Bear and Dragon Embraced

Bear and Dragon Embraced

By Aleksey Koval’

Russia, having turned for several past months into the outcast-state, in course of the visit of Vladimir Putin in China made a number of direct and quite important steps towards Beijing. And this happened right n the moment when China itself was in need of such support. As it found itself under growing pressure of the neighbor states and the USA because of territorial disputes within its southern and eastern marine borders. Tension both in the east and west of Eurasia force Moscow and Beijing not only to get closer but to act in cooperation to neutralize threats – military and foreign political threats. 


However the apparent inevitability of this “tandem” is delusive. The objectives of Moscow and Beijing are different and having embraced unbreakably in their friendship the strategic partners only now start evidently the most decisive “fight” for the place of the one, who shall in future define the “relations of the states of new type” or even “a new world order”. 


Turning East


Chinese Mass Media stated directly that confrontation with the West and Ukrainian crises force Russia to embrace China. Russia Mass Media were even straighter but each time recently they have tried to lessen “Ukrainian compound” within the change of the course of the Kremlin. As if “turning East” was an inevitable fact even before the vents in Ukraine, they wrote, and now Vladimir Putin simply has no other choice left. Today it evident that return of Russia to Asia is not a demonstrative play to increase the stakes within its game with the West. "It is well-considered, balanced policy planned long time ago ". But still exactly the events in Ukraine and the threat of sanction from the West catalyzed this “turning” as in course of the visit in Shanghai on May 20-21 Russian leader had the scope of agreements which the experts call unprecedented within the long-standing and deep cooperation of the two states. 


It is enough to mention the decision to increase the goods turnover up to USD 100 bln in 2015 and to double it in a decade. Historical can be considered the USD 400 bln 30 years contract with the supplies of 38 bln cubic meters of gas annually, for which Gazprom fought with the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for 10 years. But the experts suggest that Russia shall be able to reach the stated scopes of gas supplies to China only by 2030, and non-disclosure of the contract gas price hardly means its high level although it is connected to the current oil price. The experts consider that the price lies within the range USD 350-380 per 1000 cubic meters of gas. Except for that Rosneft agreed on supplies to China of 665 mln tons of fuel for 25 years. 


But this is not it. Moscow resumes military-technical cooperation with Beijing in those spheres (aviation and space exploration, scientific developments exchange), which had been “frozen” for years because China’s stealing of advanced technologies of Russia. Now Russia even agrees on joint development of new types of armament, which earlier it has done only with India. Except for that the companies of Russian MIC agreed on supplies to the PRC of air defense missile systems C-400 and on production of a heavy helicopter Mi-26 on the basis of Chinese technology. Russia has decided also to share the technology of wide-body jets construction, which the Chinese themselves did not manage to complete. It has also allowed Chinese car manufacturers to its market, which it had avoided during past years. Russia suggests that today together with China they shall be able to create the center of “key technologies production” independent from the West. 


What does Russia get in return? Money first of all, the lack of which the Kremlin has been experiencing after massive flow of capital from Russia. Obviously we may expect investments and certain economic revival of the labor market in the depressed regions of Siberia and Far East, where the joint projects with China to be accomplished, in particular on gas pipeline construction into which China has already agreed to invest USD 25 bln. Together with rapidly growing modern Chinese economy Russian economy may supplement it, primarily, with its resource potential.  Russia also gets a peculiar economic “guarantee” from the wide-range sanctions of the West, however politically its back is not covered.


The Alliance at the remains of the old world order?


Russian experts explain unexpected pliancy of Moscow by the intention of Putin to get the economic compound of the relations to the level of political one. In the joint declaration the leaders announced about the “new stage of overwhelming partnership and strategic cooperation… to establish fairer and rational world order”. Russian Mass Media once mentioned that yet it was naturally early to talk about the union with China but it was already appropriate to say that “partnership” develops into the :alliance”. BY this the Kremlin tries openly to present itself as an equal partner of Chine in such tandem and within the work on “development of new world architecture”. Russia says that the both states are equally interested in elimination of the US and Europe’s hegemony and expansion of Euro-Atlantic globalization. 


But this Russian approach is also one-sided, and Chinese experts are not that judgmental and the Mass Media controlled by Beijing clearly defined this edge: “New generation of Chinese authorities constantly reveal decisiveness within promotion of peaceful development. Alone or in the alliance China becomes an active participant of the current international order, responsible peace-maker, but not a harsh provoker or confronter. Such strategy defined specific limits of actions within approach of China and Russia, nevertheless it cannot prevent attractive diplomatic maneuvers”, - a Chinese expert summarizes Russia-China agreements. 


