Russia and the ideological affinity is also transactional
- Russia’s position has further weakened after Ukraine war and its economy is one tenth the size of Chinese economy, thus compromising its position as equal partners.
- China has still not ratified Crimea’s accession to Russia and further Russia wants to regain its lost glory of USSR days and will not willing to subscribe to junior partner status.
- China is the EU’s largest trading partner and will not compromise on its economic interest and similarly it goes for Russia, wherein its trade with Europe is much more rewardable.
The Ukraine war has further complicated the relationship between China and Russia
- Ukraine forms a critical part of Chinese BRI jig-saw and thus will not compromise its larger geo-economic interest in the region.
- Russia’s victory in Europe would have had a dramatic impact on Asia too. It would have reinforced the sentiment that America is in terminal decline, weakened US alliances in Asia, and boosted China’s ambition to radically reshape its periphery.
- It has facilitated the resurrection of Western unity under American leadership.
- War triggered the fear of Chinese territorial expansionism in Asia. This has led to the strengthening of US bilateral alliances with Australia and Japan.
- Berlin and Tokyo are also now committed to raising their defence spending to cope with the security challenges from Moscow and Beijing.
- Chinese firms aren’t too excited about stepping up business with Russia as they fear that secondary sanctions could be applied, and Chinese firms don’t want to take risks.
However China remains committed to Russia as a strategic partner, Russia may have proved itself less valuable, but [Beijing] continues to see the United States as a strategic competitor and will want to have Russia on its side.
Russia more dependent on China — both politically and economically — than ever before, and Putin’s willingness to openly challenge the United States still holds great appeal for Beijing as it continues to rise on the global stage.
Impact on India
- The Sino-Russian alliance puts India in a terrible predicament: China can ramp up, at will, the military pressure on the disputed border with India and Delhi depends on Russian military supplies which in turn is a junior partner of China.
- The Russian partnership was long seen as the key to India’s “strategic autonomy”, Delhi’s arms dependence on Moscow is now the biggest constraint on India’s freedom of action.
- Russia also opposes QUAD and align itself with Chinese claim, of Quad being aimed at containing China by calling Quad as ASIAN NATO
- Russia is also critical of term INDO-PACIFIC and believes it as step back towards cold war mentality, a way contain Russia and China.
India’s alliance with the US and its allies to restore the regional balance of power and new Sino-Russian alliance has further complicated the relationship.