Prospects of China – Russia Cooperation

2023/01/29 | Economy, Note, top news

Strategic Council Online - Opinion: Time passes by and the war in Ukraine confronts the warring parties more and more with the realities, capacity and limitations of the field and the cost and results of their actions. Hossein Sayyahi – Researcher of international politics

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, significant Western support for Kiev has made things difficult for Moscow. Therefore, due to the crises in the field as well as the economic and logistical problems of the war, Russia opened a special account on the support of its friends. The cost of the war and the pressure of severe Western sanctions against Russia caused this country to come closer to China, another determining player in the international and regional scene, for compensation and return of the balance.

It is evident that due to the war in Ukraine, cooperation between China and Russia has increased. Although it should not be forgotten that the two sides have conflicting interests and considerable competition with each other, there will be other points of commonality that can be the basis for cooperation between the two sides. Of course, the cooperation that has aroused concern of the West.

Cooperation between Russia & China

Moscow’s security challenges to the current international order led by the West, although will have destructive economic and political effects for Beijing, it will not cause China to ignore its support for Russia. It is clear that such challenges are costly for China, but they will push Russia closer to China and will put pressure on the United States, and such cases are in line with Beijing’s interests. As in 2014, and simultaneously with the Crimea crisis, the economic cooperation between China and Russia intensified and the agreement to transfer 38 billion cubic meters of gas from the “Power of Siberia” pipeline worth 400 billion dollars was signed between the parties, the current war in Ukraine has also paved the way for increase in the volume of commercial exchanges between the two sides. For example, while the trade between Russia and America has halved, China’s trade with Russia has reached 127 billion dollars.

Although Putin openly announced at the Shanghai Cooperation Summit last year that China has concerns about Russia’s war in Ukraine, and China also refused to provide some loans to Russia, at the same time, the two sides have increasingly expanded bilateral trade. In February last year, an unrestricted partnership was signed between Beijing and Moscow, and both sides tried to include their national currencies in their trade formula in order to reduce their dependence on the West. In addition, in the energy sector and due to China’s need for resources and Russia’s need for more income, the two countries have signed contracts that indicated the willingness of the parties to take steps towards the development of relations; steps that each side has its own reasons for taking.

As was mentioned, Russia needs income to keep its war machine running in Ukraine, and at the same time with Western sanctions against that country, China will take Moscow’s hand. Of course, this support will also have negative results for Russia, but in any case, the circumstances have forced the Kremlin to get closer to the Red Dragon more than before. On the other hand, in addition to the need for Russian energy, China will also increase the range and scope of its regional and extra-regional presence, and will also watch Russia’s pressure and challenge on the international order and the West. In addition, Russia’s defeat in the Ukraine war would be unfortunate for China. With Russia’s defeat, Russia’s security-challenging power will disappear to some extent, and that country may also follow the path of compromise with the West and gradually move away from China. A case that will not fulfill Beijing’s interests under any circumstances. However, it is important to mention that the victory of Russia can also be challenging for China.

Axis of Moscow-Beijing cooperation, Washington’s concerns

China and Russia will have the opportunity to develop their military power. So that Russia develops China’s power, especially the submarine power of that country, and Beijing injects its investment and industrial power into Russia’s weapons technology. In addition to the mentioned cooperation, next month, the two countries will hold a joint naval exercise in Richard Bay together with South Africa. This action, which will be carried out by the three BRICS member countries and can strengthen the identity of BRICS as an influential global player, has also brought criticism from the United States.

On the other hand, Beijing and Moscow have strengthened their presence in the Sahel region and are consolidating their security and economic interests in Chad and Mali. In addition, cooperation between the two countries is also developing in the northern region. Intensification of cooperation and the strengthening of China’s presence in that region will be a great threat to the United States. First, the prosperity of the northern sea route (NSR), in addition to being an advantage for Russia, can reduce China’s dependence on the Strait of Malacca; the strait through which most of the resources needed by China pass and Beijing is not in a good position to fight with the United States and its regional allies over the control of the strait. Also, the presence of Russia and China in this region can make the territory of the United States available to their ICBM missiles.

Finally, we can conclude that the development of cooperation between China and Russia, although is not without strategic challenges for the two countries, especially Russia, considering the current conditions and the situation of the war in Ukraine, as well as the financial and logistical needs of Moscow, it seems to be the only way. Thus, it is clear that the development of bilateral strategic cooperation will concern the United States. Although the West weakened Russia by supporting Ukraine, it caused that country to become closer to China as the main strategic rival of the West due to creating balance and compensating for the shortcomings. As the pressure from the West, especially the United States of America, increases and expands more, Beijing and Moscow will have more reasons to develop cooperation.

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