The strategy of China in this passage is represented more succinctly and precisely, than in the assurances of the leaders about everlasting friendship. China does not support the policy of “provocations and confrontations” and insists on peaceful development and participation in the existing world order, but not in its destruction. By this, despite these set “limits of actions” China evidently is not against itself to increase the stakes in its own geopolitical play.


Following the example of Russia China tried to use force talking to its neighbors Vietnam and the Philippines, to threat Japan, suggesting that the West, in particular, the USA shall not have an opportunity today to respond adequately on these actions. However the attempt of China to construct a derrick in the disputable waters of the South China Sea at the continental shelf in the area of Xīshā Archipelago (the Paracel Islands controlled by China since 1974) incited mass manifestations in Vietnam, where more than 20 people died (16 of them were the citizens of the PRC) and more than a hundred were injured. Beijing and Hanoi for the first time for many years found themselves on the edge of armed confrontation and China was forced to evacuate emergently thousands of Chinese people from Vietnam. 


Despite real confrontational character of its actions towards neighbors, imitating Moscow in the essence, Beijing also declares about sovereign rights on these territories which were historically proved. And it states that the USA stands behind the anti-China ideas and turns the neighbors against China, heating up anti-China ideas within Asia. In Beijing there are people thinking that a number of states, including Vietnam, should “get used to perceive the power in Beijing as the force prevailing in the region”.


Grounding on this line now Beijing won’t find another such appropriate ally as Russia. And the Kremlin on behalf of Vladimir Putin today is ready to support China – directly and indirectly – in this confrontation with the West. And this is even considering the fact that in exchange Beijing absolutely does not guarantee Moscow the same support. 


The “Ukrainian matter”, which followed Vladimir Putin almost all days of staying in China, clearly marked the limits, which Beijing is going to observe within its approach with Moscow. Thus in the joint China-Russia declaration the leaders agreed the need to “deescalate the domestic political conflict in Ukraine”. At the same time China withholds of recognition of the Crimea annexation by Russia, and also does not observe legal the referendum in the Crimea and judges separatism. By this China and Russia supported observance of the UNO principles, calling all the countries to observe the Charter of the organization, underlines the UNO’s role within protection of peace in the whole world.


Considering that the parties claimed the unanimity of views and lack of contradictions within the international arena, it is worth noting that Moscow and Beijing today have absolutely diverse approaches within foreign policy. The actions of Russia are evidently contrasting with the current ideas of China. And if for Russia force and the threat of its implementation are becoming real instruments of its interests accomplishment, than China is obviously ready to “rattle the saber” only to force other countries to respect its opinion. It does not strive to turn into the outcast and aggressor.


This was proved by the 4th Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICMA) held in Shanghai on May 21st with the participation of 14 leaders of the states and heads of the governments, 8 representatives of international organization, delegations of more than countries and international organizations. This forum is observed one of the biggest on security in Asia (see. "ZN. Ukraina", No. 22, June 11, 2010). Ukraine is represented within this forum as an observer at the level of our Ambassador to China Oleh Dyomin. And although the Ukrainian matter was discussed there it was not included into the final declaration even as a call to “deescalate the conflict” because of Russia’s resistance. 


The Leader of China Xí Jìnpíng used the CICMA Summit to deliver his idea on assurance of collective security in Asia. His key thesis – “the ground of the region’s security should be integration and joint development, and security in its turn should be the condition of such development”. China becomes the Chairman of the Forum for the next two years and tries to use this mechanism to promote the ideas of its foreign policy and which is evidently the most important – of its own integration projects within the post-Soviet area. 


Thus the latest initiative of Beijing on the establishment of the belt of mutually beneficial economic cooperation along the way of the ancient Great Silk Road incited much greater interest than the idea of Eurasian integration, promoted by the Kremlin. Many people noted that Vladimir Putin in China didn’t even try (as it earlier had been) to express the interests of the whole Eurasian Economic Union, which he is attempting to establish together with the leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus by January 1, 2015. This time the line of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev was special and more motivated: in particular he observed the Eurasian Economic Union as exclusively economic association, hinting that Putin should forget about the ideas of political integration within the limits of the EAEU. And Nazarbayev suggested turning the CICMA into the Asian analogue of the OSCE – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Asia (OSCA). To his mind the values and traditions of Asia shall assist the West to overcome the global crisis. 


Interesting is that Vladimir Putin sounded no special suggestions on the CICMA having supported by this the ideas of the PRC’s leader. However acknowledging the option for China to develop its integration projects within the frames of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” formation within the post-Soviet area, Russian Leader still called his Chinese colleague to coordinate the efforts with the EAEU and respect the interests of Russia.



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